On Camera…Poila Boishakh lunch at Smoke House Deli, Mumbai

It was ‘Poila Boishakh’, start of the Bengali New Year, yesterday.

It almost seemed as if ‘what are you eating on poila boishakh’ had become the new ‘what are you doing on new year’s eve or Valentine’s Day or for the weekend  or ….(fill in your pet grouse)”

Well the question is to be expected for a Bengali food blogger I guess. Or any Bengali for that matter.

The fact is that till about 5 pm on Poila Boishakh I was subsisting on just three tiny bananas and some Tropicana orange juice which I hastily managed to have on the way to the Canon Go Pro class yesterday. I was running late due to some bad planning on my part.

You get to be a part of this class if you buy a Canon DSLR and I got a coupon for my EOS 550. At Mumbai, they hold the class at the  Pu La Academy at Prabhadevi. I was quite impressed to see the flurry of activities going on at Pu La. Dance classes, school socials (a hi to the lady who said she recognised me from the blog) …even a North Eastern children’s theatre festival.

The Canon class was pretty interesting. Covered the basics. Ended with a session on using the manual mode of the camera. A throwback to my days of learning photography on my dad’s SLRs as a kid. A habit spoilt by automatics and point and shoots as I grew up.

The class lasted till 4 pm. Famished ,I headed to Phoenix Mills. Too hungry to experiment.

Since it was the New Year I thought I’d go to a feel good place. So I went to the Smoke House Deli at Phoenix Mills. The meal ended up being about 3 times more expensive than the maximum of what I like to spend if I am eating alone but at least it was a special day.

And let me kill any Bong outrage at this point by saying that I had mutton biryani and chaap from Arsalan and kheer kodom, chhanar pulao & mishti doi from Sweet Bengal for Nobo Borsho dinner while I watched Dada and his Pune Warriors on TV win their IPL match. So don’t arrest me.

I called for an apple and rosemary ice tea  at Smoke House Deli. I had really liked the balance of its flavours in my last visit. I could feel life slowly seep into my parched body. It was close to 4.30 PM. A weird time for ‘lunch’.

apple & rosemary ice tea

I took out the camera and fiddled with it. Trying to remember what they taught in class. Experimenting with the aperture, ISO, shutter speed. Using the full manual mode while I waited for the rest of my order.

And then my lunch arrived.

What the menu described as ‘My boss’s spaghetti’ with tenderloin meatballs.

Problem is that the dish was not what the waiter described to me. I was promised an aglio olio. And no tomato sauce.

What was placed in front of me was overcooked spaghetti in a suspiciously red sauce. I questioned the waiter about it who assured me that the red colour wasn’t because of tomato. “It’s a mushroom reduction” he said.

The ‘boss’s spaghetti’ was everything that I hate in a pasta. Excess tomato puree. Soggy spaghetti. Drowned in sauce and that sucks in a pasta. Served so hot that your taste buds are numbed.

I am sure there are people for whom it could work but a tomato sauce based pasta makes me see, er, red. Though the waiter of course claimed that the pasta didn’t have any tomatoes in them.

My boss's spaghetti

And yet I was hungry. The sort of hunger you saw in the characters in the Indian art cinema of the 80s.

So I ate. Quietly.

Which is when Glyston Gracias walked up to me. Turned out that he is the chief manager operations at Smoke House Deli.

“How is the food sir”.

I looked up, made a Godfather like scowl, put my hands up and said “It’s ok”.

“I noticed that you don’t look happy sir. What is the problem?” Glyston persevered.

“Look this is not what I thought it would be but it’s ok…I am hungry, don’t really want to create a fuss.”

“No no sir, we can’t have you dissatisfied. Let me know what’s the issue and I”ll look into it”.

Well I poured out my heart. Turned out that the waiter had got his spiel wrong. Glyston said that the ‘boss’s spaghetti’ did come in a tomato based sauce. I found the meatballs too be too dense and strongly flavoured. We discussed that and blamed it on the rosemary. A very overpowering herb.

Glyston then insisted on  getting me a fresh dish. An aglio olio like I wanted. It wasn’t in the menu. We discussed the meat. I had had enough of the meatballs. Glyston suggested chicken. I suggested bacon. Too which Glyston pointed out that the parmesan in the aglio olio would, in conjunction with bacon would be too salty. Made sense. I agreed. Glyston then agreed to my suggestion of ham. And then went off to the kitchen to supervise the dish. After I told them to make it a small portion as I was almost full from the earlier bucket of spaghetti.

I waited and continued to fiddle with the camera. Suddenly a goat cheese salad landed at my table. I love goat cheese but protested saying that I was quite full.

Goat cheese salad

“While you wait sir”, said Glyston.

And then my pasta arrived.

This time everything that I like in pasta. Love in fact. Spaghetti. A la dente and not a la as flaccido as a mithaiwallah’s owner’s belly. The flavours delicate. The parmesan beautifully holding together the pasta. Almost mother-like in its tenderness. The spaghetti and parmesan forming a demure base that allowed the incredible flavours of the sliced button mushrooms and the celestial imported barbecue ham to flower in the full glory. The temperature just right. Hot. Not singeing hot.

spaghetti aglio olio with barbecue ham

This was as close to pasta perfection as it gets in my world.

Smoke House Deli had redeemed themselves.

My starving for the camera lessons paid off.

Happy 1419 everybody. Shubho Nobo Borsho. Eat well.

Smoke House Deli