The flavour of Kolkata

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Easter at Yauatcha

Yauatcha, the oriental cuisine restaurant at Quest, has the distinction of city’s first Michelin-starred restaurant. The young player in Kolkata’s oriental cuisine scene has also won the Best Oriental Cuisine restaurant award in fine dine category at Times Food Guide Awards 2015. The Easter plans at this fine dining stop are in full swing. It will be laying out a set Easter day lunch and there will be Easter eggs to choose from. Here’s a sneak peek.

Starting with the Easter eggs. There are two- Medium Egg with 5 chocolate inserts and Large Egg with 8 chocolate inserts (at Rs 175 and 300 plus taxes respectively).

Medium Egg with 5 chocolate inserts 

Large Egg with 8 chocolate inserts 

The Easter lunch menu is a compact five course gourmet affair with handpicked dishes to make it a really special experience. Spread out over soup, dim sum, staple, main course and dessert, evenly for the vegetarian and non-vegetarian, it’s a choice of one option in each leg. It’s flagged off with soup with a choice of one from Shredded Lamb Soup and Asian Green soup. Soup over, move on to dim sum where you can choose one from Prawn Chive, Prawn Toast, Veg Chive and Veg Crystal Dumpling. The staple offers you Egg Fried Rice, Spicy Veg Fried Rice and Udon Noodle with main course options Kung Pao Chicken, Chicken Szechwan Peppercorn, Stir Fry Bean and Kung Pao Tofu for company. You shall be served a full portion in soup and dim sum and a half portion of staple and main. Round it off with one sorbet or ice cream. To help you navigate skillfully here’s the chef’s pick: Asian Green Soup, Prawn Chive, Veg Crystal Dumpling and Kung Pao Tofu. It comes at Rs 1500 plus taxes and will be served on the Easter day, 5th April, from 12 noon to 4 pm.

Yauatcha has just launched a high tea menu as well. It’s a set menu for one person with choice of one dim sum or dessert along with a pot of Jasmine green tea which is a specialty here. It’s a good idea to try the dim sum as it happens to be their forte and the range is endless. In dim sum on the menu its one choice from Vegetable Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf, Baked Vegetarian Chicken Puff, Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf, Chicken Char Sui Bun and Baked Chicken Puff. For those who would like to go for the dessert, pick one from Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse, Assorted Macaroons, Raspberry Delice and Religieuse Jaffa Cake. At Rs 495 all inclusive and served 4 pm to 7 pm everyday.

Apart from the high tea, there’s a set five course lunch menu for one person that has been started recently. It comes at Rs 850 all inclusive. But let’s park it for another day, as it’s already a little too much for the gastronome.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The shawarma roll at Royal Lebanese

I had my first taste of shawarma roll at Bakers’ World on Loudon Street (which later became Cakes).  Later I tried it at Kookie Jar too (close to the Bakers’ World outlet). Didn’t like it on both occasions. A colleague told me many years later that a confectionery shop was a wrong place to have it. Shawarma roll is a middle eastern delicacy and should be had from a place like a Lebanese joint. Well, back then (when I tried it) Kolkata hadn’t opened up to Lebanese, so I didn’t have a choice either.

Thanks to the proliferation of Lebanese joints these days, two of them have come up at Hatibagan which was perceived to be a conservative market. So it was a bit of surprise to me to see one of them right at the Hatibagan junction- named Lebanese Junction. I tried its shawarma roll one evening. Well, it was enjoyable in the beginning, thanks to the finger licking good white sauce they put in it, but in the middle it started feeling dry with the sauce and the raw vegetables missing. It was pretty filling indeed. So much so that I skipped dinner. And yes, it was healthy food, something I always vote for. But the taste wasn’t inviting enough to come back. The other outlet at Hatibagan was Royal Lebanese, city’s largest Lebanese take away chain, at Shyampukur (opposite Arsalan). So I wished to try it at Royal Lebanese one day.

Meanwhile thanks to Royal and other standalone Lebanese joints and other places serving shawarma roll, backed by some media coverage, it became one of the healthy snacking choices of the city foodies. But at Rs 100 it was super premium considering the prices of popular snack foods.

I was looking for some light snacking after a bit of shopping today at City Centre Salt Lake in the evening and came across the Royal Lebanese outlet outside the mall. To my delight I found that they have started a shawarma roll at half the market price- Rs 50. Assuming it would be lighter I wasted no time to order one. And the experience was satisfactory enough for this blog post to happen. Yes, lighter it was, and tastier than the past experience too. A smaller pita bread and smaller portion of shaved chicken with chopped tomato and onion and that yummy white sauce generously put inside did the trick. That it was a healthy option was an added gratification.

Apart from the soft, flat pita bread that looks like an uncooked tandoori roti, the chicken is grilled, and not fried at all. So are the vegetables, which are served fresh and raw. All this makes it healthy. Lebanese food per se is being promoted to be a healthy food choice going against the tide of unhealthy snacks available everywhere. The other common dishes are shawarma salad (served with pita bread, it is a complete food experience in its chicken variety), various kebabs (chicken, fish and mutton, including Iranian varieties), grilled chicken items and a special one being the Arbi biriyani (cooked with olive oil).

