In a nutshell:
If you expect traditional bengali / Indian food, please avoid this pop up. If you want classics, please keep away. This table is All about experiments – some of which you may like at one go, some you may be shocked at, some you may be shocked to find that you actually like it.
Address & other details: amar khamar
Facebook : amar khamar
Instagram : amar khamar
Meal for 2: ₹3400
Cuisine type : vegetarian & non vegetarian
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YUMMRAJ rates all the food items & then gives a final overall rating, which is a simple average of the individual item ratings. What the ratings stand for: 5 = Excellent, 4 = Very Good, 3 = Good, 2 = Fair, 1 = Disaster
Short description- in case u r in a hurry
The part in italics below is about how we know amar khamar & our experience. You may please skip it if in a hurry
We first heard about amar khamar at a pop up by food historian, curator & journalist, pritha sen, in 2019. At the pop up they had used products sourced from amar khamar. We met a lady from amar khamar at the pop up , took the address & straightaway drove to the small shop / warehouse near Golpark, kolkata.
Later, over the years, they have become a large organized company that ships some of the finest varieties of rice, dals & other edibles that are grown organically in small batches in Bengal. Most of the produce is from Sundarban area, some from other places in south Bengal. Few varieties of crops are from north Bengal as well, like kalonunia, binni, tulaipanji.
Ever since that visit we have always sourced all our rice & pulses only from amar khamar, directly shipped to gurgaon. Some examples are – kanakchur, gobindo bhog siddho (parboiled), tulaipanji, kalonunia etc etc. love the muri (bhel/ murmura), khoi etc that they sell & of course the nolen gur.
Last year chef T zac, Ex Bombay canteen, founder of locavore, visited kolkata & spent some time with the lead duo of Sienna cafe – Auroni & Abhinandan. We have been following chef zac on social media. We saw a post about him & the Sienna boys having a lunch at amar khamar. That sounded very interesting & we wanted to book a slot. We tried few times but we missed.
Finally we made it to the table on a Sunday in January 23.
We realized that the shop we earlier went to has been converted to a chef studio for chef Preetam Bhadra to do trials of dishes. The erstwhile showroom space is now converted to a table with 6 chairs. This is the one where the tables happen – 6 people at a time. The shop is now in a separate location.
Of late they have started home delivery of few cooked food dishes as well.
The probable menu is announced for a certain date & time, on social media & guests book their slots only by pre payment of the total amount. Closer to the date, when the final sourcing of ingredients happen, slight changes might happen.
Guests can also request for a table of 4-7 people exclusively for their friends & family – both vegetarian & non vegetarian.
We got an intimation a day prior that we should reach at 11:45 am & the lunch will start at 12:00.
We were lucky to be in the company of two more couples who we had never met before. We spoke to each other about food & travel while eating & even after finishing the meal at 2 pm.
Aninda, who manages operations at amar khamar, was telling us stories about the sourcing from different parts of Bengal. The chat with him from before the meal started , to the post meal adda was very rich with facts & anecdotes. He is a genuine good storyteller.
The different dishes of the menu were served one by one.
Chef came out of the kitchen every time after a dish was served, & he explained his creation.
At the end of the lunch, chef came out with his team to hear feedback from us. Incidentally I could not share any feedback at that point of time as I was still thinking about the food – totally unexpected, new.
General comments about the food:
1. Visually appealing presentation, in a western format.
2. Food was served in multiple, small portions
3. Chef had created a version of bengali food in Global format from locally sourced ingredients, mostly organic, grown in small batches, seasonal produce, many of which are usually not found consistently in the city markets any more.
4. The crabs, Duck meat & free range chicken served at the table came from sondeshkhali, Sundarbans, the village where the amar khamar ladies stay. The vegetables & lesser known saags & flowers (Rozelle / tok dhyarosh) also grow in the kitchen gardens of the village. The rice, pulses are all from amar khamar.
