The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The city is known for its old alleys. One such is shot by Atanu Pal.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

South Indian Food Festival at Park Plaza, 26th February to 6th March

Treating the taste buds to the unexplored delicacies of a much familiar cuisine is something I look forward to. Hence an invitation to a lunch with the GM of Park Plaza (in Gariahat) with select guests from the media and bloggers as part of the South Indian Food Festival organized to celebrate the vast universe of delicacies of the region (in vegetarian and non-vegetarian) was accommodated on a busy weekday.

The right ambience was created in K19- the all-day dining restaurant with Carnatic music, decoration with tender coconut and banana leaves and service staff in traditional south Indian clothes- white shirt and dhoti set the mood. The guests included Nondon Bagchi, the well-known musician and food connoisseur. The GM Mr Avneesh K Mathur and the other guests had settled down with the welcome drink Vasantha Neer (Tender coconut water with mint and honey).

Mr Mathur shared with us early on responding to a query from Nondon that the menu covers all the five states of south India. As I found out, a balanced approach was taken to accommodate vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes in the well-curated menu.

We started off with Karuvembu  Annasi (the salad with curry leaves and honey dressing) which seemed potato to me. The first bite was a pleasant surprise- it was a piece of pineapple. The curry leaves lent it a different taste.

 Karuvembu Annasi 

The starters included Masala Vadai (The typical deep-fried lentil patties), Pazha Dosa (Banana pancake), Kola Varuval (Shallow-fried chicken) and Kola Urundai (Deep fried minced mutton balls).

Masala Vadai 

The Pazha Dosa was an interesting dish indeed. It’s a sweet dish that comes as a starter. Liked the rich taste derived from banana, coconut and nuts.

Pazha Dosa

The Kola Urundai was good. Kola Varuval, the spicy tender fried chicken with a light batter treated the palate to a zesty flavour coming from the spices which included red chilli powder.

 Kola Varuval (below) and Kola Urundai (above)

The soup, Kodaimelagai Sambhar (Lentil soup with drumstick), came next. It was mildly spicy for the black pepper used. It refreshed the palate for the main course and brought vigor to it. It is quite a healthy food as Mr Mathur mentioned, and very good for the joint pain. Nondon remarked that the authentic taste has not been compromised upon at all.

 Kodaimelagai Sambhar

We met the chefs- Arokia Das and Janarthanam from Chennai and Hyderabad respectively. They explained us the dishes, their ingredients and origins. Kola Varuval and Kola Urundai are Chettinad dishes (i.e. from Tamil Nadu) and they have been toned down from their original spicy avatar to suit the Kolkata palate. All the spices used have been prepared  here with locally available ingredients. The chillies would have been much hotter out there.

 The spread
The chefs Arokia Das (L) and Janarthanam (R)
Mr Avneesh K Mathur, GM (third from right) with Team Park Plaza and Nondon Bagchi. Executive Chef Jayanta Banerjee is second from left. 

 Nondon Bagchi talking to the chefs 

Time for the mains. I had Bread Brinji (Rice preparation with bread), Kavipoo Kadalai Melegu Masala (Cauliflower white channa pepper masala), Meen Chetti Kozhumbu (Traditional Fish Curry) and Erachi Thengai Vatthakal (Kerala-style mutton with coconut).

Janarthanam advised us to mix some ghee and gunpowder with the rice. Done, and it tasted heavenly. The fried bread squares added a different flavour to it. I haven’t come across any other dish where bread is used in rice. Gunpowder or Milaga Podi is a well-known south Indian spice made with a perfect blend of spices using the red chilies, urad dal, chana dal, hing (Asafoetida), black pepper and a little rice.

Bread Brinji

The Kavipoo Kadalai Melegu Masala (Chana pepper masala) went well with the rice. The black pepper gave it a mild pungency.

Kadalai Melegu Masala

Being a ‘fishy’ Bengali I was waiting for the fish curry. The Chettinad preparation was well made with ‘Katla’ fish. It was tart and went down well with the rice. It should suit a Bengali who loves his fish.

 Meen Chetti Kozhumbu

I reserve a special mention for the Kerala-style, heavily spiced mutton dish. The flavourful and dry preparation had a remarkable flourish that suits a rich mutton dish. The well-cooked boneless mutton pieces melted in the mouth, punctuated by the coconut slices. It wasn’t much pungent but. I couldn’t help but ask for a second helping. They made it afresh and it was a delight for the senses!

Erachi Thengai Vatthakal

The desserts followed- Elanner Payasam and Ukkarai (Kerala-style moong dal with jaggery). The payasam was decent- a runny preparation with tender coconut pulp (Elaneer) put in it which lent its mild flavour to the dish. The Ukkarai was hardly sweet, so it didn’t appeal to me.

 Elanner Payasam and Ukkarai

What I particularly liked was that the spicy dishes have been cooked in a way that they are as hot as average person can take, yet not compromising on taste.

It’s the last day of the festival. If you have a thing for south Indian food or wish to explore it, a dinner at K19 should be worth going for.

Lunch (A la carte)- 12.30-3.30 pm

Dinner- 7.30-10.45 pm. A la carte and buffet ( Rs 1299 plus taxes for adults and Rs 799 plus taxes for children).

#SouthIndianFood #ChettinadFoodKolkata #ParkPlaza

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