A fresh look at life ... Benjarong, Calcutta Live

If you read my blog then you will know that I am fairly old school and am a sucker for nostalgia.

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.
This definitely enters my Calcutta 'must eat' list.

Going with a big hearted host who refused to let me pay added many wonderful layers to the treat.


Comments

enjoy the nostalgia trip...
Bong Mom said…
Your list is great, have never had fish la diana. A friend back from Cal vacation was raving about this Thai place at South City Mall.

Makes me amazingly hungry :(
Sudeshna said…
You should have also gone to the Tapas bar next to Benjarong, that's also good. How was South City? It has become a craze among all KOlkatans to visit the mall at least once a month, even if you don't have anything to buy.
The Cloudcutter said…
I used to love Benjarong when I lived in Madras some years ago. It was the best Thai restaurant there and one of the few times I enjoyed my job as a food writer :-)
Good to know you're in Cal. Have fun at Grandpa's birthday and three cheers to the great old man!
Scarlett said…
I thought I'd take you out to dinner at Benjarong! Guess your brother beat me to it.

There is a serious dearth of good Thai places in Cal & I love the food at Benjarong. And very efficient & informed service - something which is a complete rarity at Calcutta restaurants.

I took Roose to Benjarong when he was here. He paid, and chivalrous that he is, he was even generous enough to let me have the discount coupon he got for my next visit to Benjarong...though there was another guy from Calcutta with us :)
Anonymous said…
I agree with every word you have written about Benjarong. You should also try Flame n Grill in South City Mall, for their awesome kababs.
The knife said…
Somoo... absolutely am

sandeepa fish a la diana is this exquite dish of bhetki stuffed with prawns baked in a pran cocktail like sauce. And I did tick rolls of my list this evening

CC: your prodding was one of the reasons why i am here. Chennai? So they might open in Mumbai too> praise the lord.

Scarlett: you can have the discount coupon to the strawberry cube :)

Arundhari thanks for dropping in. My bro did try to tempt me to flame and grill. But Thai rules over the lure of unlimited kebabs for me. When it comes to kebabs I am more of a Kakori and Galawti person
The Cloudcutter said…
Yes, believe it or not, Chennai is a test market for a lot of stuff. Shops like Lifetsyle and Globus were first started there. They even started this nice bake shop called The French Loaf (there's a branch in Bandra next to Pot Pourri, I tried it recently).
Benjarong was started there around 8 years back I think. I doubt they will open in Bombay though, because we had an overdose of Thai restaurants in the late 90s and then one by one most of them shut down. Sad, because I love Thai food and really can't afford Thai Pavilion!
The knife said…
CC: there's a French loaf near Pot Pourri. Hated it. Wrote about it under K's suggested header of 'French Oaf'. I politely advised the guys at Benjie to not come and sell French Loaf to us.

Try an old favourite at Pali Naka, Thai Baan, they serve fairly good Thai

Sudeshna, South City is pretty good and was an oasis to us in our last trip as that was in summer. Its good for foodies
Scarlett said…
Can't believe I actually liked the strawberry cube! It really did look like pastries at Mumbai railway stations :)
The Cloudcutter said…
I know the French Loaf in Bandra and I tried it just last month. Just read your review and I am surprised... Because everything I had was good. In fact, when I went back the second time they were sold out by afternoon. Didn't try the desserts though. Also my friend in Pune raves about it (they have a branch there as well), she's a foodie and very good cook herself. Of course, it's nothing compared to Candies! But fortunately for me, I didn't have such a bad experience as you did.
Supernova said…
Having been hearing good things about Benjarong for some time. Now that you have given it your stamp of culinary approval, I think I'll definitely check it out. :)
Zara, the Tapas bar, is a good place to hang out too..nice ambience and good stuff to nibble on. Even Flame n Grill at South City is a hit but I think it's one of those places where you need to be prepared to attack the unlimited kebab supply with a vengeance in order to do justice to it. Not always what one has in mind.
Moonshine said…
We went to Benjarong here... its quite nice.. and the starter is marvellous.. one can never think that so many normal ingredients can come together to make this wonderfully frsh, crispy delightful thing !!! Though when we saw it, we were all a bit sceptical!!! I think the starter was the best and definitely very original!!
The knife said…
Sudeshna, Supernova.... we went to Zara yesterday. Nice. Don't do lounges too much though so found the music a bit too disconcerting specially as I was trying to catch up on some Woody Allen like tales

CC: maye they got it wrong in the beginning at French Loaf. Don't see a reason to give them a second chance, specially at Bandra...Birdies next door is much better to stat with

Scarlett: Just leave it to me :) the Bombay station pastries looked like amputed hands...didn't want to bring up the analogy then...loved the buttery taste of the Flury cubes...thanks for the company...had a great time
viagra online said…
Food look delicious, the place also looks amazing, there is something about soups that opens my appetite.