Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Oh Calcutta!

Many people say that Kolkata was India’s Cultural Center and it is past. Let me tell you it is not true. We are still at the Cultural Center. May be our cultural practice is failing to bring enough success but believe me we are still on it. I used to believe the same too that we have lost the glory but a recent experience opened my eye wide.

The day I visited Koshe Kosha (mentioned in my previous blog), I had to wait for my friends at Golpark. Since those idiots (we are 5 idiots) were terribly late, I decided to take a walk toward Gariahat. There is a public toilet below the Gariahut Flyover at the Golpark end and the stretch between the toilet and the Gariahat Crossing is well maintained. With seating arrangements that particular area is pretty clean and railed on the both side with wide bars. It’s a place always crowded and obviously more people are on the rails than on the seatings. Such hangout place cannot go on without a tea shop and it is there and that too is really good. Coincidentally I was really feeling to have something hot down my throat.

The moment I sat with the cup of coffee in hand, I was amazed by the view on the side rail bar!! People returning from office, are playing chess in groups, sitting on the rail bars. 4 to 5 groups were there with 3-4 members in each group. I have seen people playing cards here and there but chess!! Never!!

This is something possible for Bengalis only. Playing cards is no big deal. There are simple games of card and people with minimum intelligence can play those. You’ll hardly find people playing Bridge but Chess is really not a matter of joke. Those who are not intelligent enough may know the game but will not enjoy the game. Those people were enjoying the game like anything and it was kind of Rapid Chess. I do not have much idea about chess but I saw a group completing 3 games with a short span of 30 mins.

This is something really appreciable. Those guys are not going to play a grand master but definitely giving a strong message to the citizens how people can carry a good culture. They were spending time but in a creative way. We can be physically lazy but what it takes to spend some time doing something creative.

Got some snaps of the place and the people! Find it here. Also for your information you can join them too. Just visit them and ask to let you play a game. They will not reject you. So test your skill someday!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mutton Kosha @ Koshe Kosha Golpark

Last weekend we had a treat from one our friend Kunal for his Birthday. Though the birthday was on 5th June, but we waited for more than 2 months to have all of us on the table!! Like me, Kunal too is a food lover and love to taste different flavors. If you can believe, we will be visiting Lucknow this winter to taste Tunday ke Kabab! Keeping our affection towards food, when I was asked to suggest a place for the treat, I said Koshe Kosha at Fern Road, Golpark.

Few days before the treat I tasted the Kosha Mangsho (Mutton Kosha) from Koshe Kosha in my office. One of friend brought it from the same place (other branch is at Hatibagan). two of my friend suggested any Chinese Cuisine but I had to reject as I see a Chinese dish very frequent on my table. Mughlai was not possible as were running short of time and all of us believe that Mughlai Dishes need time and patience. So all of us agreed to have something from our very own Bengali Cuisine.

Place was excellent in terms of ambiance. Perfect environment was created to have a perfect traditional Bengali feel. We ordered Prawn Cutlets for all of us as the starter. It costs Rs100/- per plate and obviously each plate contains a single piece of Cutlet. I must say the the Cutlet does not worth a Rs.100/-, that's all. In the main course we ordered the very obvious Kosha Mangsho (Mutton Kosha), with Pulao and Ghee Rice. The Mutton Kosha costs Rs.160/- a plate, Ghee Rice for Rs.60/- and the Pulao costs Rs.75/-. One of my friend order Bekti Paturi, costs Rs.150/- and contains two pieces of Paturi (Paturi is Fillet of fish, Bekti or Hilsha wrapped in Banana Leaf which we call Kola Pata in Bengali with spices like mustard and then fried or steamed in some cases; the name Paturi is originated from Pata). I was not feeling to have Fish at that moment, however I tasted from my friend and it was not bad.

The Pulao was ok and nothing to say about the Ghee Rice. It's almost plain rice with ghee and some kaju badam. Quantity was not that good but closely suffice one person. The Mutton Kosha was no doubt the best item we had. Very good, rich taste and we could feel that the dish is enriched with traditional bengali flavors (appreciating the tag line "Purano Sei Diner Kosha"). But again the quantity was not good. There were only 4 small pieces of mutton, that too with bones.

My final rating would be like 6 out of 10. It could be 8/10 but the high price and less quantity overall restricts me to give that good rating....But again loved the ambiance...


Friday, August 17, 2012

New Cathey, A Classic Restaurant in Esplanade

If quality, quantity and money matters, then I always choose New Cathey for dinning. The Bar & Restaurant is located at a very popular place, Esplanade. It's on the Grand Corridor.

The two tier restaurant is a very old place. Tier-1 is simply for hangout. Returning from office with friends, a plate of Fish Finger with smooth and buttery white sauce (can''t tell you how good the fish finger taste with this white sauce) and a mug full with chilled Haywards 5000 beer. Cheers!!

