It’s an open secret that Kolkata is a city of secrets and even for a born-here-been-here type of Kolkattan, it’s a reality. But, when we have somebody coming from other states and if … if he/ she is a glutton (like me) and loves fish, I face one standard question “boss daru aur machhli kahan milega ?” and I can’t help but either dodge that question of guide them to some fancy joints. But, probably the one thing that all those fancy joints lack in, is the local touch…. the dark underbelly of the city, the know-all-middle-class-people, the sweat, the angers, the happiness …… and somehow it never satisfies a soul traveler. But, ahoy, here I’d love to present to you one joint which symbolizes the city and it’s love for fish-y affairs along with a couple of drinks- Cafe Monte Carlo.
Location and timing:
Once you get on the R N Mukherjee Road (the road towards B B D Bagh from Ganesh Chandra Avenue), just when you cross mangoe lane, it comes on your left hand side hidden behind those ugly mobile company billboards, it lies. Naturally, it’s open on all days from 12-10 PM. Parking is a bit of a problem till 7 PM, afterwards it’s okay. The exterior is NOT AT ALL APPEALING and please mark my words. But, when did a hidden gem care for such mundane issues ? Once you get in, you start getting a feel of the place, the real Kolkata and fish …..
Now, this is a normal, absolutely down-to-earth bar in the area and it survives, rather thrives on the local government office babus. So, few rules (though unwritten) are there …
- Never, ever show off. You never know if the next person is some big shot sarkari amla. And, you’re here to enjoy your booze with snacks, so why even bother
- Never, ever look at the floor beneath. You don’t know if there is a deadbody of a dinosaur lying there and frankly, you don’t even want to know either
- Forget the menu card and ask the waiter for fish of the day and he’s trained to recognize you as his potential saab and would gladly help you
- Booze (though dart cheap) is there to gulp down the sexy food there, don’t ever forget it here
So, in about 5 min of you choosing your seat (and don’t jump if some total stranger comes and shares your table during the rush time, you might meet your next best friend for a few hours there), you’ll be served with the standard accompaniment- chanachur with ginger slices and rock salt. Don’t make faces. Take the leap of faith and dip one ginger slice in the rock salt, wrap it with your tongue and yeah… you may touch yourself that night. Order for the booze and I’d advise to start with their all day wonder- mourola machh (Indian anchovy) fry and relax. Food is served fast and beer faster. He’ll ask you to check the coldness of the bottle and expect you to say “you know it better” – after all, every person has got their self-respect. A full plate of those tiny bustards (deep fried and errr … pardon my language) will be served along with bingo… some kasundi (tangy mustard sauce only much spicy) and usual chilly and tomato ketchup. I normally take one teaspoon each and mix them up, dip the fish and put it in mouth…. pure heaven.
And once this dish is about to finish, you are allowed to choose from the other fish options as the below list (stolen from Zomato menu online), but I always order their mutton chilly. The server by now, knows my taste and doesn’t ask me, but generally you need to specify your spice quotient and dryness quotient- trust me, he will understand your requirement and serve you the same. With that dry gravy embracing the soft mutton pieces and coarsely chopped green chillies hopelessly lying around, you’ll be loving it. On a good day, you might even find the queen of fish, Hilsa, getting herself fried and offering herself to you, but that’s a rarity.
And please don’t get me wrong. I hardly order for the parse or tyangra fry here because I prefer to keep my fingers clean and dry for other things (don’t get any naughty thing in your mind- LOL) and nobody taught me to de-bone them with fork and knife. So, I order normally the kucho chingrir shorshe jhaal (shrimp with mustard sauce) and ask them to make it dry and spicy. Meanwhile, just ask the server to keep the beer chilled and flowing and he won;t ask you repeatedly- it’ll keep coming to you on regular intervals. The shrimp will be fresh, spicy and crunchy and paired with the onion and chilly infused mustard gravy, it’s sinful. Pick a few along with a couple of those innocent green chilly pcs, put in your mouth, and immediately with the first bite, you’ll understand why we bongs are crazy about those small spineless creatures ….
All said and done, you are free to order for your other fancy varieties of fish and as they’re quite finicky about the quality, everything may not be available on all days. But, for a fish-y affair with booze, Cafe Monte Carlo definitely ranks among the top few in town.
Okay, mandatory word of caution… The AC will be chilled, tables will be shared among strangers and the dark underbelly will welcome you like anything. But, it’s pretty safe even for a woman, provided she can tolerate the curses of the know-all-bongs (to the governments of different countries and states and soccer players) and as they say “It’s another day for you, you n me in paradise”
P.S: they accept debit and credit cards… so nothing to worry !!!
Comments and critics welcome.
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