The flavour of Kolkata

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

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Startending Night with Zibi Zapert at Yauatcha

He is a sought after mixologist globally. He also happens to be the global brand ambassador of Johnnie Walker Blue label. Over the years he has been putting his bartending skill to use in a number of clubs, cocktail bars and hotels in Amsterdam, Dublin, London and Delhi, apart from Poland, the country of his origin. He also runs a hospitality consulting agency and works with companies providing training to bartenders and tailoring cocktails.

So when I learnt that Zbigniew (Zibi) Zapert  was going to be the guest mixologist at the bar at Yauatcha, the Michelin-starred  oriental cuisine restaurant at Quest, in what it called the ‘Star’tending Night on 24th April, I was pleased at the privilege of seeing him at work on receiving an invitation as a blogger.

I arrived a little late and saw Zibi already in action at the bar counter. The short guy with a clean shaven head looked perfectly chilled out, just like his guests in the Friday evening. After being ushered in by Anindya, the GM, I made myself comfortable on the stool at the counter for a ringside view of the master at work. Over the next one and a half hours I discovered that he was great fun at work, equally for his colleagues and his guests, often smiling and enjoying every tiny bit of it while staying focused on making the cocktail to perfection with his artistic touch. At the moments when he was concentrating on making a drink he looked as absorbed as a painter giving gentle brush strokes on his canvas. Not for once I found him behaving like a highly sought after celebrity mixologist who endorses one of the iconic brands of the finest scotch whisky in the world. I am sure it’s one of the qualities that make him what he is.

Zibi Zapert

Zibi was particularly enjoying the moments when he was matching the rhythm of shaking the drink with his colleagues for the evening- the team of bartenders at Yauatcha. He was also coming out of the counter every now and then and interacting with his guests in a freewheeling manner, seeking feedback. He was equally game in explaining the intricacies of an outstanding cocktail to those who asked. His childlike enthusiasm was indeed admirable and infected the bartenders. It was testimony to the fact that his passion and work have a successful marriage.

Shake, shake, shake 

Four of his signature cocktails were handpicked for the special menu for that evening, spanning a range of liquor and wines:

  1. Tanqueray Ten Breakfast Martini- Tanqueray Ten (a dry gin), Grand Marnier (a premium cognac) and orange marmalade.
  2. Tanqueray Ten Blighty Mojito- Tanqueray Ten, cucumber, mint and tonic water.
  3. Johnnie Walker’s Gold Collins- Johnnie Walker Gold Label, beer reduction, basil, orange juice and ginger ale.
  4. Zacapa Treacle- Ron Zacapa (rum), orange juice and Angostura Bitter (a dry ale).

Zibi with Tanqueray Ten Breakfast Martini
Zacapa Treacle

The first two were priced at Rs 750 each and the last two at Rs 1200 each.

The blighty mojito is obviously different from mojito, if you have observed above. The blighty mojito, originally created by Jake Burger, is a distinctly British take on the ever popular mojito, substituting gin and tonic for the white rum and soda in the original recipe and adding a refreshing touch of cucumber to the mix. Interestingly in Zibi’s mix of blighty mojito the tonic water retains its place.

As I found out from team Yauatcha, no. 1, 3 and 4 were the highest in demand among the guests who waited keenly for their drinks as Zibi was dishing out one colourful cocktail after another. And apart from the signature cocktails, he made a few others to delight his guests, which included:

Lalu with Ketel- Oolong infusion, lemongrass and litchi juice blended with Ketel One vodka (from Holland).

Old Fashioned Talisker- Angostura bitter and chocolate syrup mixed with Talisker single malt whisky.

I wanted a fruity cocktail and was offered one made of litchi juice, sugar syrup, rose water and champagne. Loved the fine taste and passed on the compliment across the counter!

To go with the cocktail I was served prawn dim sum (dim sum is one of Yauatcha’s fortes) accompanied by pickled vegetables, soy sauce and chili sauce. The sweet n sour veggie cubes, and the lighter versions of the said sauces added to the taste. It was followed by Crispy Prawn Cheung Fun- a soft steamed wrap (like dum sum’s) of chicken-encased prawn, shaped like a thin roll drenched in soy sauce. The wrap melted in the mouth bringing forth the crispy chicken casing that acted as the perfect foil to the juicy and soft, steamed prawn (the same as it was in the dim sum) in this sublime creation.