Tier-2 is Air Conditioned and you have to pay some extra taxes which is not required downstairs. Obviously with family or date it can be your choice but frankly I have always chosen Tier-1 as I found it comfortable too but yes a little noisy.

Chinese cuisine here is no doubt of good quality and quantity. Just make sure that you say "No Pork" when you order a mixed rice or mixed chowmein. I have tasted items like Chicken Clear Soup, Hot and sour Chicken Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup, Fish Finger, Crispy Fish, Chicken Drumsticks as starters and 2-3 varieties of chowmeins and  fried rices, Garlic Chicken, Chilli Chicken etc in  main course. I must say, all of them was good and huge in quantity. You must have a super huge appetite to have a full plate of Fried Rice of any variety and full plate of any chicken item. The Chicken items usually have 10-12 pcs of boneless chickens.

I often visit with my wife after shopping and always order a single plate of each Item for both of us. Cannot tell you the exact prices,inflation is more powerful than anybody else. However a few month back it was quite reasonable.

Lastly, not a place for luxury, so don't expect much. Service is good and they are helpful and honest about the food and it's taste. Do not hesitate to ask them if you have any doubt.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Radu Babu's Famous Cutlets

Age old Lake Market and the famous Radu Babu's Cutlets! I have heard about this Tea shop so many times and from so many mouths, my curiosity became sky high! Food Critics like Nandan Bagchi has mentioned Radu Babu's Cutlet more than once. So it became a must visit place for me.

On the same day I visited Grub Club (mentioned in my previous blog), we had nothing to do in the gloomy afternoon. By that time one of our friend already left for Mumbai and we all were a little sad for him. It was me who suggested to visit Radu Babu's place just for experience. I thought it can be a little boost for people.

After all this curiosity and interest, we ended with more depression than bidding farewell to our friend who left for Mumbai. All we found a very; VERY oily chunk without minimum taste. The only chicken in the Chicken Cutlet I found, in the menu card. I had also heard that the tea was special but the one we tasted was worst than many tea stall. I believe the past deserves all the appreciation but the present needs serious attention. I doubt how they can survive with this quality of service. But still you must visit the place to know the place, where many great Bengalis had a snack or tea. The rating can be 2 out of 10 for being a heritage place.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Grub Club, Golpark...A Cool Retaurant to Hang Out...

If you loved you College Canteen, you will definitely love Grub Club!

It is not a place to enjoy leisure but a place to hang out with friends. No fancy chairs or tables, no fancy lighting, no AC and many no's. A few tables for 4 or 6 and rest is long row of tales joined together like our canteen, common plastic fiber chairs and of course anyone can share your table; no privacy at all. :)

Again I'll say, if you liked your college canteen, it's a place you will not complain. Definitely not a good place to take your girlfriend on a date but obviously a very good place to give your friends a treat from your pocket money. Once you have managed you girl then also it's a place you may like to save you pocket. ;)

If you know Gol Park crossing, it's very close to it on the right hand side on Southern Avenue towards Vivekananda Park.

As I said it is like a canteen thus facility here is also like canteen. You need to select your menu first and pay the money at the cash counter at the entrance and take the printed order (the bill in fact) to the service counter. They will take the order and will ask you once the order is ready. Yes! it's self service too!

But the menu card may surprise you a lot!! you will find a huge variety of dishes on the card with various Chinese dishes to famous Mughlai items. The day I visited Grub Club, I was with my friends and one of our friend was going to Mumbai on the same day. He actually planned a small get together near my home and later he asked us to have lunch together at some place. Another friend suggested Grub Club as none of us were prepared for such a plan and we all had very little in our pocket and thus Grub Club was chosen. I was not convinced by the name at all and after seeing the condition described above I was stunned. But finally when the dishes reached our table, I was more surprised. We had dishes like Crispy Lamb Chops, Chicken Lollypops with Honey sauce as starter and in the main course Mixed Fried Rice, Chile Chicken, Garlic Chicken (don't remember if anything else we ordered). I liked the Lamb Chops very much. Personally I do not like sweet flavors for non-veg items but the Chicken Lollypops with Honey was a different taste. Other were good too, nothing special to say but obviously worthy.

If you visit Lake area or Gariahat someday you can visit Grub Club if you feel these information impressive and trustworthy...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Flavors of Madras in Kolkata, Best South Indian Retaurant in Dalhousie

It's a place again near Dalhousie. If you move towards Lalbazar, leaving Writer's Building and Cathedral Church behind and take the first right turn on the way, it is R. N. Mukherjee Road. You will find Old Mission Church and Birla Building on the left hand side. Take a look on the other side of the road, just after crossing Birla Building, you may find our destination "Madras Tiffin House".

