My city, Kolkata, prefers to stay inside in a timewrap. One of my friends from outside asked me few days back, about any good restaurants and somehow, I again led him to those cult joints in city. Maybe I am biased, maybe not. But, let’s talk about few cult food joints in North Kolkata today. A not-so-short foodwalk can be designed in this part of North kolkata covering a few cult joints. So, this walk starts from the shyambazar five point crossing and one of the confused-identity restaurants- Golbari or New Punjabi Hotel ?
More than 90 years ago, one punjabi gentleman named Ratan Arora started exploring his luck at Shyambazar crossing with the name of New Punjabi Hotel. But, little did he know that afterwards, that small shop will become immortal in Kolkata food history with the name inspired by the shape of the building, Golbari. As the history goes, due to labor issues, the shop closed down few years back and the labors started selling the dishes on the pavement before the closed shop. But, all went well and it reopened and as they say, it’s “alive and kicking” under the leadership of Mr Kishen Arora.
It’s an absolutely no-frill eatery. The chairs are of such classic size that a fat-a#$ person like me would need 2 chairs to rest the luggage comfortably. The kosha Mangsho has definitely seen better days and for idiots like me, the meat is almost chewy and coupled with the attitude of the service person, I’d anyday prefer a take away from there. But, on that day, we were hell bent on tasting the classics and avoiding the kosha Mangsho, we had a mutton chop each. Now, I won’t lie, the chop was good, with ample amount of chewy mutton mince. And the foodwalk started on a good note.
As the walk started, just within 8-10 minutes of walking distance, on our left, lied this gem called Mitra Cafe. Now, firstly, let me be clear, there goes an unwritten rule in north Kolkata. It’s only considered as a good restaurant, if only it has crossed at least 30 years of business. And, Mitra Cafe had started in 1920- so criteria checked.
As the story goes, Mr Sushil Roy was a friendly person and he started this place and named it after his friends (mitra= Friends). After his demise, his wife Smt Gita Roy took charge and now, the establishment is run by her grandson Mr Tapash Roy. Now, it’s actually great to know that Mitra Cafe is probably the only cabin or old-schooled-cafe which had gone on expansion mode and has got 5 outlets spread across the city.
It’s an typical old fashioned restaurant. But, go to the mezzanine floor with the rickety wooden staircase and be amazed with an AC floor. Please don’t ask for the AC quality of cleanliness, you’ve not come here to taste that. The only focus is on the food quality and customer service is definitely laid back. They won’t treat you as a part of their own clan, till you’ve been a regular their for a decade. you’ll have to ask for the menu, the food, the water- basically everything. But once it arrives, it’s pure heaven.
The signature product is the brain chop. Basically sauteed brain of a lamb is put into the chop. But, please be ready. This particular dish tends to disappear real fast. Next item is their Fish Roll. Now, a good fish roll is a rarity in today’s world. Well sauteed mashed Rohu (not vetki) with raisin and a tinge of sweetness is wrapped within a thin layer of kolkata betki and the whole stuff is bread-crumbed and deep fried. What once used to be staple at bengali weddings even few years back, maybe due to the preparation skill, became a rarity and this is one of those few joints doing it right. This one is brilliant here, no doubt. I may be biased, but I personally prefer the diamond fish fry of Suruchee than this place and hence tend to avoid it. And, the final or the hidden gem here is the Pudding here. It’s not a pudding in typical sense, but more of a cross between ice-cream sandesh and pudding. They sell it in slices with a little chocolate sauce topping and I’d prefer you to order it two at a go to avoid the fear of getting disappointed.
Chittaranjan Mishtanna Bhandar :
I guess, by this time, you’re absolutely full and a walk of around 10 minute might be helpful. Come, walk towards Sovabazar red temple. Being bong, we can’t resist sweets for such a long time and not a rasogolla. Yes sir, I am biased here. Chittaranjan Mishtanna Bhandar makes the best sponge rasogolla in town- period. And, we are proud of our rasogolla. Now, please don’t start on the battle between orissa and bengal on rasogolla. It’s one of the stupidest thing I’ve witnessed recently.
