The flavour of Kolkata

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Dragon Boat Festival in Yauatcha till 30th June

Yauatcha, the premium oriental cuisine restaurant at Quest is celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival (the Chinese festival that took place all over the world on 21st June. Read about its first ever celebration in Kolkata in the last post on this blog). This authentic Cantonese food festival started 20th June and will go on till 30th June. The small menu specially crafted for this festival celebrates varieties of sticky rice which is the traditional food eaten in celebration of this festival.

It offers Vegetable Sticky Rice in lotus leaf (Rs 295), Sticky rice with Edamame and Mock Duck (Rs 350), Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf with Chicken and Prawn (Rs 325), Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf with Chicken and Shiitake Mushroom (Rs 375) and Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf with Pork Belly (Rs 650). For those who would like to taste more than one variety, there is this special Dragon Boat Sticky Rice Platter (Rs 725). All prices are without 10% service charge and taxes.

Vegetarian Sticky Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaf

Sticky Rice Platter

Yauatcha recommends a glass of wine to go with the menu.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The first Dragon Boat Festival in the city

I learnt about it from a poster on Facebook. A traditional Chinese celebration all over the world, it was to be held for the first time in the city last 21st June, Sunday, organized by the local Chinese community. The venue was Tiretta Bazar, which is considered to be the old Chinatown of the city. On offer was authentic Chinese food and lion dance as major attractions. A little looking up on the net revealed that the Chinese foods would be the same from the famed Chinese breakfast market of Kolkata set up daily on the street.  So there was reason enough to want to experience it.

Dragon Boat Festival, also often known as the Duanwu Festival, falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional lunar calendar. As Chinese calendar is luni-solar, the date changes every year on the international calendar. It is celebrated with eating zongzi (sticky rice treats with pork and lentil filling wrapped in bamboo leaves), drinking realgar wine and racing dragon boats in the river.

Earlier that week, boss told me that the first rainy day of the monsoon was going to be Sunday as per weather prediction, which dampened my enthusiasm. Chinese festivals are colourful, and I didn’t want the weather to either rob it of any colour or prevent it from taking place altogether.

The sky changed between clear and cloudy on the day, and there was a shower or two. It was overcast around four in the afternoon and just when I was ready to leave, it started raining. It depressed me to the core.  Thankfully it didn’t last long and I rushed. I took along my elder daughter to let her have a unique experience.

When we reached Tiretta Bazar around six, the lion dance on the road had ended.  A big disappointment! A blogger friend who came before me and saw it, told me that the turnout was huge, and far bigger compared to the arrangement, and the food stalls had little left to offer. But it felt good that so many people ignored the weather threat to turn up in time. I saw a small gathering in front of a Chinese church and a crowd inside it. Asked an old Chinese man who told me that the action had shifted to another lane that he pointed out and that pork dishes were being sold from the church. Chicken and other dishes were being sold from that lane. Later another friend who runs a huge vegetarian food group on Facebook from the city told me that vegetarian items were also being sold from a Buddhist temple.

The main festival venue was at the said lane. A colourful pandal decorated with bright red lampshades at the entrance. There was a small stage at one end where a man was belting out English and Hindi songs on the tracks played by a DJ alongside. There were food stalls laid out on both sides, selling phuchka and chops on one side and siu mai, bao, a no. of fried starters, noodles, fried rice and chicken, and of course sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaf, the customary food for this festival, on the other side. They were all crowded, as everybody wanted to grab his/ her desired dish before it got vanished. Food coupons (starting Rs 10) were to be bought from a corner counter and exchanged for food at the stalls. There were art installations made with waste products like water bottles along the way and standees depicting history and present times of Chinatown printed on flex.

The stage 

The standee

A lot of young people were shooting the festival with advanced digital cameras with enthusiasm. It makes a point that today’s smartphones with the lure of high megapixel cameras haven’t done a great damage to digital cameras for common people. I think the creation of a large no. of photography groups on Facebook where one can display his work and receive feedback and get noticed has contributed to the trend.

