How do you know you’ve just walked into a Bengali restaurant? Walls decorated with old lanterns, radios, plants and Howrah-bridge and hand-pulled rickshaw murals? Check. Mustard fish and kathi rolls on the menu? Check. Bengali food lovers turned restaurateurs? Check.
Bong Bong, however, is all that and more, flavoured with a liberal dash of European chic. Serving what entrepreneurs Kanika Saxena and Surjapriya Ghosh call ‘contemporary Bengali’ fare, this eatery is thoughtful. Whether it is the café-like ambience that plays Pakistani Coke Studio hits and has a menu catering to the non-Bengali and the always on-the-move Mumbaikar or quirks like colourful, lit acrylic ice floating in your Coke, Bong Bong is all that you expect from a place named thus.
“Kolkata is constantly changing, and our menu is a reflection of that evolution,” explains Ghosh as she serves us our first course of this preview-meal. Fish Fry (Rs 249) and Twin Cheese and Spinach Croquette (Rs 229). “We haven’t forgotten the vegetarians,” laughs Saxena. “Twenty per cent of our fare is vegetarian.”
While vegetarian may not be their strength, (the win cheese croquettes were not cheesy enough), the fish fry was crisp. The restaurant believes in serving everything fresh, hence the traditional Ilish-maach is missing from the menu — apparently it takes two days to reach the restaurant.
The main course was a delight. The Prawns in Creamy Coconut Curry with Saffron Rice (Rs 389) was delicious. You’ll find the famous Kosha Chicken (Rs 299) in any true-blue Bong household, and a healthy one at that, as this one is not heavily-spiced. The Green Chilli Mutton with Paratha (Rs 349) was the winner, with the flavours perfectly balanced to create a flavour you remember long after the meal is over. Both meats were a bit tough, but given the flavours, you’d forgive them.
Again, it pays to be a non-vegetarian in Bong Bong as the Vegetable in Tomato-Mustard sauce with Steamed Rice (Rs 279) was strictly ho-hum. Ardent Bengali cuisine fans may even be a tad disappointed, as the mustard remains significantly muted through the menu, something that first-time Bengali food eaters will be thankful for. Don’t forget to indulge in the chutneys and dips. The boiled pineapple Plastic Chutney and the tomato-mustard dip are worth trying.
While Bengali sweets are a meal by themselves, the choice is limited here. The Baked Roshogolla (Rs 59) is a healthier option to the usual ones, but tastes very much like a Rasmalai. The next time we return to the place, which we have no doubt we will, we’re going in for the Daaber Payesh (Rs 79).
With a special Bengali styled mini-burger and sandwich menu (Rs 149-259) that keep you going through the day, a wine and beer licence and late-night biryani and kathi roll delivery service in the pipeline, the future sure looks nom-nom for Bong Bong.