5. The newness of the dishes was wow, the surprise element was bang on but everything did not appeal to everyone. We usually end up eating time tested recipes when we eat out. This was different. So there were hits & misses (that were different for different people at the table).
6. The final interplay of flavours, tastes & textures was fun mostly, if one were not to pay attention to the list of ingredients. So if one would switch off the logical brain & just chomp, he/she would love most of the dishes. Others would be bewildered & at times shocked at the newness & even if they would like it, would not be able to come in terms with it!!!!
7. My personal opinion – I would like the original flavours / textures of the ingredients to be upheld a bit more. Currently at the table, a & b mix to become C which is nice but at times totally different from the memories of a & b. Example – we love Sundarban crabs. The natural sweetness of the meat, the softness, the flavours. The crab dish here did not retain the sweetness of the crab, the softness was replaced by a charred chewiness & the flavours of crab was just 20% of that of a sunderban crab. Yet it was a good dish.
8. We would also request amar khamar to do occasional pop ups (for common people like us) of hardcore daily village food cooked by the ladies, using produce from their village in Sundarban area. Heard great things about such a meal from Auroni & chef zac. Look forward to that in our next trip. The chef’s table in its current form can be a great contrast & also a compliment.
Detailed description – in case u hv the time to njoy reading:
First dish was Dim bhat daal in the form of a crumb fried Anglo bengali ‘chop,’ with teto (bitter) shaak (saag leaves) named helencha & dhankuni. It was served in top of a liquid Egg yolk with butter sauce.
The piece I got, the Crust was somewhat burnt in some areas & generally over-fried. At a point we felt that the crumb was an unnecessary distraction. Then we thought Probably it was an execution error. Rate the crumb 2/5.
The Filling of dim (egg), bhaat (rice), dal (lentils) was excellent. It was just super simple & brilliant. The saags were too good. First time for us. Rate this combo 4.75/5
Absolutely bowled over the sauce. Rate it 4.75/5
Overall rating of the dish averages out to 3.8/5
Next came Soft custard made with crabs. This dish had Stock from crab shell & Oven baked crab meat. The baking probably led to chewiness of the crab meat, contrary to the soft supple natural sweetness of Sunderban crab.
Amrul shaak that is sour to taste was also present in the custard. Overall the dish was Very good to taste – Great balance of taste
Flavour of crab in the dish seems to be more from the stock. The flavour was Less as compared to what we are used to, in crab curries in Bengal. Rate the dish 3.5/5
The next dish was a Porridge made with foxtail millet. The Chips strewn on top were made from mooli, beet & cauliflower. A Sauce was made from peels of vegetables cooked & reduced.
Great balance of textures – crisp chips vs soft porridge.
Ghee flavour was enjoyable.
Rate it 4.25/5
Duck roasted in its own bones, with Ol kopi (turnip), Roselle & peepul (long pepper) was served as a filling in between super thin chaal ruti (roti made from rice flour). The chaal ruti accentuated the duck meat filling due to it being thin.
The meat was supple yet had a very enjoyable bite. The texture of meat was enjoyable.
Rate the dish 4.5/5
Black grapes soda was Slightly fermented. Really loved every drop of it, from both flavour & balance of taste perspective. Rate it 4.5/5
Amra, Tok dharosh & peepul chatni was fun. We enjoyed munching on the Tid bits of pulp. Outstanding balance of salt, sour, mild sweet & aftertaste of hot due to peepul. Absolutely bowled over. Rate it 4.75/5
Makha sondesh without kheer was fun to munch. It had an unusual unexpected flavour. A hint of salt made it even better. Khejur gur (Date palm jaggery) did magic.
Till chef told us that it was made with cauliflower as the base (Phulkopir sondesh ). Then the human brain started struggling, questioning & over-analysing. I guess we would have given it a 4.5/5 but ended up writing 4/5 in our notes. As we write this, we have probably come to terms with it & so the final score is 4.5/5.
Overall rating of this lunch averages out to 4.25/5
Look forward to more.