These young visitors drew some attention 

In a break during the show we took a walk around the place. We spotted the factory of Pou Chung, a brand of Chinese sauces and noodles born here in the fifties. As I read in a feature in Metro in The Telegraph that morning, the founder of Pou Chung is claimed to have made green chili sauce first in Kolkata, marrying Chinese and Indian flavours. The sauce, contrary to popular knowledge is not an authentic Chinese sauce, it’s rather a Kolkata Chinese sauce.

Also noticed that the area has a sizable Muslim population as well. There is a mosque on the road from Central metro station going straight into the area where people gathered for evening prayers. The time being Ramadan, a makeshift stall on the road was dishing out beef, mutton and Chicken halim.

We went back for another round of lion dance, but it got postponed. We sampled Hunan Chicken Fried Rice (Rs 50 for a small bowl) and chicken. The rice was lighter than what is served in restaurants, but tasty, like homemade food. The stalls were set up by local people with homemade food and this authentic bit was one of the attractions of this event.  I asked for a mix of the spicy Shanghai Chicken with thick gravy and the dry, fried pepper chicken (Rs 50). The former tasted good but the latter wasn’t impressive.

A hip hop act was announced. The crowd was requested to make space at the centre. It was difficult as the gathering was quite thick post seven o’ clock. It was a nice act by The Big Bong Theory, a hip hop group (perhaps the only one in the city), cheered by the crowd. They had trained local children for more than a month, who joined them in the act smartly.

The Big Bong Theory in the hip hop act
The hip hop act
The local children ready for the act
Then followed the lion dance. The dancers in large colourful masks and costumes came dancing into the venue. But it was woefully inadequate for most of us to view it. Still we got a flavour of it at last.

The lion dance

Time to bid goodbye. The organizers admitted they were overwhelmed by the attendance and the arrangement proved inadequate, with the promise to make it bigger and better this year. In fact they would like to have it by the riverside with dragon boat race. A lot to look forward to!

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Monday, June 15, 2015

The new menu at Spaghetti Kitchen

The fine dining Italian restaurant Spaghetti Kitchen at Forum mall has just moved on to a brand new menu in a long time. As it is becoming increasingly usual these days, they invited food bloggers in the media call for a preview at lunch. Yours truly was happy to receive an invite for having a soft corner for all things pasta and an interest to explore Italian cuisine.

As I settled down at the tastefully decorated restaurant (both interiors and exteriors) on 4th floor a little after twelve o’ clock with Indrajit, a fellow blogger, I noticed the Margarita menu on the tent card placed on the table. All the drinks are fresh fruit-based and available in virgin and alcoholic variants (mocktail and cocktail in other words). Priced at Rs 200 and Rs 400 respectively (without taxes). My pick as the welcome drink was Kiwi & Black Pepper Margarita (virgin). Liked the sweet taste balanced with black pepper and the tartness of kiwi fruit, though it was a tad sweeter for my taste. Indrajit had ordered a Pineapple & Cucumber Margarita (virgin).

Spaghetti Kitchen

 Kiwi & Black Pepper (Left) and Pineapple & Cucumber Margarita (Right)

As the other bloggers and mediapersons poured in, we were introduced to executive chef Indraneel. He shared with us the thoughts behind the menu recast. Spaghetti Kitchen wanted to  connect with the youth of the city, at the same time retain its image of an Italian cuisine destination. The changes have been brought in keeping in mind both these factors. So the menu has turned more Italian, it has more pizzas. Also keeping in mind the palate of Kolkata, the chef has introduced bekti. So far the restaurant has used basa and other fishes common to the hospitality sector.

 Chef Indraneel

Our lunch started off with the breads & salads section. First arrived Chargrilled Flat Bread. Liked it. The coriander leaf paste on the top added an unsual tang to its taste. It was served with four dips- baba ganoush, bessara, labneh and garlic cheese mousse. Baba ganoush is actually a simple mash of cooked eggplant, olive oil, garlic, etc, similar to Indian Baingan ka Bharta. Bessara is a Moroccan dip made of a vegetable called fava bean, similar to hummus in Lebanese cuisine. Labneh is a Greek yogurt. Out of the four, the garlic cheese mousse worked for me the most, and I kept taking it with the next few dishes.