Crispy Prawn Cheung Fun. Photo by Tania Kathuria. 

The evening will indeed be memorable, thanks to the master, and make Yauatcha stand out among the other eminent upscale bars and pubs in the mall.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Prosenjit's Ananda Plus interview and a counterview

Read up Prosenjit's interview in Ananda Plus (of Anandabazar Patrika) yesterday which came after a pretty long gap (Read it here). The Bangla film industry is going through one of its worst crises ever as mainstream movies, including those by the biggest of stars are regularly failing at the box office. He came up with a few recommendations, which I could not be in agreement with. I posted it in response to the Facebook post by Indranil Roy who took the interview (where he shared the link to it and solicited feedback). Here it is:

At the outset, I salute his concern (he's always showed it), intention and spirit for Bangla film industry. No doubt, we need successful mainstream movies for the industry to survive. Multiplex successes can contribute little as the majority of roughly 250+ theatres are single screen.

I couldn’t make sense of his main recommendation. He wants Dev and Jeet to do 2-3 movies a year for the industry to survive. But they’re doing exactly that! Each of them has had 2 mainstream releases every year at least for the last two years (I’m not counting Buno Hansh and Royal Bengal Tiger). This year Dev has already had one. Isn’t Prosenjit keeping tabs? The point is: the movies have to run at the box office for the industry to survive. Dev’s movies are bombing one after another (the last one being this year’s Herogiri) and Jeet is not much better off either. Bachchan grossed well, but it did not happen as smoothly as Boss. And Game (2014) had bombed before that. He isn’t doing a single movie now and the apparent reason is that he doesn't have a worthwhile offer.

Also a statement that an actor’s stardom suffers heavily due to wide exposure through commercial appearances merits a debate. Abir (Chatterjee) is the one of the most exposed stars today. Every other day he is seen in some brand promotion/ inauguration or the other. Rather than his stardom taking a dip dive, it has risen notches after his Feluda and Byomkesh movies released simultaneously last December. Stardom is largely determined by box office success and if it’s in order, commercial exposure probably does little damage to it.

Would like to come back and add to this post if there's an interesting exchange of notes on the Facebook post.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Station Café- the continental stop at Sealdah

Honestly speaking, Sealdah is too downmarket a place to even think of a continental cuisine restaurant. So when I came across this restaurant opening up few months back beside the flyover on my way home through Sealdah station, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact it was no short of a culture shock. The place is known for a variety of cheap food available on the street and in some no-frills eateries. There is no good restaurant around, even a small and decent dine-in place for Bengali’s favourite cuisines- Mughlai and Chinese.

Soon after the opening, they put up a board with white paper pasted on it showing hand-written combos and standalone dishes- like soup & sandwich, grilled fish, roast chicken with capsicum rice. The prices did not look like ‘made to suit the area’. So it felt that quality continental food without compromise on cost was being served.

I looked up Zomato and the surprise went up as I saw a handful of reviews appreciating the food. So I ended up on way home last evening. 

The modern interiors give it s proper café look with casual wooden chairs. Apart from ground floor, it has a low first floor carved out of the ground floor height, which gives a view of the flyover at the same level. It is located on the narrow walkway beside the flyover to the station from the Jagat Cinema end, on the same side of the road, in the middle of old shops.

Ordered a grilled fish without looking at the menu as I was in the mood for the dish for some time. The menu is neatly divided between soup, entrée, salad & cold dishes, round the hour, main course and beverages & desserts with plenty of non-vegetarian and vegetarian options. The prices fall between budget and premium. For instance a cup of coffee comes at Rs 45 and cream of chicken soup at Rs 65. As summer is approaching, I like the fact that that they have cold dishes like chicken mayonnaise (Rs 175) and fish mayonnaise (Rs 210) on the menu.

