Review of ‘Oh Calcutta’
The theory that an eating joint frequented by the locals, are the must visit places if you want to eat good food. For example, if a Chinese restaurant is frequented by Chinese people then that is the place visit for a good Chinese meal.
I was wondering about this theory when I went to “Oh Calcutta” for lunch the other day. Being a Bengali, walking into a restaurant offering the cuisine which I grew up with, will the place offer me anything different or worthwhile at all?
“Oh Calcutta” offers food essentially from Kolkata , and is primarily Bengali food.
We ordered for starters, bhetki fish fry (they claim their bhekti is flown from Kolkata directly - the Bengali obsession of sweet water fish is a known fact and the best place to get it is none other than Bengal). The fish fry along with the kashundi (a mustard dip) was excellent.
Also ordered as a starter, kankra chingri bhape. It is an innovation of Oh Calcutta. This dish is perhaps the only dish other than the boneless Ilish (Hilsa fish), I will go back for. As the name says, morsels of kankra (crab) and chingri (shrimp) coated with mustard paste and (bhape) steamed in banana leaves makes it a divine tasting appetizer. This process similar to making a ‘macher paturi’ (steamed fish in banana leaves). [To learn how to make macher paturi follow the you tube Ananya-r rannaghor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Elx3d0q6e7Q ]
They do have another signature dish ‘boneless ilish or hilsa in mustard sauce’ which I just spoke about where the most tedious job of deboning the tastiest and bonniest fish in the world is done by them. Yet the mustard sauce doesn’t pack as much punch as a sorshebata (mustard paste) done at home.
The complimentary appetizers like alukabli (somewhat like a aluchat) , tomato poda and bori bhaja were served. All were reasonably tasty.
In the main course, kosha mangsho (mutton in aromatic brown and thick gravy) and lucchi (puri) were outstanding. [For recipe of kosha mangsho, please visit Ananya-r Rannaghor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP365kJeGFY ]
But disappointing was govindobhog rice, which had no aroma (a special aromatic short grain rice from Bengal popularly known for its aroma. For instance, if govindobhog is cooked at home the whole house smells of it). A very mediocre mung daal with jhuri alubhaja, came alongwith the rice. The alubhaja (potatoes cut like straws and deep fried. Regarded as a comfort food when had with daal and rice) was stale. Mocchar ghonto (banana blossom preparation) was made well but lacked salt.
As for the dessert, Nolengurer ice-cream was very well done though I had tasted a better version elsewhere. The nolen-gurer sondesh (sandesh with date-jaggery) as was reasonably fresh.
My verdict. The place has great ambiance. Rabindrasangeet playing at the background. Popular Bengali novels and literature formed décor of the place. But I was convinced about one thing and that saddens me a great deal, that the Bengali food we grew up, are not cooked by the modern generation anymore. That’s the reason they have to eat in a restaurant what our mothers and grandmothers use to make at home and there is no comparison really. A normal Bengali home cooked meal will be far superior to what you can eat in any restaurant. Oh Calcutta is no exception. Hence in spite of our pockets being lightened considerably, (without alcohol and mocktails, the bill was Rs 8000 for 5 persons), and the food could not touch our heart, though the price did.
So still wondering the theory of Chinese going to a Chinese restaurant will hold true or not in this case. Definitely not for people who can cook decent Bengali food at home. But surely for people who want to delve into a bit of nostalgia and definitely for people who are non-Bengalis wanting to try this fabulous cuisine of East.
Rating on a scale of 10: ambience 8 food 6 price 4 overall 6(I visited the restaurant anonymous and paid my bills )