Beyond Rice, Dal and Phish : Padmaparer Rannaghar

I have been on an eating spree ever since I stepped my foot in Kolkata. Simulataneously I have been struggling with a section of a long overdue chapter which was supposed to be in my supervisor’s mail box quite a while ago. Instead, I have been drowning my sorrow of  loss of words, sentences in tasting and feasting.

My partner in crime DP lured me to try this place tucked away in the bustling streets of Gariahat. Anybody who is familiar with Kolkata neighbourhoods and is well versed with haggling has interned in Gariahat. Though Gariahat streets wear a comparatively deserted look before the (in)famous Operation Sunshine to remove Hawkers from pavements still you will find rows of neatly arranged good starting from crockery to pillow covers in the pavements of Gariahat. There are several tricks to crack your deal in Gariahat and every house in Kolkata can vouch for a “bargaining expert” who got the best deal in Gariahat and a worst buyer who could never managed to reduce a penny. Nevertheless, street shopping continues to remain an integral part of Kolkata like its street food culture. One of the street food culture is pice hotel. Though I am personally unaware of the gensesis of the word “pice” hotel in Bengal’s gastronomic street food culture, pice hotels are integral to eating out cultures in former Calcutta ( now Kolkata).

Usually pice hotels serve rice, dal, fish at a nominal rate and there are several hotels around Sealdah and other pockets of North Kolkata.

Check out the following entry by Nandini Dutta on Pice Hotels

http://nandinidutta.blogspot.in/2012/10/pice-hotels.html

Though visit to pice hotels have become rare I crave for the food served at Pice hotels. There are dedicated Pice hotels to satiate the “East Bengal cuisine”  known as Bangal food and dedicated places for Ghoti food or cuisine from West Bengal. Despite being a MohunBugun fan I have shared a fancy for Bangal food when it came to Pice hotels around Marquis Street.

Padmaparer Rannaghar is a restaurant tucked away in the lanes of Gariahat. Padma- the river that flows across Bangladesh also acts as the symbol of “Bangal” Cuisine. For instance some people prefer Hilsa from Padma over Hilsa from Ganges. Padma is symbolic of Bangal identity and food in particular. Hence Padmaparer Rannaghar is an apt name for a restaurant that mostly serves Bangal food.  DP and I headed towards this restaurant sharp at 1 O’ Clock.

DP and her family have become regular visitors of this restaurant. DP insisted that I should read the rather metaphorical and rhyming menu which can be deciphered by someone who knows how to read and write Bangla. The menu can be lost in translation. So if you are a non- Bengali speaker you have to make do with the translation services of your waiter and will miss out on the food-metaphors and the generous use of adjectives in the Menu.

For people familiar with Bengali, here are some instances from the Menu

Machcher Mukta Kanther Dal ( a Dal prepared with Fish head)

Anarasher Madhyamani Pulao ( a Pulao prepared with Pineapples)

Dugdhadhabal Murir Pulao ( Chicken Pulao)

Manshabandi Dhakar Biryani ( Biryani cooked in Dhaka style)

My morbid translations cannot match the food metaphors and I am afraid I might land with up a rather funny literal translation.  After browsing through the rather long menu what struck me was the balance between vegetarian and non-vegetarian items. Infact I would strongly recommend this place to my vegetarian friends who crave for Bengali vegetarian delicacies. They have a wide variety of greens or sag preparation ranging from Pui Shak, Palak , Kachu Sag, Kalmi Sag and Lal sag. You can start off your meal with a sag before heading for Shukto ( a bitter dish ) and then a wide variety of Subzi based Dal.

What surprised me was the Dim Diye Jasorer Daler Stew ( A  Dal-Stew preparation from Jessore). While I am a huge fan of fish head Dal preparation common in Bengali households I had never heard of  Egg based Dal preparation and we decided to take a chance. As I geared up to order some Sag DP warned me against it. Apparently Rice is served with Kachubata( Colocasia or referred to as Arvi in Hindi) and fried Kalmi greens ! Being a die-hard fan of Dal-posto combination,  I had to enjoy my Dal and Rice with some Posto(poppy seeds) preparation; so we ordered Dekhan Hasi Narkel Posto ( a Poppy seed based preparation with potato and grated coconut).  We thoroughly enjoyed the Dal with sliced boiled eggs and sliced carrots adding colour and texture to the dal. A Must try!

DP missed her Fries and ordered Nanan Bhajar Bhojananda ( which is a mix of fried vegetables). You can skip this.