 Chargrilled Flat Bread with the dips

The bread was followed by Sweet Pepper Ripieni and Caesar Polo Rustico, which is a variation of the Caesar salad, made with smoked chicken breast minus the croutons. I like Caesar salad and this one tasted delicious. I had Caesar salad last month in Casa Kitchen in a food festival, but the lettuce in this one tasted much better. As I figured out, the difference was in the use of dressing. The earlier one was low on it, so didn’t appeal much. I only wish the chicken was a little softer though. The  Sweet Pepper Ripieni was an interesting dish- Juicy bell peppers with a delightful filling of a mixture of cheese and herbs.  The inside of a bell pepper was scooped out and the skin was cut, then grilled or baked (seemed to be) and made into a roll with the said filling. It was yummy and would be one of the recommended dishes. This section which began the lunch for us left me in a happy frame of mind, looking forward to the next dishes.

Sweet Pepper Ripieni (L), Supreme D Pollo Red Pesto (Centre) & Caesar Polo Rustico (R)
 Sweet Pepper Ripieni (garnished)

What followed was a new section- Hot Antipasti (starters), which is purely Italian. We were served Sweet N Smoky Cottage Cheese, Fungi Friti, a baked chicken dish called Supreme D Pollo Red Pesto (See in picture above) and an assortment of seafood fries named Frito Misto D’ Mare. The first one is cubes of cottage cheese (Chhena) mixed with cheddar cheese, spiced and grilled. I liked the fine balance of sweet and spicy taste of the soft cubes. Fungi Friti is breaded and dip fried mushrooms caps filled with garlic spinach and herb scented cheese. I love mushroom, but somehow it failed to score, maybe the combo of mushroom and spinach didn’t work for me. The baked chicken dish was nothing exciting too. The fritters were crunchy and tasty, and coupled with the perfect dip in the burnt garlic aioli (a mayonnaise) served with it. There were squid and fish (Basa) in the assortment, may be prawn too, but not on my plate.

 Frito Misto D’ Mare

I was ready for the mains now. Pizzas and pastas are considered an altogether different section here, distinct from main course. So they arrived at this time. I was served a slice of a vegetarian pizza- Pizza Abruzzo and a non-vegetarian pizza- Pizza Casablanca. I like pizzas and that’s it. No special fondness for them, especially for vegetable pizza. But the perfectly crisp, thin crust pizzas scored for me. Pizza Abruzzo, topped with olives, artichoke, asparagus and sun-dried tomato, was good, possibly for the chosen combination of veggies and the flavour enhanced by the sun-dried tomatoes. A thumbs up to the Pizza Casablanca- topped with Moroccan spiced chicken with cumin, chilies, saffron and olives. The combination of Moroccan spices and garlic seemed to have done the trick and the generous amount of molten cheese inside played its part well. I couldn’t shoot pictures of the pizzas separately, but you can find them in the assortment picture at the end.

Ah! My favourite section of the Italian cuisine arrived now- pastas. Two dishes were served- Fusilli Putanesca and Penne Vodka. The fusilli dish is a classic preparation with olives, cherry tomatoes , peppers and capers in a flavoured tangy tomato sauce with feta cheese and the penne preparation is a specialty with light cream and imported Pomodoro tomatoes, Parmesean cheese and flamed with vodka. My vote goes to the penne (See image later on). The gravy was finger-licking type where the combination of cream and cheese complimented by tomato worked (no overtone of tomato). I surely would have polished off more if I hadn’t been feeling a little full and still had to keep space for the main course and desserts. The fusilli didn’t appeal to me for the strong tanginess of the sauce.

Indraneel kept coming back for instant feedback on the dishes. As I complimented him on Pizza Casablanca, he informed me of this pan pizza he makes with three sauces and all kinds of meat, aptly named ‘Meat Lovers’ Pizza’. I would love to check that out next time.

