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I had once had the opportunity to sample a meal cooked by Canadian-French Chef Marc Thuet at a special event hosted by the Taj Bengal, a spectacular meal comprising fancy numbers such as Quebec duck-wrapped prawns, gremolata-crusted lamb shank and a stunning wild mushroom risotto. But the star of the show was his gorgeous Chocolate Caramel Mousse Verrine topped with sea salt crumble. I have not quite gotten over how the gooey dark chocolate laced my mouth with its bitter sweetness peppered with bursts of salty distraction – it bowled me over. That mousse remains the number one savoury dessert I have sampled yet, but here are a few delightful desserts you could try in Kolkata that will surprise you with bursts of salt, spices and heat that punctuate the sweet goodness.
Chef Joymalya Banerjee’s Modern Bengali restaurant Bohemian has been a pioneer of sorts when it comes to adding curious ingredients, typically used in savoury dishes, to desserts. Their current menu features unusually numbers such as a light, subtly sweet mousse trumped up with sweetened tender coconut cream and a smidgen of mustard for a faint but distinct pungent kick, and toffee roshogolla (caramelised mini rasgullas) served with a delightfully fragrant sabayon sauce (made with fresh green chillies) that brings a spicy relief to this otherwise sugary dessert. One of their original bestsellers, the Malpua Cheesecake (it has alternate layers of fluffy cheesecake and malpua) has hints of black pepper.
The owners at Woodstock 1969, a tiny café with a rock-and-roll theme, have a soft spot for all things bacon (and we are not complaining). So, bacon finds its way into everything from sandwiches and wraps to milkshakes and desserts. They turn out a crisp grilled sandwich with layers of luscious melted chocolate and griddle-grilled bacon, slightly crisp around the edges. Or, try their much recommended Chocolate Excess with grilled bacon, a sundae of sorts with scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce, crumbled oreo cookies, chocolate soil and chips and bits of crisp, meaty chunks of salty bacon.
At Hakuna Matata, a vegetarian stop on Park Street known for its adventurous menu, the new menu packs in a thin-crust, long, dessert pizza slathered with thick, bitter-sweet chocolate sauce (more like a ganache really). Sounds pretty normal? Well, this chocolate pizza comes generously loaded with chopped jalapeños, fresh sweet corn and basil leaves. This is one of their signature numbers and immensely popular.
The dessert menu at The Corner Courtyard on Sarat Bose Road is mostly conventional, except they turn out a light, airy cranberry mousse, sweet with a hint of tart, delicately flavoured with rosemary (yes, the herb), while at Melete, a takeaway dessert shop in New Alipore, you could sample melt-in-the-mouth chocolates spiced with chillies or black pepper. In fact, the relatively new Pâtisserie Glacé, you could sample a black-pepper cheesecake too.
And finally, there is the classic salted caramel and, in Kolkata you could sample some real treats perked up by the salty sweet goodness. Head to Paris Café, where chef-owner Sneha Singhi turns out a fantastic a caramel salted chocolate dome – a light, mousse-like chocolate cake studded with bits of salted caramel and nuts, in a latticed cage made with white chocolate, topped with beads of salted caramel. Or, try the decadent dark chocolate tart flavoured with kaffir lime that sits of a pool of dense salted caramel, at Studio - The Pan-Asian Gallery at Novotel Kolkata. And, of course, there are the stellar salted caramel cupcakes and marzipans at Mrs. Magpie, a pop pick with a cup of coffee or tea.