There was one realization. At Rs 50 shawarma becomes quite competitive for chicken roll, the big brother of popular snacks, which is available at more or less Rs 30, especially for people who don’t mind paying a few bucks extra for a healthier food that can also rival on the taste front.

So making it available (along with few other popular items like shawarma salad without pita and  chicken Arbi biriyani) at an attractive price point of Rs 50 is indeed an aggressive move by Royal Lebanese, who seems to be targeting the (medium-priced) popular snacks market dominated by the likes of chicken and mutton rolls, fries & cutlets and noodles. Hoping to see more people trying it out. Next on my Royal Lebanese wishlist is Arbi biriyani.

For those interested, especially locals, they are doing free home and office delivery. Here go the contact details.

Royal Lebanese
DC 22, Sector I
Salt Lake
(Near City Centre, close to Sugarr & Spice and opposite the petrol pump and Vasan Eye Care)
Phone: 033 4064 4555/ 6460 0248, 9830611153

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The food map of Chandni Chowk I: Crystal Chimney

Here's starting a series on the food map of my office place- Chandni Chowk. This series has been long on my wishlist. Well, Chandni Chowk is part of the central business district of the city, and it's a big food fair going on here everyday, parts of which I shall try to capture. Off the mark with Crystal Chimney, while this recent post on the roadside singara muri is the precursor.

A small, economy Chinese and Tibetan joint, located on CR Avenue (near metro station). The ground floor is kitchen and cash counter. A narrow spiral staircase takes you to the small and cramped first floor which has seven to eight tables set up back to back, literally. The space is so cramped that if you and your partner are generously endowed, you'll be better advised sitting opposite one another and never otherwise. It works better as a takeaway joint. However it's our favourite dining joint whenever we wish to enjoy a decent Chinese meal with colleagues with time constraint, being just across the road from office. That it's pocket friendly also counts (though prices have been rising steadily over the last few years). It doesn't matter if we have to wait a while. It enjoys significant patronage of the employees of ABP (Anandabazar group) who have offices all around (including one in the same building).

I like their hakka noodles, fried rice and momo (not much the sweet n sour sauce served with it) among mains. In noodles and rice the quantity is good for one and a half persons with modest appetite. In sides it is the spicy and pungent Devil's Fish that I've liked best so far . The thuppa is also good. Chicken side dishes are decent. Prawn dishes are notches above ordinary. The menu is a wide range of options in starters, mains and sides in rice, noodles, vegetables, chicken, fish and prawn.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

And the fate of New Market's and other traders

So the fate of the New Market shop owners and others in the fraternity was sealed by the CM in the all Bengal hawkers' conference at Nazrul Mancha yesterday. Exactly as speculated in my preceding blog post on the New Market shutdown that also ended yesterday, hawkers have been given the immunity by the CM. Officially every hawker hawking till 13th March, 2015 will now have license to hawk (other than life insurance and annual medical reimbursement). Everybody will have 'registered with government' status. Those who are not registered yet, can do so by paying a fee of Rs 30. So we pedestrians will now walk on the footpath or road if and where space is left for that by the hawkers. And shop owners paying all kinds of taxes to government and corporation will be left to bleed. Wonderful! Would like to ask "Are we closer to London now?"

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The protest by New Market traders

I am slightly disturbed by the Times of India report published today about the three-day shutdown by the shopkeepers of New Market starting tomorrow, which is for the first time in the history of the 141-year old market. Showing solidarity, joining them will be Sree Ram Arcade, Firpo’s and Treasure Island and the shopkeepers at Lindsay Street, Bertram Street and Humayun Place among others. So the area area around New Market during the strike will be a sight hitherto unseen and unthinkable. The increasing hawker menace in the area over the past few years, overlooked by administration indeed is the sole reason. This is inconveniencing shoppers and shopkeepers alike to no end.

Hawkers have always been around New Market, but their dominance has taken scary proportions in the last few years. And the traders are being forced to do the historic strike and their repeated calls to administration didn't yield any result.

My question is, how did KMC let the matter get completely out of hand gradually? So much so that New Market is going to be creating history for the wrong reason! It is bringing shock to us and shame to KMC, which is getting ready for election in little more than a month’s time! Is the honourable mayor not realizing that, or he is allowed to do little before the state level hawkers’ conference takes place on 13th March and advised rather to concentrate on drawing up strategy to win the poll which will see him re-elected?

What can we expect in the conference? Will the hawkers’ get the virtual immunity like the taxi drivers got a few days back (Penalization with small money for refusing passengers)? Am so much eager to know. Chances of such a populist announcement is pretty much there as hawkers wouldn’t have been able to practically rule the city’s favourite shopping area had there not been political backing of the ruling party.