Tuesday, November 02, 2004

in search of bengali food

Claimer: All characters in this narration are real. Any resemblance to any living cat or a dead mouse is purely intentional.

I was in Calcutta .. oops Kolkata over the weekend, for an interview. It was around 11:30 when I got back from it and was free to explore streets of this city of joy before catching my flight back to Bangalore later in the evening. Naturally at that hour, pressing need was to find a restaurant to fill the tank up and next things afterwards. And who is better person to ask than the beautiful hotel receptionist? (BTW, I keep hearing a lot about bengali beauty. But here was the first disappointment of my short visit!) So I go and ask her.

"Excuse me, could you please suggest me some nice restaurant where I can have authentic Bengali food for lunch?"
She is dumbfounded. "Sir, we offer you various choices in continental cuisine, apart from Chinese, Mexican and .."
I broke in, "But I insist on Bengali food."
"In that case, you can go to A restaurant on B street."
"Where is this place?"
"It's near C."
"Sorry, but I am new to Kolkata, and I dont know anything about this place."
"In that case, Sir, I suggest you go to Suruchi restaurant on Park Street, which is just a few minutes walk down this road."
"Ok, thank you."

Now I leave, and head towards Park Street. I ask a cab outside and he says Park street is just at the end of Russel Street. I set off towards the end of the road. At a corner, I ask a paanwala about Park Street.
"Yahi hai dada."
"Ok. Ye Suruchi restaurant kidhar hai, kuchh pata hai?"
"Kuchh pata nahi dada."

I think, I can find it myself. Analyzing current temperature, air pressure, humidity and the fact that left being my favorite direction, I turn left from the signal and set off. (Other minor reason being crowd on left side was quite good.)

I keep walking down the street. I spot 3 pubs, The Park hotel, more than a dozen bhelpudi walas, chinese gaadis, and many more snacks corners. But no sign of any bengali restaurant. After another half km walk, I reach at one big junction again. Trusting left part (or is it right part?) of my brain, I turn left again. Another 10 minutes pass by without any event, unless you count lot of people eating a lot of chatpate items on the footpath, and thus increasing my hunger an event.

I am on verge of turning back and thinking of having bhelpuri on the way to hotel when I find ICICI ATM. Anyways, I have to take some money out of bank. While doing that, I ask the ATM security person about any bengali restaurant nearby. "Bengauli reshtaurant? Idhar kushh nahi milega shaab. Peechhe jao Park Shtreet pe. Udhar bahut milega." He retorts.

Forcing a smile, I turn back and come to Park street again. Shoulders drooped, steps growing heavier, I have become desperate to find some place to eat. I cross the road in hope that from other side, I can find something. (?? - Don't think too much about these few sentences. Remember I was quite hungry that time.)

I ask couple of people, but they seem too much in hurry to catch metro. One of them, though, just points with his index finger towards the other side of road and departs. I throw a glance towards the other side, and indeed find a board on which the much coveted words of the moment are written. Suruchi.

Rejuvenated, I cross the road to take a closer look at my destination. And it turns out to be Suruchi Sarees and Ethnic Dresses. Frustrated, I ask even the security guard at Suruchi about this Suruchi restaurant. He obviously is trying to suppress giggles. But resisting himself, he suggests me one place called Malgudi. "Bahot achchha south indian snacks milega udhar. Lekin non vegetarian nahi milega." Just great. I come from Bangalore to Calcutta to have idle/dosa for lunch.

But it is now 1:30 PM and because I am very much hungry, I am ready to settle even for that. I proceed towards Malgudi. But maybe many people must have been searching for Suruchi that afternoon, because I see a lot of people outside Malgudi, waiting for their turn and the waiter asking my name to be written in a long waiting list. This is too much. I again back out. I am told that a few blocks away is Pantaloon's showroom, there I can find two restaurants. A continental and Bombay Shivsagar. "Bahot hi-fi hai lekin.", I am warned. Of the two, the continental one is closed for cleaning. I reluctantly have a cheese pav bhaji in Shivsagar and return to hotel.

Maybe next when I visit Mumbai, I would go to an authentic bengali restaurant there. Any suggestions please?

signing off,


Sidin said...

Hehe. May the gods bless you on your next outing...

Anonymous said...

I came across this while google searching for Bengali restaurants. Two things of note: many of the people who work in Kolkata now are not Bengali. Do not assume the hotel receptionist is actually Bengali. Secondly, authentic Bengali cooking is found in people's homes as well as on the street. Looking for a restaurant at lunchtime is just ridiculous. Next time, however, try O Calcutta. Or if you want authentic food from Bengal - also try the Chinese restaurants for Hakka Chow.