Food: Packed with flavour service: Prompt
Most Bengalis have a fierce reverence towards their traditional cuisine. Dishes are seldom described using anything but superlatives. But even the most devoted foodie admits that the pungent mustard-rich gravies and bony hilsas aren’t everyone’s piece of paayesh. Realising that my companion and I weren’t Bengalis, the manager at Kolkata Callin’, Andheri’s newest Bengali restaurant, warned us off the hilsa. “We Bengalis have mastered the art of navigating past the hilsa’s bones. You’re going to have a tough time,” added owner Sanjay Mukherjee.
Luckily, we insisted on ordering the Barisaler Shorshe Ilish (Rs 340). For that hilsa, along with the mutton curry Thakur Barir Pathar Mangsho (R290), is something we’d go back to this out-of-the-way Andheri East restaurant for. While the fish gravy finds its base in the quintessential mustard paste, it is heavily inspired by East Bengali cuisine and uses tomatoes too, adding a subtle sweet-sourness to the black sesame garnished curry. The Thakur Barir Pathar Mangsho, which Mukherjee claims Bengalis consider to be vegetarian, is prepared in the way the sacrificial lamb is cooked during Durga Pujo.
The fish gravy in Barisaler Shorshe Ilish finds its base in mustard paste at Kolkata Callin’
The delectable gravy, cooked without onions, gets its thickness and richness from dry fruits such as raisins and cashews.
Our first course wasn’t as memorable. And although the Bhetki Fish Fingers (Rs 240) were deliciously crispy and perfectly flavoured, my vegetarian friend wasn’t too impressed by the Paneer Tikka (Rs 160). But the mains made us forget our woes. The Dhokar Daalna (Rs 150), which we ate with luchis (a type of puri), was a dry, deep-fried lentil kofta in a thick, fiery tomato gravy, which was laden with a blend of spices and a tadka of sesame. We relished this with rice, too. When the waiter brought us a side of onions, Mukherjee rushed to our table to tell us about the accompanying gondharaj lemon.
Pressing his thumbnail down the top of the wedge, he demonstrated exactly how to extract juice from the thick-rinded, extremely fragrant lemon. The quick lesson made our meal that much more interesting. We ended with the saccharine sweet Chutney Aamshopto Khejur (Rs 90). Although a bit too sweet for our taste buds, it was a change from the typical rosogollah, paayesh or mishit dhoi.
Those who know Bengali food will love Kolkata Callin’, those who don’t must get an introduction.
At: Kolkata Callin’, Plot No 285, Shere Punjab, Andheri East