 Fusilli Putanesca

Time for mains. In came Crepes Zenith, Cottage Cheese Umbria, Porto Fino Fish and Pickled Pepper Scented Chicken. The crepe dish was an assortment of crepes with creamy mushroom, garlic sautéed spinach and tangy ratatouille, cooked with cheese sauce. Loved the fine taste, much for the excellent cheese sauce and mushroom. The cottage cheese dish (the second one in this meal) was good again and I understand Spaghetti Kitchen can be trusted with cottage cheese preparations. The Porto Fino Fish is a pan seared fish steak served on the bed of aromatic veloute (a kind of white sauce made with stock instead of milk) and garnished with veggies. I found the sauce quite mild in the crowd of veggies and the fish was bland, precisely low on salt. The quality of the fish was top class though and the chef has used bekti for the first time. Either the dish needs reworking or it wasn’t made well that day. I loved the Pickled Pepper Scented Chicken- a roasted chicken roulade enhanced with red wine and orange liquor sauce and green black pepper sauce served with mashed potato. The flavour didn’t play to the palate, but the fine taste was elevated by the sauces. I am sure if I hadn’t tasted so many dishes by then, I would have appreciated the taste more. One point to note here- the only slight hitch can be for those who don’t love mashed potato to go with a meat dish, as the meat is dry in this preparation. They can have it with more of the sauce.

 Crepes Zenith (L), Fusilli Putanesca (C) & Penne Vodka (R)
 Pickled Pepper Scented Chicken

As I said I was feeling too full to take anything more at this point of time, but how could the chef’s request to sample the desserts be turned down? So our table ordered one portion each of the items to be shared among ourselves- Classic Tiramisu, house-baked mango cheesecake and Raspberry Cheesecake Gelato. And as the menu says, were they sinful. I had the cheesecake first. It was super soft and cheesy, fabulous cheesecake above a layer of crisp biscotti topped with mango pulp and tiny pieces of mango. The tiramisu was, to put it simply, sublime. Everything was just perfect in it- the sponge cake, the cheese, the grated chocolate.  You can visit Spaghetti Nation just for great tiramisu. The gelato was good. After all the same house operates the Gelato Italiano chain.

 Raspberry Cheesecake Gelato (L), Baked Mango Cheesecake (C) and Tiramisu (R)
Add caption Assortment of some menu items. At the centre is Pickled Pepper Scented Chicken. Pizzas on back table.

The cost for two should be Rs 2000-2200 (without alcoholic beverage) plus taxes. The restaurant is open 11 am to 3 pm and 6 to 11 pm.

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Kolkata Street Food Festival at Park Plaza, 29th May-14th June

The city loves its street food. So when a hotel wishes to pay a tribute to that love by organizing a festival it evokes interest. Being a discerning consumer and proponent of street food, it did the same to me when the management of Park Plaza hotel invited me to a preview of their ‘The Kolkata Street Food Festival’ at K19, the all day dining restaurant. I couldn't make it then, so I decided to check it out later on with two blogger friends (make that three as it includes a blogger couple). That’s why it is coming up late in the day on this blog.

An honest view first- It’s not easy to organize a street food festival in a manner that satisfies the guests who are well-exposed to street food. There are places across the city known for the best in each food- like the best Doi Phuchka, the best rolls, the best Fish Fry and so on. Selecting which foods to feature, making them in a way that they retain their well-known taste (or comes reasonably close to it) and serving them in the right fashion is quite a challenge.

I turned up late in the evening and saw Indrajit of A Bong Petuk’sDiary and Anindya-Madhushree of Pikturenama waiting for me and having a hearty chat over tea. K19 is a goodlooking restaurant which has a large space with neatly spread out tables. One side is the open kitchen and buffet table in front of it. Some counters (like dessert) are at the centre. I noticed that live counters have been set up to make various items right in front of the guest and customize them to his/ her taste.

We were served Fish Kobiraji, followed by Moglai Parota (Paratha). The Kobiraji was right at the crust, but the core was a put-off as, leave alone a fillet, the fish had to be fished out at times. The Moglai also failed in the filling, but a little surprisingly the accompanying dry potato curry was perfect.

Moglai Parota and Fish Kobiraji 

Telebhaja followed- Beguni, Aloor Chop and Phuluri. The Beguni wasn’t bad, but I wished the slice of the eggplant was thicker. I do not like Phuluri, so gave it a miss. Jhalmuri was being made in a counter with most of the usual ingredients.

