Friday, April 29, 2011

Restaurants: Oh! Calcutta

I am not one to promote franchises in a big way, just a passing remark if it is worth mentioning that the option exists. Don't get me wrong, I need my fix of KFC, Pizza Hut, American Burger, BFC and Nando's once in a while and something comforting about knowing that you will get exactly what you want when you enter the premises. But tonight was an experience.

Today B and I accomplished a lot of work towards our new apartment and I was in a mood to celebrate. (note: I am always in a mood to celebrate, even saving a few taka by taking a bus is reason enough to celebrate!) So, after stopping over and having dessert at 7:30 (next post about a delicious new ice cream joint), we decided or rather I decided we should go to this new place Oh! Calcutta for dinner. I heard it was a franchise of sorts from India but had delicious Bengali food. The foodie in me has been hungry and curious to check it out for weeks...finally an excuse! I sometimes amaze myself how I engineer chance! We were right in the neighborhood to check it out and it was dinner time.

Oh! Calcutta is located on the 6th floor of a normal business building, I thought--- 6th floor...rooftop garden, outdoor restaurant...nice. Not so. I thought--- casual space with ethnic but chic furnishing...nice. Not so. The elevator takes us up to the 6th floor, must say it is quicker than other elevators in the city! The doors open and we were greeted by a hostess standing behind a tall dark wood stand with a huge ledger. I groan. There is going to be a wait or will need reservations. But, gladly, no. She only asks name, I say "Ms. Jahan, 2". She proceeds to write and as I look down, she has written "Mr." like all the names coming down the list, she stands confused, I get flustered and slip "Mr. Jahan" then quickly - but not quick enough, "Mr. Kamal, K-A-M-A-L"....Mr. Kamal chuckles behind me, "So, Mr. Jahan, huh?" 

Enter through frosted glass doors into a very formal dining space with white walls, framed photographs of old Calcutta and dark wood modern square tables and chairs with warm ambient lighting and hushed tones. Very polite and friendly hostess usher us to a corner table for 4 (we were 2), I ask if there is an open air space, she takes us to the other side of the restaurant a few feet away where the tables are in an open space with no walls...obviously lost in translation, we go back to the original corner table. This is NOT a casual dining space, we are way under dressed. We are handed really large menus. As we look through, familiar dishes are found but the prices really jump out. This is a FINE dining restaurant. When a restaurant charges 70Tk. for paratha that you can find elsewhere in the city, just as delicious and hygienic for 15 Tk., it really jumps out. A fillet of Bangladesh's most famous fish - the hilsa or elish - is quoted at 950tk. We can purchase two entire hilsas for 1,000 tk.! But, this is a fine dining experience.

We settle on a grilled hilsa fish with lemon butter - priced at ~500tk, potato with hing - priced at ~ 300tk., mutton curry priced at ~500tk, mint paratha and plain pratha priced at ~70tk. each. We were told the grilled hilsa was not available but the hilsa with mustard steamed in a banana leaf priced at 950tk, however, was available. Alright, no problem. Complimentary cool cucumber raita and spicy tomato chutney was laid out. We anxiously wait for the food to arrive as we watch heaping plates of fried bread - luchis-being taken to different tables. They look scrumptious!

First arrives the hilsa. As promised, it is a fillet without bones. B and I share it - it is just mustardy, spicy and absolutely delicious! I save a bit of mine to savor it as the last taste at the end of the meal! As we wait for the other dishes, we both curiously watch the different dishes being transported across the restaurant. One that strikes me but B found to be too ornamental - is the shrimp cooked in coconut water in the coconut! A green coconut is hallowed out and shrimp cooked inside it. Well, we debated- B believed the shrimp was cooked in the curry and placed in the shell and I believed the shrimp and coconut water/milk placed inside the shell and the whole thing was baked. We decide I must try it at home to see results.

The next few dishes arrive - the potato - alo dum in hing (asofetida) is just yummy as is the mutton. We were not bowled over by the parathas. All in all, we ate our meal in silence. As I took a break from the eating I watched as most of the diners ate in silence and only spoke between breaks of eating. That must say something pretty big about the food! It is undoubtedly very good.

So, all in all - I was disappointed that it was on the bit expensive side but the tastiness of the dishes made it worthwhile. It is a nice space to take the mom-in-law or special someone or splurging on the family or business clients...not too kid friendly but the there was a TV on and tuned to the cricket game!

Oh! Calcutta - check it out next time you are in the neighborhood!
Banani 11, right after the bridge from Gulshan 2 entering Banani 11.


Margub Kabir said...

fantastic description! went there but was in a hurry. will go again after your recommendation

A New Yoker... said...

Thanks Kabir, post back ifyou have comments as I have been getting mixed reviw about the place. It could be just different palates...i have a very bong palate and might ot be suitable for the averagne western palate. anywanys, would love to hear back.

Daniel said...

Hi Ishy,

Been enjoying your restaurant reviews. Great stuff.

I've been looking for a place on your blog through which I can contact you, but can't find one, so have chosen the 'comments' section as a last resort. Hope you don't mind.

Basically, I'm coming to Dhaka very soon and am intending to write some articles about food in Bangladesh while I'm there. I wondered if I could email you to ask you a few questions? You seem to know what you are talking about!

My name is Daniel, and my email address is danielinbeijing[at]gmail[dot]com. If you could email me, I'll reply as soon as I see it.

Many thanks