This is my latest article in the Femina and the subject is very close to my heart.
What are your Kolkata picks?
Here's the unedited text:
My restaurant picks in Kolkata are driven largely by nostalgia.
Trips back to Kolkata, like for most former Kolkatans, is often a lot about food for me.
The thing I miss the most about Kolkata is the street food, especially the phuchkas. You don’t get these in Mumbai. As any Kolkatan will tell you, Phuchkas are not golgappas or pani puris. They are, but of course, way better! The thin phuchka shell which holds the zesty, tangy tamarind water and a spiced up mashed potato and chopped green chilli filling inside is the stuff of dreams. Once my wife and I stopped the cab and got off at a roadside phuchka guy on the way home from the airport as we couldn’t wait for our first phuchka of the trip. Our favourite phuchka stops are outside New Empire cinema, outside South City Mall and at the Dakshinapan phuchka couple. Vivekananda Park is pretty famous too for phuchkas.
As someone who has grown up on an egg roll a day every evening after school I miss the rolls of Kolkata though Mumbai has some good options with places like Hangla now. My favourite roll stops in Kolkata are Nizam’s, where rolls were invented, Badshah in New Market and Kusum in Park Street. I go for mutton rolls nowadays, without eggs, without sauce, with a squeeze of lime, chopped green chillies and I prefer to have my onions fried. Nothing to beat Nizam’s when it comes to thin parathas enshrouding flavoursome kebabs and they have a beef version too.
Talking of Nizam’s, no trip to Kolkata is complete without a biryani stop. The Kolkata biryani is light on the palate, has no visible masala clumps and has a boiled potato to go along with the meat. It is the biryani that has spoilt me for all other biryanis. The favourite biryani place for the post 2000 generation of Kolkata is Arsalan. My loyalties though lie with Shiraz for its very light biryani. Other favourites are Nizam, Zeeshan and Aminia. Another classic biryani place is Royal. Do have the curd and ghee based mutton rezala and poppy and cashew based chicken chaap with tandoori rotis when you go to a biryani place. Don’t forget to chomp on a green chilli on the side for the full Kolkata experience.
I don’t go to Continetal places too often in Kolkata nowadays but Mocambo with its devilled crabs and prawn stuffed fish a la Diana is worth checking out for its old school European fare. Or you can head to Oly Pub in Park Street for well done steaks, a Chicken Kiev which gives out a rivulet of butter when cut and cheap alcohol. The Iran originated chello kebab (kebabs with buttered rice) at Peter Cat has people queuing up night after night.
A must stop in Kolkata for me is Flurys with its European tea room charm where I just love the classic buttery strawberry cube with coffee and ‘heritage baked beans on toast which is served with chopped green chillies. I love settling with a book by the big windows at Flurys and watch life pass by. My love for the strawberry cube here is matched only by my obsession for the lemon tart at Kookie Jar in Kolkata.
No trip to Kolkata is complete for my wife without a stop at Dolly’s Tea Centre. She loves the sugary ice teas served in this tiny shop at Dakshinapan and we occasionally nibble on a ham sandwich to go with these. It’s a good place to buy tea too.
Kolkata is famous for its (fast depleting) Chinese community and restaurants. I normally go to Jimmy’s Kitchen at Kala Mandir driven by nostalgia. My dad used to take me and my mom there for lunch everyday after my school before he passed away.
We didn’t go to Bengali restaurants in Kolkata initially as we used to get a lot of Bengali food at home. We would head to Kewpies though for the maha bhoj thali on celebratory occasions. On my last trip I went to the new Ekdalia branch of my Mumbai favourite, Bhojohori Manna, and had some amazing fish cutlets, alu posto, begun bhaja (fried aubergines), boneless Hilsa, daab chingri (prawns cooked in a tender coconut shell) and then for desserts, mishti doi, lyangcha and rosh malai. Bhojohori is now our favourite Bengali restaurant in Kolkata too. 6 Ballygunge Place is also good for classic Bengali. Do check out Bohemian in Bondel Road for some inspired Bengali cooking by Chef Joy. For a flavour of spicy Bangladeshi food there is Kasturi.
You know what? I wish I hadn’t written this article. I want to head to Kolkata right now to eat after writing this!