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Society \ Cover Stories Magazine | Nov 19, 2001
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...and more  
Swapan nayak
Sher-e-Punjab, Red Hot Chilli Pepper, Mainland China and Amber.
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If it is the countryside ambience you are looking for, drive down to Jessore Road, beyond the Calcutta airport.
Amidst a curious combination of truckers and well-heeled women is Sher-e-Punjab, modelled on the Thai eateries: an asbestos roof and plenty of open space serving a mix of Chinese, Thai and Indian. There is nothing gracious about this popular dhaba but its food is fresh and tender. While the tandoori chicken is the favourite, the connoisseur would go for chicken reshmi kabab and lassi for starters and follow it up with some tarka dal, butter chicken and karahi meat. The food is ample, and not a piece of flesh will stick to your teeth. You certainly do not have room for a dessert and you have more than paid for your

Taipan, Karavalli, Sunny's and Raj Pavilion.

Thai Pavilion, Olive Bar and Kitchen, Indigo, Zodiac Grill and Golden Dragon.

Southern Spice, Dakshin and Hotel Saravana Bhavan.

Just In From The Grapevine...
...Indian wines are more real than the 'real' stuff. So, all ye wine lovers, eschew the label fetish.


Meal for two: Rs 300

Mainland China
It’s possibly the ying and yang of Chinese cuisine that sets Calcutta apart from the rest. Tangra has always been unsurpassed. Ushering in five-star restauranting to the city is Mainland China, with its gold ceilings and mouthwatering Szechwan, Hunan and Cantonese fare. Select between chilli-flaked Hunan prawn and crackling spinach, move over to some Szechwan chilli crab and chicken chilli oyster along with some steamed bekti, with a choice of sauces. Order pan-fried or Singapore rice noodles along with the main course. For a special experience though, ask for a Peking Duck Meal: the skin of a roasted duck, garnished with finely chopped celery, carrots and cucumber, rolled into a pancake is the first on the list. That duck bones serve to make a delectable stock for the accompanying soup, thick or clear, as you wish, and the duck meat served with a choice of sauces: hoysin, chilli bean or chilli plum. Monday to Friday, Mainland China has a buffet for Rs 250, with the weekend fare coming with a prawn dish costing Rs 50 extra.

Not even Bertram Wilberforce Wooster (of P.G. Wodehouse fame) would disagree. Calcutta’s answer to Anatole, serving up a delectable fare of kababs at Amber since memory serves, is chef Amol Bhattacharya, that prince among cooks who excels himself on Fridays with his fish malai tandoori, delicately marinated with cream skimmed off fresh milk, a generous dose of cheese, kaaju paste with white pepper and ginger that makes the bekti melt in your mouth. For sheer quality, price and an ambience to match, Amber comfortably gives any restaurant in the country a run for its money. Start with a jeera paani and a prawn cocktail— a touch of tang makes you savour every mouthful—go on to the mutton burra kabas, that Amol has given a kaaju-dahi-red chili-lassun-garam masala treatment and laced with kewra water, jayatree and jaiphal. Move on to the gravied fare of a chicken reshmi (or, for the vegetarian, a paneer) butter masala and a brain curry (or a daal makhani and chana masala) with some Kabuli naan or Moti biryani. The little balls of keema inject gastronomic magic into the rice. Then, when you can simply have no more, order a kulfi. A meal for two will set you back by Rs 600.

Life in Calcutta is certainly worth living.

Red Hot Chilli Pepper
My favourites, when it comes to Chinese, are the three youngsters from the Taj. Asim, Bharat and Manas have created the perfect gift for the gastric juices: Red Hot Chilli Pepper. The restaurant, with its Euro-Chinese decor, is partial towards the Szechwan school, with its latmai kai (crispy chicken with spring onions flavoured with rice wine). Pan-fried chilli fish, prawn pepper salt and some sui mai (the steamed open wafer-thin dumplings) eaten with a thick lung fung soup with its dominant prawn-ginger flavour can make for good starters. Choose between a combination of a Cantonese lobster in butter garlic sauce with a braised pomfret along with some pan-friend noodles, or a ginger-capsicum fried rice. Or order a sliced Hupak chicken with pickled onions and black beans along with a Hunan-style exotic vegetables with a touch of sesame. Just keep room for the sliced lamb in green chilli sauce and, if you have a sweet tooth, go for the Darsaan! A satisfying trip across the Great Wall costs no more than Rs 250 per person. For the jumbo prawns, one needs to dig deep into the pockets, though.

Aditi Roy Ghatak is an economic analyst and an inveterate foodie.

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