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


Reeta Skeeter said…
:D shubo nobo borsho...and i liked the almost perfect pic of the perfect dish...pics are getting better I sniff :D

Kurush F Dalal said…
the aglio e olio looks superb!! the pic does it tru glory!! superb pic Kalyan ... way to go!
Anonymous said…
What an arrogant self-proclaimed food critic you are!!

Have been through your blog to discover your pathetic reviews, insipid, poorly written, where price is always at the core of discussions in spite of your royal attitude (if you don't have money, stay at home ;)
shoots said…
What a troll (I mean the person who left the anonymous comment)!!! I love your food reviews and your writing in general and love the fact that you share these details with us. Please carry on in EXACTLY the same note and we all look forward to seeing lovely Canon pictures from you.

Shubho Nabobarsho.

SC :)
Anchal said…
Dear Anonymous aka "the Troll",

I don't think I will get into defending this blog because clearly it will only be to your benefit, and no one wants that. Just like you have some suggestions for Kalyan (which he will nicely ignore), I have some for you too - STAY OFF THIS BLOG! Its not for you. This blog and its readers are one happy family and you are an intruder. LEAVE.

Hope you suffer from dysentery everytime you eat out.


PS: Just in case you were imagining yourself to be a food blog critic while writing that comment - you are also delusional. And just plain stupid.
shivi said…
haha..i read the blog 2day the very first time cos of the recommendation by an article i read just 5 minutes back.
really appreciate the blogger and lv d lv of his avid readers!!
Subho Nabobarsho Kalyan... and I just could not control laughing at Anchal's comment for "the Troll". Well, she almost echoed my sentiments. You keep the great work on. I also do not like my pasta drenched in tomato sauce. And your pics are 'Perfect'! Even the "My Boss’s Spaghetti" pic, looks super delicious.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Reeta, Kurush...thanks...I realised that learning new things are fun...specially if it is something that interests you and the teachers are enthusiastic...I must do this more often

SC, Anchal, Shivi, Pee Gee...what do I say...I actually had a wonderful time today with a couple of fellow bloggers...folks I would never have know if I did not blog...and I saw your comments float in through the day on my phone...there are times when i wonder why I blog...thanks to folks like you, comments like yours and afternoons like today...those are very rare...thank you once again
What a jealous little coward!

and Kalyan, if you ever have a moment of doubt - Blog te raho!
Kurush F Dalal said…
what a small mean and cowardly shithead .... ignore/delete the trolls post ... unless of course u'd like to see him being repeatedly insulted by those who read and respect your views regularly!!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thanks Rhea...i will! :)

@Kurush...hmmm maybe i do have a sadistic streak ;)

I don't remove comments unless they are abusive. And I don't respond to people who don't have names
Sassy Fork said…
It's obviously the troll is someone whose food u have not found upto the mark.The loser hasnt understood that food should be value for money.Why is he reading your blog if he doesn't like it? There are so many followers for Finely Chopped,it's one of the most popular ones in India!Your opinion matters!
Your photography really is improving by leaps and bounds--the textures have come out beautifully in this post.Keep up the good work!

As for the negative comment there--I don't understand why this person is taking things so personally and while s/he is entitled to their opinion, they're being quite rude and irrational here. Just so you know, Kalyan, a HUGE bunch of people rely on your reviews for their special meals outside, and that's a quality no one can deny. And big respect for actually letting that comment be there.
Tinkoo said…
Your reviews are priceless....they cannot be bought...which is probably what hurts people who rely on paid reviews and they react accordingly.That's their problem.You go doing what you do best.We are middle class and we love it.Who says we have to be rich to give an opinion??? What world does this anonymous person live in,I wonder! Very backward in perspective!!
Serena said…
I agree with Tinkoo.It's your blog and you will obviously write about your experiences.This person is just being mean.Would help if they took notice of what you wrote and tried to change things for the better instead of hitting below the belt.People who have money and class rarely flaunt it.Need I say more?
Kalyan Karmakar said…
thanks Tinkoo, Serena for writing in. Really appreciate your support
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thanks Saee. That's really a great compliment specially given the excellent photographs that you take. i guess the eos 550 that you insisted i buy is showing its kamal :)

thanks for the affirmation on the blog. i don't remove comments unless they are abusive. the support all of you have shown through your comments make my point in a way i never could have myself
Kalyan Karmakar said…
thanks a lot Sassy Fork. i don't mind being trolled for the blog. specially if the positive side is making wonderful friends like you through the blog
Kalyan Karmakar said…
This is an interesting comment by Joanne on aglio olio on facebook which I thought I must share. To be fair to SHD. The mushrooms and ham were added as options "Hi Kalyan. Since I can't for some reason comment on your blog, I'm writing here ... Just read your entry on your Bengali new year late lunch and must thank you for warning me never to order an 'aglio-olio" in India - as it apparently comes with parmesan, bacon/ham and mushrooms!! To me this would have been as bad as my order of 'pasta arrabbiata" was years ago in Athens (it came with cream, and I'd ordered it precisely to avoid cream) I don't understand why restaurants everywhere keep the name and change the contents. Aglio, olio e peperoncino is a dish born of scarcity and therefore includes only what's in the title: garlic, hot peppers and the olive oil they've been sauteed in. Try it that way, it's great. But the pasta has to be perfect.."
Joanne said…
Finally found the box, so here's another comment. :)
Re tomato sauce: restaurants ruin it by using only tomato paste. The proper way is with fresh, juicy tomatoes. In the Mediterranean they are seasonal, so in winter we use canned tomatoes, they're almost as good. To fresh tomatoes you can add a pinch of sugar to get rid of any tartness. Adding a *spoonful* of tomato paste deepens the flavour.
And then you go to town. My two favourite ways are to add a whole garlic clove or onion and masses of fresh parsley; or a more elaborate one involving anchovies, hot red chilis, a handful of capers and flaked salt cod.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
please keep these tips going Joanne...always great to know how dishes were meant to be before they were lost in translation

the few times that I have made tomato based pasta at home have been with freshly purred tomato

my favourite 'sauce' if one can call it that is a basil pesto
Lisa said…
love the new look of your blog!
cfp123 said…
Loved the blog…