If you are alone on a Sunday afternoon at Kolkata then Bar B Q at Park Street is probably not the best place to go.
I don’t think they approve of unaccompanied diners. Or so it seemed it when I walked up the stairs of Bar B Q last Sunday. I had just landed at Kolkata. I was there on work. Hence alone. I checked into the hotel and after three room changes, turns out that the Park at Kolkata is not a patch on the one at Hyderabad, I headed out for lunch.
I thought of going to Bar B Q next door. The much sought after Chinese restaurant in the late 90s at Kolkata. Its popularity continues till today. My attempts to go there during recent visits came to nought. There was always a long queue and we always went away.
This time I was by myself. I had time on my hand. There was a queue but I thought that this was the best opportunity to make it to Bar B Q. So I waited. I waited even when the manager looked at me disdainfully when I asked for a table and kept pointing out that I was alone. He showed me a sari clad lady who was sitting with a glum expression and told me that she was alone too and was there before me. He once shunted me to a tiny chamber above the restaurant. It was too gloomy and I decided to leave that table and wait. The menu prices would be the same after all. The restaurant was packed. Obviously still very popular. I finally got a table at about 3.20 pm after about half an hour’s wait. I was seated. Two waiters came and asked me if I was “one person”. I don’t think they were commenting on my weight.
I glanced through the menu card and realised that there was a subtle difference at work here. Bar B Q actually referred to the Indian section. The Chinese section, which is what I came for, is called Flavours of China. We always knew of the restaurant as ‘Bar B Q’ when we were in college. Wonder if things have changed.
I placed my order. Salt and pepper prawns which I remembered from one of my last trips to Bar B Q after I had moved to Mumbai. I saw a pork section in the menu, got excited, ordered a double cooked pork. To go with these I chose a mixed Hakka noodles which was recommended to me on twitter.
I placed my order and waited. And waited. And waited. There was no sign of the food. I was hungry, gum and killed time by taking despondent photos of myself.
Finally the prawns arrived. Large juicy. The batter very light. Cooked just right. Everything was right except that one couldn’t catch much of a flavour of the prawns. The dish was fine when eaten with the accompanying marinade. A dish that was acceptable but nothing to write home about.
After another long wait my mains came.
The pork, served sliced, could have been any meat. It didn’t have the fatty sweetness of pork. It was a lean cut but was cooked too dry. The seasoning seemed to be a Hoisin one. Waste of pork if you asked my opinion. Very very pedestrian. Even the Indian cricket team has had better days during its current test tour of Australia.
The Hakka noodles is a dish unique to India it seems. The closest I have come to it abroad so far is in the Hokkien Mee of Singapore and Malaysia.
As Hakka noodles go the one at Bar B Q, I can’t call it the “flavours of watchacallit”, was one of the best I have had at restaurants. Seasoned in soy. The noodles nice and separate. The vegetables had a nice crunch to it. Had it in it to carry itself alone. That’s what a good Hakka should be in my opinion. It’d difficult to get “Hakka’ noodles wrong but most Chinese restaurants at Mumbai manage to do that with consistency.
A friend warned me on bbm that the waiters are not very excited about doggy bagging the food at Bar B Q. For the record I didn’t attempt to finish the food and two waiters did ask me by themselves if they should pack the rest.
Well, what do I say? Bar B Q is no Ling’s Pavilion. Far from it. Definitely not a place I am going to waste a precious Kolkata eating out opportunity in the near future. The list has been ticked.
The discovery of Ling’s at Colaba and the exposure to the Chinese food in China Towns across outside India has killed the ‘maya’ of Calcutta Chinese for me. Bar B Q didn’t change this.