In the past week or so, I have been hearing way too much of “Oh, I love Bengali food”, and “Where do we get it?”. It is actually quite interesting that about a few years ago, there was a surge of Bengali food or rather ‘Kolkata food’ in the city. A few upmarket restaurants, and more than a few small and mid-sized places, were all people could talk about. I suppose the fad has now passed, but some of these restaurants continue to make some decent Bengali food, even if they are not exactly what you would probably eat at a Bengali household. Here is my list of five favourite places (size and budget notwithstanding):
Panch Phoron, Koramangala, 7th Block – I discovered this place, thanks to a friend, last year during Durga Puja, when the entire stretch of Koramangala was filled with Bengalis. Considering the pujas are pretty much incomplete without a Bengali meal, I was surprised to find a table after a short wait. It is a small place and as rudimentary as it can get, which also translates to ‘no fancy crockery’. You get standard Bengali food on the menu, dishes most of us are familiar with. However, on special occasions, they will have a menu that brings in some of the more complex flavours. Try the shorshe potol (parwal in Hindi, and Kaadu Padaval in Kannada) with doi ilish, and rice – it is one of my favourite combinations here.
Oh! Calcutta, Church Street – This is the city’s posh Bengali restaurant, and I have always had mixed opinions about this place. But during hilsa season, this restaurant does manage to get good fish, and their repertoire of dishes is quite good too. On other days, try the prawn cutlet, luchi and chholar dal (yes, together), and the aam kashundi kakra (crab cooked in kashundi and mango paste) with pulao. And for dessert, ask for payesh (kheer); they come in different flavours and you might like them all.
Bangaliana, Koramangala, HSR, Bannerghatta Road – Bangaliana is like a mess (read: not a mess, but like one). It is basic, and does not really care much for décor. But the food is good enough for me to not care. If you are new to Bengali food, the maharaja thali is a good option – just ask what they have on the thali that day and eat in peace. It is so much easier than having to go through a fairly elaborate menu and choose. But if you are adamant about going À la carte, do try the pomfret jhal (a spicy gravy with pomfret).
Bhojohori Manna, Koramangala and JP Nagar – Albeit slightly expensive (ingredients do not come cheap!), this is a good restaurant to check out Bengali food. If you are there during ‘snack time’, which is between 5 pm and 8 pm, you can try their fish chop and the mutton chop, a typical Bengali evening snack. And then there is the famous Kabiraji cutlet, which, however, I would much rather eat in Kolkata itself. They have some dishes on the menu that are hard to avoid, such as the postor bora (fritters made with poppy paste), shojne datar chochori (vegetable dish with drumstick), and a personal favourite – the shukto. They also make a chital macher muitha, which always reminds me of the ‘pice hotels’ of Siliguri.
Kitchen of Joy, Indiranagar, Kaggadasapura – For a dose of good Bengali snacks, Kitchen of Joy does a good job. They make kathi rolls (even though they are not as good as the ones back home), and my favourite – dim pauruti and ghugni (bread fried in egg, served with a dried white pea snack). Or you could always get luchi with ghugni, or mutton kosha.