Telebhaja platter

Live Telebhaja counter

Jhalmuri counter

We decided to move on to the phuchka counter. It was a large counter serving a wide range- phuchka, alur dom, palang pakora, dahi vada, raj kachori and a lot more. Madhushree found out one item called fried idli. I haven’t heard of anything like this available on the streets. She tried the palang pakora which was made chaat style. I took a bite of it and liked it. Though I see palang pakora fried at telebhaja stalls on the streets and served with just a sprinkling of rock salt, this palang pakora chaat was new. I didn’t feel like having phuchka as even a few of it can fill one up and I had a lot of other things to explore. So I asked the guy at the counter whether he could make me churmur but he asked me back what it was. Disappointed, I asked for dahi vada. He again made it chaat style, with tiny pieces of raw onion and tomato and garnished with coriander leaves. I haven’t ever seen davi vada made that way, but I must say I loved the tangy-sweet taste. Indrajit took the raj kachori, and though the size was that of a baby kachori, it wasn’t bad. The chutneys could be used a little more generously but.

Palang Pakora

Davi Vada chaat style

Phuchka and chaat counter

At this juncture the F&B Manager Mr Anukam Tiwary met us and told us about the festival and guided us to the main course (of the festival). There is no dinner buffet as such, but one can have the chaats at the phuchka-chaat counter separately, at Rs 325 (plus taxes). Rest of the long range of items of The Kolkata Street Food Festival is part of their regular dinner buffet which is priced hat 1250 plus taxes.  However if one wishes, he/ she can take the festival items a la carte as well.  About merging it with the dinner buffet, it does offer the diner a much wider array of choices in starters during the time of the festival, but my opinion would be to keep a separate buffet of the festival dishes, otherwise the idea of a festival gets diluted.

We moved on to the main course.  There were mutton stew, hakka chowmein and rolls among others. I, Anindya and Indrajit ordered chicken roll. Meanwhile I sampled the mutton stew a bit. The mutton was stiff and the gravy didn’t taste like stew. The rolls arrived. The filling was decent, but the paratha was dry, as it was deliberately cooked with less oil probably to give the guests a healthier option. So I wondered “Is it diet roll?”. My take- When you are making chicken roll street style, make it the way they do it on the streets. Of course healthiness is a factor and to take care of that, fry the paratha using the right amount of oil, instead of vanaspati which is widely used on the street and is unhealthy (also makes the roll sticky if used generously).

Mutton Stew

Chicken Roll

We decided to give a last try to one dish- paw bhaji and ordered it. There was a paw bhaji counter set up in the open kitchen. It arrived and Indrajit tried it first. He missed the absence of a dollop of butter between the paws and I agreed. Though it is not common, many places known for good paw bhaji put it in the dish. As it is a premium restaurant, it could be expected that street food would be prepared with all the indulgence as seen in the best of the places on the streets.  He tried the bhaji and didn’t look happy. I and Anindya took half a teaspoonful each. It tasted more sweet and far less spicy. The spices seemed to have been burnt. We gave a feedback to a chef and she happily noted it and thanked us for sharing the same. On her recommendation we took the dessert- plain vanilla ice cream topped with choco chips. All of us liked it and our dinner ended on a relatively happy note.

Paw Bhaji

Bloggers (L to R) Madhushree, Indrajit and Anindya

The Kolkata Street Food Festival
29th May to 14th June
7 pm onwards

Park Plaza Kolkata Ballygunge
17 Garcha First Lane (adjacent to Pantaloons Gariahat, a few metres ahead of Mirch Masala)
Kolkata 700019
 Tel: 033 4040 9999
Mob: 84200 33700

Toll free phone no: 1800 1800 333

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Sunday, June 07, 2015

Street-side sweets of Kolkata

The street food of Kolkata is well cultivated, but the street version of sweets is surprisingly the poor cousin. The sweets sold on the streets of Kolkata not only offers a wide range to please customers with varied tastes (like those who have a sweet tooth and those who don’t, like me, but have a sweet craving sometimes), and have a value-for-money pricing, they can give many sweet shops (including popular ones) a run for money in terms of quality vs price. One point- the prices are not cheap at all, unlike street food, but completely justify the quality. The stalls are generally seen in office areas as sweets post meal are favoured by foodie officegoers. Typically sweets are laid out in aluminium trays covered with glass sheets.