My first job was in Hindustan Motors Ltd. and with that connection I had to visit Birla Building, our Head Office quite often. I remember it was a winter afternoon and I was just feeling hungry and co-incidentally, with the same feelings my colleague suggested Madras Tiffin House for lunch. He was quite familiar with the place being an employee of our Head Office. He still don't know what he gifted me.

After returning from a South Indian trip most bengali people tends to loose weight and sigh remembering the torturing south indian dishes throughout their trip. The final conclusion says "South Indian Dishes are good in Kolkata only". I really do not know what they find there, because I am yet to visit any South Indian city. But I must say I am really bored of having only Idli, Dosa, Vada and Utthapam (rarely experienced) and the Coconut Chatni and Sambar which come as the part of the course. Madras Tiffin House is a bit different in this respect. You will find dishes like Pongal, Rava Dosa or dessert like Rava Kashori Halwa. There are many but I am yet to taste them all. I found no point having the same Idli, Bada, though the Idli available here is also made of Rava (thickly ground rice). Idli made of rava is more soft and delicious than normally available one and dosa made of rava is little different too. If you like paper dosa then you may not like the rava dosa but don't worry, the same is available too in many variety (once my friend tried Paper Butter Dosa. It was awesome).

The day I had Pongal, my wife was with me. She is fond of new dishes and in fact she ordered the Pongal. The dish amazed us both. It is like Khichdi of rice and Urad Daal with flavor of hole black pepper. It was so simple but an extraordinary item. We really enjoyed it. Then we tasted the Rava Dosa which is smaller in size [does not exceeds the boundary of your dish like the paper dosas :P] and a little thick but definitely crispy and tasty. After all these, Rava Kashori Halwa had it's turn to pleas us and it did well. It is quite similar to Suji Halwa but made of rava instead of suji and the saffron (kashori means made with Kesar or saffron) added a completely different savor. We tried all the new dishes and none of them was disappointing and that too for a quite little money. We could hardly raised the bill over Rs.125/-. Yes it is that cheap.

Another famous item available there is Pulao (or Pulav) which is a favorite item for daily customers. It comes with Dum-Aloo, Raita and Papad. The whole course is very tasty and complete. Last day I had coffee served in traditional South Indian Stainless Steel glass  :-) . I will give a 7.5/10 rating for this place. The truth is, there is no so called ambiance and thus keeping the cost and quality in mind I can give that much rating. A little ambiance would have added more points to it but it is not required if you visit Madras Tiffin House for the sake of your tongue!

Masala Dosa
picture courtesy

Friday, May 25, 2012

Street Food of Kolkata : Chitto Da and Decker's Lane

I don’t know what do you consider as Kolkata’s Street Food but I believe “Ghugni” is a top contender among others. It’s a flavor from Kolkata’s heart and not adopted from foreign tastes like Mughlai Parantha, various Rolls, Kebabs, Chowmein, momo etc. I hope all my Bengali friends are aware of Ghugni which was once a must item on the day of Bijaya Dashami (Dassehra) with Nimki (Namkin), Goja (a special though simple sweet) and Siddhi (Bengali form of Thandai with bhang).

Those who do not know about it, let me tell you it is boiled yellow peas prepared with common spices and diced coconut. However on the street you may not find coconut in it but with a little Imli juice and freshly chopped onions it becomes more delicious on the streets. But it is Kolkata and we believe in fusions. We added “Pauruti” (toasted bread) to the course to satisfy our appetite.

Chitto Da is one who has mastered it. Yes! I am talking about the famous Chitto Babur Chayer Dokan (Chitto Babu’s Tea Stall) at Decker’s Lane (James Hickey Sarani), Dalhousie. Decker’s Lane is a place where you can taste many moods at real cheap cost. From tandoori to Chinese, for spicy Indian food lovers to health conscious office goers, it’s a place for all. The place is surrounded by many Public and Private Offices and thus called the Office Para (office area) where lakhs of people gather every working day with huge appetite. I have hardly seen people working in that area carrying lunch with them. However not only Ghugni-Pauruti, nowadays food like chicken stew, vegetable stew, cutlets, fish fry and even Fried rice-Chile chicken is also available here and not to forget the famous Cha (tea) in special white ceramic cup and saucer which has been a tradition since a long time (however you may not like the strong tea if you are flavor freaked).

If you get some time around and you are in Dharmatala or Dalhousie try Chitto Da for once for a little pinch of pocket (a Rs.50 would be enough), you may love it. To find Chitto Da you have to walk towards Raj Bhavan (Governor’s Palace) starting from K.C. Das Sweets & Confectioneries at Dharmatala Crossing.
And don’t forget to taste the Gajar-Halwa or Lassi from the stall next to Chitto Da’s stall which is quite good.

Picture Courtesy Arindam Mukherjee
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