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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Restaurant: Dhaba-2

So, it has taken me a little longer than I expected to write out these reviews. My excuse: no internet. Kindda makes it tough to keep up a blog without access to consistent internet and also, the big ol' factor of time. My life has taken quite a turn but that's another blog entry all together. Without any other excuses, here is a series of reviews:

Price rating:
৳ = really cheap - less than $5
৳৳ = everyday food - less than $20
৳৳৳ = special night out - mid - scale dining - less than $50
৳৳৳৳ = date night - formal dining - less than $100
৳৳৳৳৳ = dressin' to impress - more than $100

DHABA (1 & 2)


House 100, Rd 11,
Block C, Banani;
tel: 989 0136

Rifles Square
4th floor, above Agora
Road 2, Dhanmondi

"Dhaba" - loosely translated from Hindi means - street vendor food. That is exactly what you should expect when you go to any of the Dhabas (Dhaba-1 in Banani & Dhaba-2 in Dhanmondi) in Dhaka. The restaurant serves up authentic Indian street foods...well as authentic as you can get in Dhaka and way more on the mark then other "indian" cuisine places. Its not the cleanest place by any 5 star restaurant standard but then again, when you have you eaten at a street vendors because of its hygiene standards!!

Don't get me wrong - Dhaba relatively clean, with its brightly colored walls and glass topped tables, floors are free of debris and plates are all stainless steels - it tranports to a little corner of food delights. Occaisinally you may see a roach walking about but best to turn a blind eye to it. The most exciting aspect of the Dhabas is the open kitchens. You can see them making your food...for some that may be of some comfort, others less so but nevertheless its exciting to see the chef's at work turning out rolls and plates of fuchkas at an instance!

I have eaten here a lot when craving a a plate of dahi fuchkas (yogurt based) or dahi vadas. Even the dosas and chicken rolls are delicious! The prices are even more inviting!

So--if you are in Dhaka, don't pass up an oppurtunity to have a plate of dahi fuchkas and dahi vadas at this place and if you craving a fuller meal-go for dal makhni and paratha--its delicious!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Coming soon...

It's been a very long time since a post. Since this is my cooking blog and right now I am kitchen-less - it has been difficult for me to post! But, I have been eating out a lot (A LOT) and figured why not start writing about the restaurants that I visit in Dhaka. I am sure it will be useful to someone since no such comprehensive site exists. If you are interested in contributing, by all means feel free. I have not picked up my camera a lot in last few months either so - my two goals are to pick the camera and take pictures of the restaurants, of the type of food and write a comprehensive (as I see possible at the time) review/description of the place. That's not to say there won't be any new recipes - I have made a couple of interesting dishes in our joint family kitchen when possible. So, here is what you to look forward to...


Lime Pie
Kichidi (inspired by Mexican rice)
Tuna fish dumplings
more coming...


Shaad Tehari House
Korai Ghost
Cafe Mango
Cafe Shanghai
Star Kabab
Red Tomato
Kozmo lounge

Chain restaurant

Pizza Hut
Cafe World
Pizza Corner

Coming soon....with of cousre my added stories, observations, comments and queries!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Street Food: Bhapa Pitha (Steamed Rice cakes)

It has been four months since my last has been taking over a bit. But, I am back with another addition to the Street Food series!!

Today's is Bhapa Pitha! Its a bit out of season since these vendors are out during the winter months and right now its is HOT!! What are Bhapa Pithas? It is rice flour steamed with jaggery. It's incredibly soft and pillow-y when steamed right and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy when you bite into hot off the oven. What's even more interesting is --this is one of those very rare items that are solely sold by women on the streets! Whether its a tiny makeshift stove by the roadside or a cart by the is almost always by a women steaming away the cakes.

I always find the compactness of the street vendors amazing. Everything is at their fingertips and ready to pick and go in a matter of mins. For this particular item one requires a portable fire, a metal pot with a built in steamer, small disc plates and rice flour (boiled), salt, jaggery (date palm) and shredded fresh coconut. One just needs to mix the flour and salt and spread on plate. Add shredded cocnut and spoonful of jaggery in the middle, cover with a muslin or thin cloth and steam away for few mins.

Thats it! Each one costs about Tk.5 - thats about $0.07 !!!