A brief background check for Rasogolla ???
in 1866, rasogolla was claimed to be invented by Sri nabin Chandra das.However, one Panchana Bandopadhyay refuted that claim sometime in 1906. In response to Kshitindranath Tagore’s article Luchi-Torkari in a Bangiya Sahitya Parishad publication, he writes: Phuliagram is the birthplace of the rosogolla, accidentally invented by one Haradhan Moira, sweetmakers to the Pal Chowdhurys of Ranaghat. To console his daughter, who was having a crying fit, he dropped some chhana balls into a karhai full of bubbling syrup. The result is history and the Pal Chowdhurys named it Rosogolla.And comparing pahala rasogolla to sponge rasogolla is more like comparing jhalmuri and bhelpuri … both are made of muri and similar in looks but are different products.
Back to Chittaranjan Mishtanna Bhandar
This is a small shop headed by Sumit da. And, you can be assured, that though the sponge rasogolla was invented by somebody else, it has been perfected here. the ras, or the sugar syrup is extremely light here and so is the rasogolla. It’s the fluffiest ball you can find in town. Even a non-sweet-tooth-person like me can have around 10 of these soft beauties at one go. But wait. Don’t go all out for only Rasogolla. they have another hidden gem tucked up in in their sleeve. It’s called Madhuporko. Now, curse me as much as you want, but I am at a loss of words describing it. Quoting Sumit da (the current owner), it’s infinity. Now I understand, he’s a bit sentimental here. However, let me try. It’s not mishti Doi, no, because it’s made up of milk and sugar. It’s not a mousse, because no settling agent is used. But, it is somewhere in between. modhuporko is available in 4 flavors- namely Vanilla (their best selling variant and I am slightly biased towards it), Cardamom (the item in the pic below), Orange and chocolate. But, for the first timers, go for Vanilla and you won’t regret. I still remember they used to make a heavenly soft malai chomchom, but sadly, they’ve stopped producing that. Sigh ….. good things stay only in memories …
Allen’s Kitchen :
And the final spot in this food journey has to be the legendary Allens Kitchen and it’s anopther 10 min walk. Please remember, we haven’t tasted cutlet in any of the joints and even prawn dish, to be precise. The reason is, the best was saved for the last. Afterall, after-taste matters. And, for a restaurant which has seen a century pass by, a bit of history is needed and pardon me for that.
The story …
One scottish gentleman named Mr Allen opened a small eatery in Colootola in early 1900’s and Mr Jibon Saha (the founder) was his employee. The current branch at Sovabazaar was opened much later as a branch. But, in around 1992, the mother branch closed down and till date, this sovabazar branch is rocking.
Back to modern times …
It’s basically a 3-4 min walk from Sovabazar metro station towards girish park and you’ll find a strange green colored gate with Allen Kitchen signboard on your left. There are two rooms inside, with the outer one supporting as a kitchen and cash counter. The inside however, is much tidy and with the recent renovation and tiling, is neat. Now, you’re not expecting an AC I guess ???
While looking at their menu card, order for their special ghee fried Prawn cutlet and let it get ready. Meanwhile, please note that most of the items here come in two variants- regular and ghee fried. And, in the open kitchen, on a good day when the owner’s mood is alright, you can actually see ghee being used. It basically imparts a nice subtle flavor to the whole dish. The prawn cutlet must have arrived by now. Put a bite inside your mouth and thank me, errrrr …. the makers rather. It’s not the usual crumb fried stuff that we get, but rather a soft batter fried variant. Byt this time, give another glance to the salad and the homemade super spicy kasundi, and rather the diced boiled potato in that salad there. Pure love …
The next item has to be their mutton steak. Now god knows who named it mutton steak and why. But, please firstly, don;t have any wrong idea. It’s not a steak. It’s at the best a nice mutton pounded patty. But the beauty lies in the stock+ chilly sauce+ ketchup+ sliced onion jus poured on top. You’ll be able to smell the ghee from a distance. Again, god knows why they don’t serve buttered toast along with it to wipe up the gravy. But I guess it’s a reminder that all good things can’t be enjoyed at one time. And, man I love those deep english soup/ gravy bowls.
By the power of some evil forces, I’ve ordered for their Fish Roll and carried back some of their fish Pakora and Egg Devil. I guess, I have a fetish for the fish Roll. But all I can say here is, they’re not bad, no- but I’ve tasted much better preparations else where.
I’d humbly like to mention that I may or may not like few of these joints or their offerings personally, but it never degrades a heritage joint who’ve been there for almost a century. Hence, the comments are fully of my own. So, all full and happy, what else, book your cab or even better, hop on to the Metro. All good things have to come to an end. Bon voyage …
Bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome.
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