Finally  three nonvegetarian items followed: Chital Pristharakhya Ananda Muitya ( a Chitol Fish Preparation), Kachi Pathar Dildaria Jhol ( Mutton Curry) and Morola Machcher Tak ( A Tangy preparation of Morola Fish). DP recommended the Chitol and Mutton Curry and I insisted on ordering the last preparation. Morola Macher Tak could have been a little more tangy.

We finished our meal with Malpua which was rather chewy. Except the sweet dish and the fries I can go back again to savour the same delicacies particularly the  Dal and the Posto.

In a nutshell, this place translates the pice hotel menu into an AC eating out place for a nominal price. We paid Rs 650 including a tip of Rs 20 for the grand feast. The staff is quite helpful and next time I am settling down for a nice helping of Dab Chingri ( A prawn preparation served in tender coconut). But the star dish of the entire meal was Kachu Bata which was complimentary!!!!!! If you enjoy the luxury of staying in the neighbourhoods of Kolkata head to this place for a lunch break after you are tired with your street shopping @ Gariahat. For all non- Kolkata foodies this place is worth a visit and add to your wish list.

Padmaparer Rannaghar:  26/4, Hindustan Park Ground Floor, Gariahat Junction, Gariahat, Kolkata-29. Phone : 933149590

©itiriti

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Bengali by soul and Bohemian by Nature

I have been longing to visit Bohemian ever since I browsed their exciting menu on Zomato, an excellent review from D and D’s family and the post by Ishita Unblogged (http://ishitaunblogged.com/2013/01/06/bohemian-in-kolkata-where-food-really-does-cabaret-on-senses/).

For all those who are planning a trip to Kolkata and love to experiment with the staple Bengali fare please head to Bohemian. The food is experimental and Bohemian in spirit, the decor complements the fusion-food. Postcards of Beatles, Baez hanging all along the Bohemian long glass windows with glass jars of  sealed spices neatly arranged in a row.  We had booked in advance for our Saturday Lunch here.

There are few places which leave you chirpy with a bright decor and Bohemian manages to crack that. Located in a lane of  Ballygunge Phari and at a walking distance from Ballygunge Phari  it enjoys the advantage of a rather silent neighbourhood and yet easily accessible. So, if you are a fan of quite lunch and dinner away from the cacophony of Kolkata hotspots please head to Bohemian. If you are a foodie, head to Bohemian to see how creative one can get with ginger and fennel, Panchphoron ( Bengali five wholesome spices) and even nigella seeds ( Kaloojeere as we call in Bengali). The Menu Card is quite interesting as it begins with a prelude to Rancho and the journey of Bohemian spirit followed by a list of what Bohemian has to offer. The long list of starters is well balanced and even if your friends are vegetarian they have quite an interesting list of choices.  The menu has a balance of vegetarian and non – vegetarian dishes. Besides that, for any non- Bengali speaking person the Menu is self –explanatory. Despite retaining the Bengali food metaphors not everything gets lost in translation!

Three of us (S, M and I) settled for the following

Starters : For starters we ordered Paanchphoron Flavoured Chicken Escallops and  Chilli Pickle and Cheese Baked Prawns with Kalmi Greens. Since they did not have crabs they gave us prawns.  Though we were hesitant about the combination of Kalmi greens with cheese it was the best fusion inspired starter.  Itiriti recommends this dish for the starter.

must

Three of us decided to settle down for Oranga Aamada Sorbet. A must try !  I wish they cut down on the orange flavour and add more of Aaamada

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Main Course : While S headed for Joy’s special steak which was too sweet M and I settled for Bhetki fish preparation with Bengal berries ( Kul) and Bacon Wrapped Tilapia with Ginger and Fennel. Though the Bhetki preparation with Bengal Berries was innovative I wish it was a little spicy. The tangy texture of the Kul would have stood out if there was little more spice. The Bhetki fish was soft and melted in the mouth. It was served with plain rice but when I tried it with the coriander rice served with bacon wrapped tilapia it was much better. My bacon wrapped tilapia was the star dish of the table.  This dish is definitely worth a try.

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Desserts : Though we settled for Malpua Cheese Cake , SpicedMango Souffle the star dessert was Gangharaj Souffle.

I am definitely heading back to try out more fusion dishes and for all those who wants to have a twist to the usual Bengali ingredients settle down for a relaxed meal @ Bohemian. Please make a table reservation.

For menu,  visit http://www.zomato.com/kolkata/bohemian-ballygunge/menu#menutop.

Address: 32/4 Old Ballygunge 1st Lane, Ballygunge, Kolkata

©itiriti

Photos : Sarmistha