Kolkata is known to be someplace, where Biryani is treated (almost) as a religion. We have biryani if we’re sad if we’re happy, and even if we get married… Jokes apart. But very few of us know of this dish named Mandi, which can be called as an alternative to Biryani, different in nature, but extremely tasty. So, here’s to Barkaas, the new kid in town, serving Mandi in Kolkata.
Location and Ambiance- Barkaas
Barkaas is located on Park Street. Well, not the prime area, but the stretch from Mullikbazaar to Park Circus. Let’s say, if someone is going from Muullikbazaar to Park circus and crosses the iconic Shiraz, Barkaas will come on the left-hand side, after a few buildings. It’s located inside a proper hotel. The restaurant is on the first floor and the entrance is slightly tricky.
You need to enter through the main gate and take the side entrance. A staircase will lead you to the first floor and there lies Barkaa- serving Mandi in Kolkata. It’s decently well-decorated. Good sitting arrangement is there including Table-chair and something is known as a Durbar. Now, this part is interesting. Durbar sitting is the floor-sitting with a thick soft mattress below you and cushions thrown all around. Low tables are there for the food. The good part- it’s a different experience and definitely a good photo-ops. The bad part- for a middle-aged person like me, it’s difficult to sit down and get up after a hearty meal. And the choice is yours.
Mandi Menu at Barkaas
They have a simple menu, focussing mostly on middle eastern food. Definitely, for business purposes, some regular items (like kebabs) are placed there, but honestly, we didn’t bother to even check them out. Our order was simple. We went for Mandis (with some extra meat pieces) and starters.
Starters at the restaurant for Mandi
Honestly, we had been to Barkaas Mandi for 2 days and the starters were different. And rather than looking at the menu with unknown items and making a fool of ourselves, we thought of taking the help of servers. And that, I feel, was the right decision. We had Lamb Chop, shish Tawook, and another Mutton Kazbira (during our two visits). All of these were dishes from that part of the world and were slightly different from what we’re used to having.
Lambchop was the usual stuff- only with very little spice. And the good part of being less spicy was that the flavor and taste of the meat came out. It was not very soft. I actually felt a primitive pleasure in biting off the meat, while holding the full piece in hand. Muton Kazbira came with green marination, probably consisting of coriander and mint- but not overpowering the flavor of mutton. It was pure melt-in-the-mouth kebab. though the portion size was less, it was probably the best of the lot.
The Shish Tawook was, however, different. It was more towards a chickenKathi Kebab, with multiple small pieces, with even lesser spices. this dish is ideal for the kids and people with a palate for lesser spiced food. Also, we had the Arabian special fish. And it was kind of disappointing, after the superb meat items. It was an over-oily fish fry (with Basa) with some fried raisins and almonds sprinkled on top. we as well as those dry fruits were clueless on what it was doing there. It’s not bad, but can be avoided.
Mandi at Barkaas… finally
And finally, it was time for us to relish what we went there for… the Mandi. Now mandi is something which can give a tough competition to Biryani. Mandi is a rice and meat dish originating in Yemen. as opposed to Biryani, it’s very very subtle in taste and the meat can be ordered in two variants- either the juicy or the fried version. The juicy one is with the juice that is used to cook the meat. And Fried meat may not be the actual term, but it’s more of dry roasted meat- crunchy and supremely aromatic. The rice came on a large plate and with individual juice/ curry/ Salan for us to eat (never mind them, though). It’s subtle fragrant rice sprinkled with dry fruits and Fried onion.
Mandi uses a typical cooking technique which makes it different from the rest. Dry wood is used in the tandoor to provide heat. The meat is then boiled with spices and this stock is used to cook the fine Basmati rice inside the tandoor. The meat is then hung inside the tandoor without touching the rice and fat melt from the heat mixed with it made it so tasty. This process is followed for 8 hours or overnight. Honestly, nobody is sure if such an elaborate technique is followed nowadays, but what the heck … taste is damn good.
As per my personal preference goes, one should have one small portion of Juicy mandi and one portion of fried meat- to get the best of both worlds. While in the juicy variation, the meat is extremely soft and is ready to come out of the bones, on the slightest provocation- the crunch in the fried version takes it to a different level. The portion size is quite heavy. In fact, for 4 adults and two kids (of around 10+ years each), we took 2 middle-sized mandi and were literally stuffed. There is some chicken variation as well, but unless and until you’re obsessed with chicken, go for the red meat.
Well, due to peer pressure, we’ve ordered the Kaddu Ka Kheer and Shahi Tukra. They’re not bad but honestly didn’t stand a chance after the superb Mandi. My condolences to them.
Mandi is a welcome change in Kolkata- the city of Biryani. We talk of the subtlety of taste and aroma and this is what, mandi stands for. It’s extremely subtle in nature and full of flavor. I haven’t tasted the dish in Yemen or in the Middle East and hence, can’t talk about authenticity. But this dish is good for a fair idea on the part. And from the crowd that I’ve experienced during our dinner, I can safely say that people in Kolkata are loving it. Go for it and let me know about your experience.
Bon appetit !!!
I can be reached at Indrajit.firstname.lastname@example.org