|With Mr Rajeev Neogi of Bhojohori Manna and my producer from Ping, Nikeet|
I must confess that I wasn't very fond of Bengali food while growing up in Kolkata.
For me, Bengali food represented a change of life conditions. When I was small, my mother used to make me European and Chinese food when were abroad and this continued even when we moved to India.
Things changed when my father passed away and my mother had to bring us up by herself with the help of my grandparents. The indulgences I was used to went out of the window and I had to eat Bengali food.
This continued till I left Kolkata for work. By then Bengali food stood for routine and boredom in my head.
Then I came to Mumbai and began to miss Kolkata and its food.
I went to Chiqita in Colaba lured by the promise of 'chicken rolls' only to find that these were chicken mayo rolls served in hot dog like breads. Nothing like the rolls of Kolkata. I went to Saybaa in Bandra searching for fish curry and rice and was flummoxed to find people eating blood red fish curries, where the fish hadn't been fried, with roti and not rice! To add to my misery, my PG was vegetarian.
I then discovered the mess on the terrace of Hotel New Bengal and would go there for the Rs 70 fish thala (late 90s) and I fell in love with Bengali food in these humble surroundings.
The New Bengal mess then shut down I think but I was no longer a trainee and could occasionally indulge in the posh offerings of Oh Calcutta.
Then a flurry of Bengali restaurants opened in Mumbai starting with Calcutta Club, run by a local Bengali couple and then the Kolkata legends, Bijoli Grill and Bhojohori Manna, came to town. Hangla came up to offer rolls. Bong Bong in Bandra. For a while Kolkata biryani came into Mumbai in the form of Arsalan and Lazeez (from Shiraz) though they have both shut down now.
Suddenly Mumbai become more like home.
I must confess that I have developed a soft spot for Bhojohori Manna, amongst all the Bengali restaurants in Mumbai, over the years.
The service can be a bit like Fawlty Towers at Bhojo but now we get a warm welcome whenever we go there. They have recently opened shop in Powai and Chembur. We go to the Oshiwara outlet. Apart from Ling's in Colaba, this is the only restaurant K and I travel to eat too.
The food is consistent no matter which day of the week one goes there. Pretty delicious. It has a home like feel and is not too rich. Always leaves us with a smile at the end and I never feel heavy after a meal here.
We normally share a veg maxi thali which has shukto, bhaaja (we choose begun or brinjal), daal, a vegetable (we choose alu posto), rice, pulao, chutney, doi and mishti. With this K normally chooses a Borishal ilish (the name was given by Goutum Ghosh since you get lot of ilish in Borishal) while I go for the bhetki kaalia, shorshe pabda or daak bangla mutton.
Recently one of the founder directors of Bhojohori Manna, Rajeev Neogi, was in town.
I met up with him for a chat on Bhojohori Manna and for the intricacies of eating one's way through a Bengali feast.
Do check out the following video on The Finely Chopped YouTube channel to see what happened.
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