The first year that I visited Kolkata and had found out about the upcoming wave of Bengali restaurants, I was rather bemused and unsure about what I thought about them. To me even a decade ago, this was a rather alien concept, although I had ventured to Aheli at Peerless, Inn at my husbands’ (as we know he is not a Bengali and pre-fatherhood he was as adventurous about trying things as me). This even more than ten years ago closer to twelve, and the thought of a Bengali restaurant seemed strange. However, it is fairly mainstream today, and the good thing is that most of these places are reasonably true to the traditional flavors.
The restaurant that does get my vote for home style Bengali cuisine is however not Oh! Calcutta, but 6 Ballygunge Place. I did enjoy my visit to Oh! Calcutta, it was a visit with mom to 6 Ballygunge Place that sealed the deal for me so to say. Interestingly enough, they are even located in what I would consider a rather residential neighborhood rather than a commercial thoroughfare. They do have other branches all over the city.
Unlike other restaurants of its ilk, this spot has extremely deftly, decided to give the end user, what they really want a complete Bengali meal, done in the home style manner. The Bengali kitchen and table is much like the southern table, to put together the trappings of what might be considered a full fledged meal, there are a cornucopia of small dishes that while individually simple do add up collectively in terms of time.
It is not something that the average household can indulge in everyday anymore. My mother is getting along in years and after the passing of Dad, I have also increasingly realized that there is more that I would like to do with her rather than just spend time doing other things with her. So, this folks has become more than an annual ritual. First off, like other restaurants in Kolkata, they always have seasonal garb, after all, what is Kolkata, without its festivals. Even my husband was amused and startled to see the Christmas spirit in Kolkata, this year.
Look at the introductory plate here, they actually have alu-korola makha. This simple medley of mashed potato and bitter melon is something I never expect to find outside home. There everyday lunch buffet that is still at approximately under $10 per person, is quite the deal. Simple homey dishes such as Begun Bhaja, Fried Eggplant, the mentioned alu-korola makha (mashed spiced potato and bitter melon), shag bhaja (sautéed mixed greens) and alur dom (slow cooked Bengali potatoes). Hopefully all of this now has you running over to some Bengali sites, here, here and there or better yet, reaching out for my book. For a fun and lighthearted view with some Bengali gems like kasha mango, here is Malika’s site, for a chockload of anything Indian and a world of resources here is Zoe’ site and for some amazing visuals with food history here is Spices and Pisces. Well, I digress, all of this food recounting is making me hungry. But as you can see, that which we call starters is no small affair. All of this comes beautifully served with hot airy luchis. I love the way they serve it. Truth be told folks once you have indulged in the joys of a freshly made luchi, you will reconsider the naan. Of course, the trick is to have someone make it right.
On the non-vegetarian side of the universe they tend to have a chicken, fish and goat meat offering. The fish is usually a home style parshe (mullet) or even tangra done in mustard sauce. Usually, am surprised they do not have another fish in lieu of two mean dishes. Maybe an indication of the changing tastes. They finish of course with dessert, usually something like Misti Doi. My only wish, its about time they introduced a branch in New York.
6 Ballygunge Place