The sweets are sourced from many places- all outside Kolkata as far as I know. The vendor I prefer to go to, to satisfy my post-lunch sweet craving at times, sources from Howrah, and partly from Chandannagar. There are sellers who get the stuff from Katwa and other places in Bardhaman district.

This vendor’s stall is at this tiny patch called LIC Gully- basically the connector between CR Avenue at Chandni Chowk metro station to Madan Street, along the Hindustan Buildings (starting from its one end and ending at the other). The old, toothless man in shirt & trousers sets up the stall everyday (except Sunday) opposite the post office entrance at Hindustan Buildings. He keeps a no. of bhaja mishti (fried sweets) like golap jaam (gulab jamoon), chhanar jilipi, pantua, kalo jaam, lyangcha; a no. of sandesh, both kawda paak and nawrom paak (hard and soft versions respectively) and a no. of rosher mishti (syrupy chhena-based sweets)  which prominently includes cream-based sweets- my favourite category. I like the sweetness mellowed my sweets. 

The golap jaam he sells is top class, biggish and comes at Rs 10 (it used to be Rs 8 not so long ago). It looks the perfect shade of golden brown and has the right mix of sooji and maida (flour) with the cardamom at the core (essential in a good golap jaam), which is rarely seen in many well-known shops. I bet the quality matches that of any popular shop selling quality gulab jamun, say the Ganguram’s across the road. He brings a sweet from Chandannagar called Rasomadhuri (a cream-based sweet), which I can put in one word- sublime! I hardly get to taste it as it is exhausted before 4 pm and I mostly come at that time. When I asked about it in recent past, he said with deep empathy “You come so late… doesn’t stay long in the tray”. Rasomadhuri happens to be one gem from Chandannagar which is famous for its sweets. The stall is wrapped up by 5 o’ clock. He has customers from officegoers who have at least three-four varieties everyday. I also love the chhana bhaja, kalo jaam and chhanar jilipi.

If I’m too late, I have another place to go. It’s on Ganesh Chandra Avenue, which can be easily called the food street. It’s just before Lalani’s IT World, between CR Avenue and Bentinck Street, at the left (towards Bentinck St). This vendor with a glass box keeps a good variety as well, except cream-based sweets. But once in a blue moon he offers a yummy rasomalai served cold (adding to the taste).

Few days back boss treated me with sweets from roadside as we felt a wee bit hungry after visiting a prospect at central business district. This stall was at Lyons Range sells a mind-boggling range. I sampled a chhanar cake followed by a cream-based sweet. Both were good, but the former was class apart with its artistic play with a thin layer of cream inside.

The stall at Lyons Range. Photograph by Suvendra Mukherjee.

I have been eyeing one such stall at Sealdah, a little before Loreto Day School (set up at the entrance of a building), approaching from Moulali, for a long time. The fare is slurp-inducing. Have not had an opportunity to visit it at the right time. 

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Thursday, June 04, 2015

Uttam Bhoj at ITC Sonar

Coming back to eating in this terrible weather. As the appetite has gone for a complete toss, one feels like having something that’s not only not heavy for the digestive system, but also lets you feel good even after the meal.

So while I was invited by ITC Sonar to the bloggers’ review of Uttam Bhoj, a vegetarian meal- creation of chef Gunjan Goela, which is an excellent combination of rajasic food and sattvic food which assures complete gratification after the meal, I was happy.

Rajasic foods are known to excite the senses. They are considered to be neither beneficial nor harmful to the system. In contrast sattvic food is known for healing the senses. It is supposed to have a calming effect on the mind and regarded pure, essential, natural, energy-containing, clean, honest and wise.

A bit on the chef. Gunjan is, for a change, known as a philosopher chef. And literally so, as she holds a degree in philosophy. This lady is a consultant with ITC Hotels for Indian-Marwari cuisine. It is said that it takes more than mere ingredients and technique to cook a good meal, and  a good cook puts something of himself (or herself) into the preparation. Gunjan personifies this belief with her penchant for adding a cultural flourish to her cooking. And I witnessed this in the interaction with her. The Uttam Bhoj, designed by her, comprises of foods from the kitchens of Delhi's erstwhile nobility.