The grilled fish arrived within fifteen minutes, served with sautéed vegetables and potato chips. A thick fillet topped with a milky white cream-based sauce and mustard sauce. The fish was of good quality. Inside the crisp exterior was succulent fish, with mustard sauce in every bite. The sharpness of the sauce enhanced the taste.  The veggies in between the bites balanced the taste and helped relish the fish all the more. A good evening snacking experience! The menu price was Rs 220 but I got it at Rs 180 as part of an ongoing offer.

Wish to go back to the café to explore more and come back here to share it.

(Photos sourced from the Facebook page of the restaurant)

To know more about the restaurant visit Zomato through the following link:

Click to add a blog post for Station Cafe on Zomato 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The IPL 8 opener in the city- random thoughts

After the glitzy, uber-glam opening ceremony last evening the city filled out Eden Gardens to the brim to watch the home team play in the opening match against the biggie Mumbai Indians. And they were happy going back at short of midnight having seen KKR defeating Mumbai Indians by 7 wickets. Here are some random thought pieces on the match telecast. 
  1. How much cricket it is remains debatable, but IPL definitely remains a well marketed property and still secures a good chance to get big audience. A match can be caught at leisure post work. One doesn't even need to make an effort. I caught the last part (KKR batting) sitting at the dinner table. Compare it to the recently concluded World Cup matches. Who would watch morning cricket?
  2. Surya Kumar Yadav, the young new recruit showed class and great promise in his fiery, match-winning 46 off 20 balls which included six sixes! He will be watched.
  3. Shah Rukh, thanks to an injury is off work and made it to the field with his self-proclaimed cheerleader gang of children including the tiny AbRam. This man can still embarrass the smartest of people having the gift of the gab with his wisecracks. On being asked by Navjot Singh Sidhu (the commentator) what the secret to his growing glow at this age was, he remarked, “ Bas Siddhu ji, bachche paida karte jao”. It was more indefensible as it referred to himself.
  4. May be commentators will one day learn how to pronounce Kolkata, that it is NOT pronounced ‘Kolkaw-ta” (T as in target) or ‘Kawlkata’.
  5. Last year Nokia and Rose Valley adorned the front of the KKR jersey. Rose Valley secured an enviable position for any brand- at the upper part. This year Nokia has become history and Rose Valley’s head's present address is Enforcement Directorate lock-up. So none of them have retained the positions. The front has gone to the rising smartphone brand Gionee.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Grand Easter offerings at The Lalit Great Eastern

As Easter is knocking on the doors, The Lalit Great Eastern, the heritage star hotel in downtown Kolkata, is all geared up to usher it in. Its legendary bakery has lined up a delectable range of cakes to appeal to the platter of the gastronomes and a specially curated brunch is going to be served at Alfresco on day Easter (5th April).

The celebration at The Bakery started 30th March and will go on till Easter day, 7 am to 10 pm. It is extended to its New Market outlet to cater to a wider range of cake lovers from 10 am to 8 pm. The offerings include a gourmet selection of Simnel Cake, Pistachio and Orange Cake, Corn Cake, Carrot and Mascarpone Cake, Easter Chocolate Bunny, Easter Egg Chocolate, Caramel Royal, Italian Gabuna, Mango Silk Cake, Profit Roll, Chocolate Blondies and more. The highlight of the décor is a gigantic classic Easter Egg. Here’s a look at the mouth-watering spread.

The giant Easter Classic egg

The Easter special Red Velvet Cake

Simnel Cake

Pistachio and Orange Cake

Corn Cake

Carrot and Mascarpone Cake

Easter Chocolate Bunny

A look at the bakery shelves

The brunch at Alfresco is all of Easter specials- a roasted turkey in carving station, live egg and waffle stations, bacon, asparagus tart and more. The star attraction is Mimosa (a champagne cocktail) which is optional. The restaurant is pleasantly decorated Easter style with coloured egg shells in nests placed at the centre of the tables. The sumptuous brunch will be available 12 noon to 3.30 pm and the pocket pinch is Rs. 1300 per head and Rs. 2200 per head (with Mimosa) plus taxes. So here’s an opportunity to make the coming Sunday afternoon truly special!