I am at Calcutta right now. A city which to me stands for old favourites such as the Fish a la Diana and Devilled Crabs of Mocambo, Lindsay Street Phuchkas, Biriyani from Shiraz, Zeeshan or Nizam, egg rolls from Bedwin, rum balls and lemon tarts from Flury's, chicken envelopes from Cookie Jar and Mukhorochak Diary.
I normally come with a tried and tested 'must eat' list.
My bother who is eight years younger than me has discovered the city in his own way and comes up with new places which an old timer like me takes time to get used to. He is also a big host and has taken us to a number of new places in Calcutta. My version of Simon Majumdar's elder brother, The Great Salami who would often treat Simon to great meals.
The latest being at Benjarang, the Thai restaurant, at the South City Mall. I must say that the food was very authentic. Benjarang was a pleasant discovery for me. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The ambience was classy, spacious and yet cosy. The restaurant was divided into many sections and the decor was reminiscent of the magnificent old Thai capital of Authaya. And for once there was enough light for me to take good food photos without the flash.
The service was quite good. The person taking our order insisted that one main dish would be enough between me mom, brother and I. He had a point of view which I like and which I rarely see in restaurants. I didn't subscribe to his stand of red curry with chicken and green with prawn. I believe in the reverse but admired him for his principles.
The complimentary starter was quite unique. Chopped condiments such as peanuts, ginger, honey, onions, bird's eye chillies, lemons wrapped in a leaf. A Thai tribute to the city of the Calcutta Paan (betel leaf).
I started with a tom yum soup where they got the flavour and texture just right. The spice was tempered down for non Thai palates. The prawns were brilliantly fresh. Wish the soup was hotter though.
They passed my first test of authenticity when they got me a fish sauce on request. We will forgive them the lack of chopped red bird's eye chillies.
The prawn satays that followed were a work of art that Rabindranath Tagore would have approved off. The juicy, flirty prawn in a calming, faintly sweet and lovable honey marinade was sheer culinary poetry.
The satays set the stage for the green curry. Like a good 24 carat diamond the colour, consistency and clarity of the curry were just right. The flavours were well balanced. The salt was perfect. The chicken was supple. And as recommended, a curry and rice were just right for three good eaters. By the way, the curry passed my second test of authenticity, it had Thai Birnjals.
Benjarong is a treat for anyone who likes real Thai food. It matches up with the Thai Pavillion of Mumbai and at half the cost.