Chef Gunjan Goela

As I reached late for the lunch, I saw a group of bloggers in thick of conversation with the chef. The first few items were already served. So they were repeated for me- ghughni and aloo chaat. The ghughni made the perfect start for me as I found it to be tasting exactly the same that my grandaunt would make me at home, devoid of onion and garlic, as she didn’t like the one made by the cook who used the said ingredients. It was just rightly spiced (with cumin in it), though far from as spicy and hot as the roadside version. It would have tasted equally good even without the raw onion sprinkled on it before serving. The aloo chaat was a combination of spicy and sweet, which I liked again, as my palate, though loving all things savoury, was secretly urging less of salty and spicy and a dash of sweetness thanks to the weather.

Ghughni. Photograph by Poorna Banerjee.

Aloo chaat. Photograph by Poorna Banerjee.

Dahi Valla (davi vada) was served next. Just perfect appetizer! Loved the chutney on the top.  Also liked the use of black pepper in it though the ginger could have been a little more subdued as I personally felt. I was consciously trying to fill my appetite as less as possible as the main dishes were waiting, but it was not easy.

Dahi valla

Next came gol gappa. Freshly fried gol gappa with mini cubes of boiled potato (seemed mildly cooked), mango chutney (same as the one in dahi valla) and tamarind water. It was do-it-yourself, so I could burst a gol gappa, fill it with the quantity of filling I like, may or may not put the chutney (I didn’t) and pour the quantity of water I liked. All very good, but it didn’t work for me as honestly I am a conservative phuchka (Gol gappa) lover and the bland filling didn’t score with me. I must mention though that the water found favour with the lady bloggers who I was dining with.

Gol gappa

Time for main course. Arrived poori with aloo ki sabzi and Aam ki Sabzi. The aloo ki sabzi was brilliant! As the chef revealed, cooked with desi ghee, a few spices (including fenugreek), ginger and the regular chili. Perfect home style, yet having a clear indescribable edge over it, the magic was in the cooking. I loved it so much that I couldn’t help taking it in tiny bits in between other items. The Aam ki Sabzi, as I found out, was not actually a sabzi (curry) but a thick mango chutney. It is just like the thicker version of mango chutney made at home this season. Few spoonfuls of it were good between bites of the other dishes.

Aloo ki sabzi

Aam ki Sabzi

Next came Bedmi Poori, which is actually a urad dal-stuffed poori (in the same line the Bengali kachuri, but not as thick). Liked it more than the poori because of the stuffing which was distinctly different from kachuri. The Ghwar Phalli- stir fried cluster beans- was good. the kofta curry had soft paneer balls in a tangy gravy. The Kishmishi Kesari Pullao was finely cooked rice with peas and a bit of raisins.

Bedmi Poori. Photograph by Poorna Banerjee.

 Kishmishi Kesari Pullao. Photograph by Poorna Banerjee.

At this time I was feeling quite full and the desserts arrived. Rabdi with falooda, kheer and chandrakala. Liked the small helping of kheer elevated by the vermicelli in it. And the falooda and rabdi did a perfect finishing to the hearty meal. It was not very thick and rich, otherwise I wouldn’t be not in a position to finish it off.

The dessert platter

Overall, a full-course, gratifying vegetarian Indian meal I ate after long and a definite recommendation for the vegetarians. Even the non-vegetarians like me who are open to explore good, classy vegetarian food can go for it.

Meeting the chef was an experience! She sat with us, kept on explaining the dishes with their culinary background, how a single dish relates to different parts of India etc. Needless to say her craft was impressive and met the expectation with which I arrived. I shall remember the few dishes I prominently mentioned.

It was nice t o meet Poorna (of the blog PresentedByP) and talk all things food. She guided me with some finer points of the dishes. Also met blogger Dolon Dutta Chowdhury who has a beauty blog Pout Pretty.

One last point, which I must mention. I overate; despite that I didn’t feel any uneasiness in the next few hours and there was no need for any digestive in the hot and humid afternoon. Need I say more?

Uttam Bhoj is available in the dinner buffet at the Eden Pavilion at ITC Sonar. It started on 29th May and will go on till 7th June. It comprises of about 42 dishes including a wide range of starters, mains and desserts. The cost is Rs 2250 plus taxes per guest.

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