In a nutshell:
A cafe that is perfect for getting together & enjoying a adda amidst a very good ambience & some excellent food
Address & other details: Cafe’ The’
Meal for 2: Rs. 250 onwards
Cuisine type: Vegetarian & non vegetarian
The Bengali’s love affair with tea started in the 1800s when the British started mass producing it in India. Tea stalls sprung up over time all over & so did the ‘cabins’. Famous among many were Anandi Cabin, Basanta cabin etc which wud typically serve tea with Anglo Bengali snacks. For a good section of the middle income group, these cabins were equivalent to fine dining places that they wud visit on occasions.
Bengali cuisine of today has many British influences like batter fried fish, orly, chops, cutlets, fries , kabiraji, dimer devil etc. By the way, Kabiraji is the Bengalification of the English word ‘Coverage’ since the fish / chicken is deep fried after covering it with whipped egg. ‘Dimer Devil’ is the Bengali version of ‘Devilled Egg.’ It is called ‘Devilled’ coz the original yolk of the egg is replaced by minced meat / potato filling.
Short Description – In case u r in a hurry:
Cafe’ The’ menu card describes it as ‘the favourite place to meet & eat for artists & poets, musicians & singers, writers , thinkers, lovers, young & not so young’. It is also mentioned that the ‘cha & chop’ (beverage & snack) menu is inspired by the Cabins that dotted North Calcutta.
Apart from that there r ‘not too many restaurants serve this in Kolkata’ items like Welsh rarebit, Escalope of Chicken Milanese, fish pie, eggs Benedict etc.
The place is ideal for adda (a Bengali word for nonstop chat on a vast range of unrelated topics) & get togethers with friends & family. The ambience is very good & colourful without being jarring.
The waiting staff are attentive, warm, knowledgeable but not intrusive.
We loved this place so much that we walked in for a second time in a span of two days. We were lucky to eat the food served here during a Bangladeshi food festival named ‘Festive Platter from the Kitchens of Erstwhile Nawabs of Dhaka’. Also tried the regular fare. Super liked the food.
Detailed Description – In case u have the time to njoy Reading:
From the Regular menu-
We tried Dimer Devil with a mutton filling. This had a very thin, crispy & perfectly crumbed external layer. The mutton filling was very good but not like the rustic ones. Overall there was suboptimal salt in the devil but a mild sprinkling converted this into a very tasty dish. The tangy mustard sauce made its presence felt.
Fish Kabiraji was too good. I had this after a long while. For the uninitiated, a fish fillet is coated , dipped in beaten egg & deep fried. Loved the fish as it is & the whole meal overall.
For beverage I tried the Wine ice tea. Not sure why it has this name but it tasted very good – unexpected flavours & a strong taste.
Ginger ice tea was something I cud not appreciate at all. It was totally out of balance. Freshness of ginger was less. The ice tea did not have any tinge of sour. It was plain sweet n ginger.
Nawabi Khana menu:
After we had our lunch we exchanged a few words with the staff on how we liked the food at the festival & it was then that they introduced us to the Chef who had been flown in from Dhaka. A short chat with him was a delight – started with a food discussion, ended up in a small adda.
Dhakai Paneer fry was amazing. This was hand carried by the Chef all the way from Bangladesh. It was a far cry from the tasteless paneer that we r used to. This one is specially made (covered underground for fermentation). Result is that the taste & flavours r strong & unique to this part of the world – closest I cud relate this to was with Blue cheese.
This was served with a super flaky, layered awesome biscuit called bakar khani. Alas we do not get to buy this here.
Ilish pulao sounded interesting as we were reading the menu card. As it descended on our plate, we realized that unlike the meat Biryani, the fish & rice were not cooked together. The fish piece was from a small ilish. Good but not great. The rice was thick, short grains of plump rice , a bit like sticky fried rice of the Orient. Flavors of the rice were too good – rice + fish. Liked the rice as it is. Fish piece did not add much value.
Next we had Tehari - Awesome flavor, sticky rice, super soft mutton, very different from Kolkata Biriyani but too good to taste.
We also tried Nawabi Chicken steak – It was accompanied by steamed veggies. The steak was clearly an Anglo Bengali dish with its British concept & Bangladeshi spices. Very enjoyable.
The Nawabi fish steak was also conceptually similar. The fish was juicy, tasty & very good.
Mutton Saatkara was awesome – Mutton curry with peel of citrus fruit Saatkara. Unique flavors, superb taste & melt in the mouth mutton pieces.
Bhuna Khichuri was again different from any Khichuri I have ever had. Unlike any other Khichuri, the lentils & rice were not boiled in water – they were dry cooked together. The taste & flavor was subtle & I liked it. However, several of my co diners did not like it as much.
Chingrir Malaikari was very good but it was surely not ‘Malay curry’. ‘Malai’ of Malaikari refers not to the cream of milk but to Malaysian origin. The original recipe has coconut milk but this one did not have. Inspite of all, it was good to taste on its own.
Luchi accompanied all this.
For dessert on Day 1 we had Handmade vermicelli payesh with nolen gur. This was simply awesome. The handmade vermicelli completely metamorphosed the texture & feel of the vermicelli & that made a big difference.
For dessert on Day 2, we tried Bakar Khani payesh with nolen gur. When we read about it, we were a bit cautious – Good / not good. The first bite totally reversed our doubts. It was double awesome. The biscuit referred to above (bakar khani) was made into a payesh & it was not a soggy slimy thing. The layers of the Bakar khani started tasting like shor bhaja layers & overall it was close to rabri but very very good & different from rabri. Wow. Lucky to have had it.