Bong bang on!
In the sophisticated new Bengali restaurant in Bandra, fried Bhetki doesn't drip oil, the mustard doesn't burn your palate, and the dessert is not sickeningly sweet
Help is finally at hand for connoisseurs of Bengali cuisine, who have been scarred by oily rolls, mustard-drowned fish served in unappealing crockery amid mediocre interiors with predictable and dare we add, boring frames of Howrah Bridge, trams and Satyajit Ray for company.
Bong Bong, the week-old restaurant in Bandra is a long overdue change. Starting with the décor, the tiny space looks similar to the chic new cafés in South Kolkata and Delhi’s Hauz Khas area. Foldable metal chairs and wooden benches are painted in cheery colours, walls are adorned with an old radio, artsy lanterns and black-and-white print ads of Boroline and Ambassador, products that Bengalis, even those in Mumbai, identify with, more than photographs of Suchitra Sen and Howrah Bridge that can be spotted in most Bengali restaurants in the city. Dim lights, rustic wooden doors and music from earlier seasons of Coke Studio’s Pakistan chapter give it a young, casual and friendly vibe. s
The change continues with the food. Speaking in interviews and to guests who’ve dropped by, the young restaurant owners — Surjapriya Ghosh and Kanika Mohan Saxena clarify that they aren’t Oh! Calcutta or Bhojohori Manna. Bong Bong would serve refined and progressive Bengali cuisine that didn’t turn off the non-Bengali and excited the Bengali. The creative menu was designed with Joy Banerjee’s help, an undervalued and brilliant ex-Oberoi and ex-Oh! Calcutta chef.
After months of experimentation and redesign, the items that made it to the daily-changing menu included Herbed Chicken Money Bags (chicken cooked in a Bengali paturi style in banana leaves) (R285), Twin Cheese (processed and cream) and Spinach Croquette (R229) and Baked Roshogolla (Rs 69). We ordered for the Twin Cheese Croquette and the Bengali Fried Fish (R259) from the experimental Tuk Tak (appetiser) section. The two fillets of Bhetki were sweet, fresh, moist, flaky, and perfectly cooked, with a delicious and non-overpowering layer of green-chilli based paste below the evenly fried crumb coating.
The Croquettes were crunchy, creamy and gooey on the inside, well-seasoned, with a faint hint of finely chopped green chillies, and a dash of spinach. Was this close to Bengali cuisine? Maybe not. Would Bengalis devour it without complaining? Absolutely; this writer did. The Mahabhoj Roj (main course) section is closer to traditional and popular Bengali cuisine. The options available on that night included Kosha Chicken and Kosha Mangsho with Parathas, Classic Prawn Malai Curry with Rice, Green Chilli Mutton with Paratha and what we went with the Crab in Mustard curry served with steamed rice (R479). This was the winner: the light, not-too-spicy and non-oily gravy, with tender crab chunks served in a contemporary style, with a clean mound of rice was the best example of traditional and modern in a seamless blend. The tomato chutney (R69), made with tomato, dates, sugar and spices was the most traditional end to our meal along with the not-too-sweet, light and amazingly creamy Daaber Payesh (R79).
At Next to Khan-e-Khas, 16th & 33rd Road, Bandra (W);
Bong Bong didn’t know we were there. The GUIDE reviews anonymously and pays for meals
A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli