As Delhi decks up for the Puja, the author goes looking for some great Bengali food and comes away rather impressed with the fare on offer at The Park
I have a word for this season. Don’t ask me why, but I call the somewhat mellow feeling in the air “dhuni dhuni” and I associate it with the Pujas. My childhood, as alert readers will know, was spent hither and thither, but mostly in western Uttar Pradesh. But I spent a year or so in Calcutta, and was later in Delhi, where Durga Puja was always eagerly anticipated by the Bengali side of the family. And it was this “dhuni dhuni” feel that ushered in the Pujas.
I find one aspect of the Puja most alluring and that is the food that goes with it. Not just pandals and homes, but even restaurants gear up with Bengali food festivals. The few Bengali restaurants in town have been doing that for a while. This time, even The Park in Delhi has surprised us with a Bengali food fest.
It’s called Kolkata’s Adda, and it has been planned by the hotel’s new executive chef, Abhishek Basu, who has been posted to Delhi after stints in the South. The festival is on till the 13th of October.
It’s a buffet meal, and the spread is quite elaborate. It includes many of Bengal’s specialities — prawns cooked in coconut milk, bhaapa ilish, or steamed hilsa, and chholar dal, or channey ka dal. I went there one evening and had an enjoyable meal. I love bhajas, or fritters and there was a big spread of that, including begun or brinjal bhaja, potato fingers and pumpkin fries. You can actually make a full meal out of luchis – which are puris prepared with maida – and chholar dal, with bhajas on the side.
The buffet – both for lunch and dinner – is at the hotel’s coffee shop, Mist, and comes for Rs.1300 (plus taxes). The spread includes (not all at the same time though) chingri macher malai curry or prawns in coconut milk, pabda maach in a spicy gravy, rui (rahu) in either a typical Bengali jhol or as a rich kalia preparation, kosha mangsho (fried mutton) and chicken korma. The vegetarian fare includes dhokar dalna (steamed lentil slabs in gravy), cauliflowers in moong dal, potatoes and poppy seeds (aloo posto) and kachoris stuffed with green peas.
I went for dinner on the first day of the festival, which was unfortunate, because a hungry horde had arrived for lunch (almost four times the numbers expected) and finished up almost everything. But that was the first day, so the organisers now have a better idea of the number of people to expect. The hilsa was over when I was there – but Chef Basu said the fish had been smeared with fresh kasundi (a strong mustard paste) and then steamed in a banana leaf.
I enjoyed the ghee bhaat, which was nice and aromatic, and tasted a bit of the rahu. The fish was excellent. The dhakai paratha was crisp, and I enjoyed eating it with the vegetable dishes. The chicken was light and flavourful, and somewhat like the rezala that you get in Calcutta.
But the crowning glory was the platter of sweets which included everything from sandesh to mishti doi. Even though by then I was bursting at the seams, I enjoyed the sweets, all cooked in house, immensely.
This is the season for Bengali food (though a die-hard Bengali food lover would say every day is the right season for it). And this is the certainly the season for indulgence. So go right ahead!