Let us talk about one typical joint in the heart of city- Esplanade. Have you heard of the name Dacre’s Lane ? You may or may not. Now, this area is the father of all khao-gully (food lane) in Kolkata. A whole stretch of around 100 mtrs is full of street food vendors on both sides of the street,or should I say lane, and local babus from government and private offices flock them like anything. Till 1 PM, the lane remains almost empty and just after 120-130 PM till 3 PM, you have to literally push your way in- remember the lunch break timing in offices ? And, somewhere, tucked inside the lane, lies Chitto da’s shop and a more royal version (if I may say so… ) Chitto da and his Suruchee restaurant. Let’s pay them a visit. Just a little history BTW. The lane is named after James Milner Dacres, Collector of Calcutta, 1773.
Where to go and when to go:
If you’re availing the otherwise famous public transport in Kolkata, metro rail is most convenient here. You need to get down at the Esplanade metro station and follow the google location above, or if you’re technically challenged like me, ask anyone where is Dacre’s Lane and Kolkattans are famous for answering random questions. For timing, any weekday post 12 noon is fine. Shops are set up, mise-en-place is done and piping hot food is getting ready. After the lunch session is over, the lane goes to sleep (well almost from 4-6 PM) and again rises up after 630 PM – but lunch time is the best timing for visiting here. And I won’t suggest anybody to go there on a sunday, any weekday is a better choice.
Now, as every great story has a prelude, so has this lane. Once you start walking towards Dacre’s Lane from Esplanade crossing, on your right, you’ll find few lassi shops wish ready glasses of Mango lassi and regular Lassi throughout the year (god knows how) and that too, of quite good quality. On your way, gulp a beer mug (yes, the lassi is served in that) and keep on walking.
And finally, you reach Decre’s Lane. Now, the tricky part starts. You’ll find lots of stalls on both of your sides – each trying to seduce you with their offerings. But be strong and determined. You’ve come here for Chitto da’s shop and he’s there for some 60 odd years and still going strong. Suddenly, some youngster can’t just take his place. So, keep walking. In 50 mtrs, on your left, the desired stall will come. Chitto da is no more. But Sandip Roy, who’s managing the stall currently, is doing pretty well in managing the quality. Wooden benches are put on the street itself and food is served there by over-enthusiast servers- managed by Sandip babu.
As he asks for you, politely tell him, you’re going for their restaurant and be sure to spot that proud smile in his face. Your destination is a few shops away. And, while walking and cursing me, on your left, there’s Suruchee Restaurant (opposite to some suspicious looking Unisex parlors) and it’s easily recognizable. Before you start your fight to get a seat, take a few minutes rest. It’s another fight inside. Tables are almost always shared in Chitto Da’s Suruchee with complete strangers, so take a chill pill and plan to start a new friendship.
You’re not expecting any fancy seating- right ? just some basic chairs and tables and lots of people shouting- some for placing their orders, few for taking the orders and lot over phone…. It’s a mad rush. The menu board (yes, not menu card) is hung on your right – take a deep breath and look at it- in disbelief. “Are they real pricing ?” that will be the first question in your mind and while searching for the answer, order for one Diamond Fish Fry and one Fish Roll. You’ve not come alone- right ?
Orders will be served within 5-8 minutes. Ignore the rubbish salad with kasundi and straightaway attack the fry. The coating is super light and Fish Fillet is of pure Kolkata Vetki – a damn sexy thick fillet. Frankly, apart from Apanjan, this is one of the best in town that I’ve tasted. You don’t need to utter another word- dig in the Fish Roll instead. Now, I don’t understand why this gem is slowly disappearing from today’s modern Kolkata. Thin fillet of freshest Kolkata Vetki wrapping a minced fish with shrimps (slightly sweet in nature) and few raisins, is what makes it stand apart. I don’t understand how they can serve it at 70/- , but it’s pure bliss, trust me.
While you’re coming towards the end, order for the main course. It should be their Chicken Stew (paired with buttered toast – not in the menu) and start thing of what next. The stew here is like a full bodied species- thickened with mashed potato and with a proud breast / leg pice of chicken lying with few other vegetables, it’s definitely not to be missed. The toast is laden with ample butter and properly browned- delicious.
And for the final showstopper- there should be an array of their best offerings. Order for their Fish Butter Masala, Chicken Bharta and Mutton Kassa- maybe paired with Roomali Roti. The fish butter masala has got 3 pcs of boneless bombay vetki. The gravy is fantastic (and the sole reason for which this is recommended) but the fish is a bit over-coated. Chicken Bharta is rather fine. Maybe, not as divine as the Russell Dhaba one ( You can read about the Russell Dhaba experience here ), but pretty close. And, a note to the management, if you can please put half-boiled egg instead of those full boiled ones, it’ll take the damn dish to a different dimension altogether. Mutton Kassa (firstly, I don’t get how they can sell it at such a low price) is 3 pender pieces of mutton, with low bone ratio, tucked in a semi-thick gravy. It may not be a typical Mutton Kassa, but of the taste is spot on, what the heck … was the quintessential bong looking for the aloo ? Well, maybe …..
Oops, did I just forget to mention about their Fish Kobiraji ? Though personally, I don’t quite like the fussy eggy nature of the dish, but here, the thick vetki fillet and awesome size at a pocket friendly price always pushes me to change my mind. A Kobiraji lover shouldn’t miss it here.
The final verdict ….. If you haven’t been to this place and crave for good food and food only (not ambience), forget everything and plan it on your next visit to that side of the city and you can thank me later.
I’ve lost the bill somewhere and hence, unable to post it- apologies.
Bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome …
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