The simple, authentic and reasonably priced Bengali food at Aastha in Mathikere is a big draw

The small yet charming Triveni Road in Mathikere is dotted with food joints, but when I ask locals where I can find the Bengali mess Aastha, it’s clear that it’s a popular joint, and many seem to know where to find it.

This is perhaps because its serves full meals, as compared to the other joints in the area that offer the usual fast food fare.

At first glance, Aastha looks like any other mess, but while I wait for the thaali to be served, I notice some attempts at making the place aesthetically appealing: an aquarium stands at the far end of the medium-sized room.

Simple, superb

The smell of aloo bhaja (fried potatoes) wafts in from the kitchen as I wait for the thaali that I have ordered. Apart from fish, the combination of rice, daal and aloo bhaja is a favourite among Bengalis. Do not be deceived by their simplicity, for the daal and aloo bhaja are absolutely delicious together.

The rui maacher jhol (rohu fish gravy) is prepared in authentic Bengali style with garlic, onion, ginger, red chilli powder and turmeric powder.

Another must-try is the potatoes cooked in posto (poppy seeds) — a big draw among a cross-section of customers for the minimal spices used. Rui posto (rohu fish cooked in posto) and dhokaar dalna, lentil cakes in gravy, are available too and are unique to Bengal.

It’s not just the food that makes me long for home, but the conversation in Bengali I have with Tuhin Suvra Ghosh, the owner of Aastha. He tells me that he started the mess nine years ago because he found no restaurant or shop that served authentic Bengali food.

Plenty of regulars

Ever since it was established, it has been a big draw among students and working men from nearby paying guest accommodations. Tuhin then points to two customers — who are oblivious to our presence, engrossed instead in the food — and tells me that some of his regular customers are students from the Indian Institute of Science.

Aastha, where prices range from Rs. 35 to Rs. 120, is open from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. everyday and serves special meals on Sundays and holidays.

(Aastha is located on 5th B Cross, Triveni Road, Mathikere. Call 9341289208.)