Category Archives: Conti

>A rites of passage long delayed. Oly Pub, Park Street, Kolkata

>

Quite a few eyebrows were raised when I recently tweeted about my plans to visit Oly Pub at Kolkata’s Park Street for the first time in my life.
Folks couldn’t believe that I had grown up at Kolkata and yet never been to Oly Pub. For Oly Pub was the favoured place for school and college kids of Kolkata to shed their Bacchanalian virginity. Oly Pub was the watering hole even for the more experienced as it was cheap and that too in a city which redefined ‘inexpensive’.  Plus I remember that Oly Pub, along with Blue Fox, was rated highly for its steaks in the 90s. Time hasn’t been kind on Blue Fox and this grand dame of Park Street now sports the Golden Arch.
But, yes, I had never been to Oly Pub in school or at college or during my post grad days. Yes, I admit to being a ‘bhalo chhele’ or good boy then. Well, not entirely a science club nerd but no, I hadn’t been to Oly Pub. I did try to go there last year with a college batch mate. Turned out she was the only woman around there that night and we beat a hasty retreat.
But I was not giving in. The thirties were running out and this was a rites of passage long due. So I began rustling up an expedition party. A Facebook friend and food aficionado who assured me that Oly Pub was quite woman friendly too. His wife, an Oly Pub, regular joined us. As did my classmate who had accompanied me in my last attempt. We were reunited sometime back through FB. Adding to our posse was a chef, raconteur, archaeologist, a Parsi married to a Bong, a Finely Chopped Facebook page friend from Mumbai. We had never met there but turned out that we were both at Kolkata at the same time. And his wife was a Oly Pub fan too. Add a recent twitter contact from Kolkata, an Oly Pub regular, who joined us as we met for the first time and later discovered that we shared the same lane at Kolkata. Closing the ranks was my blogger friend who had moved to Kolkata from Mumbai sometime back and had never been to Oly Pub. Whom I managed to convince to join us after shedding her inhibitions about going to a grimy place, with strangers and being the only non Bong among Bengalis. Add to this the blog reader who recognised me and came up to me at the Park Street Metro to say hi, and you have got the plot of  an evening put together by‘The Social Network’. And, unlike the film, in Oly Pub, we had a winner.
We entered Oly Pub and trooped up the stairs. The ground floor was for men only apparently. We went up to a two sectioned area lit by bright tube lights. Much brighter than earlier said my kid brother wisely when he saw the photo. He obviously was no Oly novice. Oly ‘Pub’ screamed ‘bar’ all over. It was a drinking place and made no bones about it.
My first impression of Oly Pub was an all pervasive smell of pee. It slowly subsided thankfully and I saw that we were sitting close to the ‘Ladies Toilet’. Where, intriguingly, a number of men were headed. This puzzle was solved later in the evening as we figured out that behind the door was a passage to smoke in and the promised little girl’s room came after that.
Ladies Toilet?
The view from the smoking passage

A riddle solved

 
Talking of ‘ladies’, there were quite a few mixed gender tables upstairs that Saturday at Oly Pub and one table with just two or three members of the fairer sex.
Not a male bastion… Jaggo who accompanied me in my last attempt, Ash and Oly Pub lover Monishita show the way

Sukanto, a tweep who shoots

Kaniska & Manishita, The couple who made this trip happen

 

Kurush,Chef, raconteur, archaeologist,  Parsi married to a Bong, a friend from Mumbai whom I met for the first time that evening at Kolkata

Oly Pub, as I said, is a drinking place though none in our group were big drinkers that night. You had waiters assigned to individual tables and no one else would serve you. The service, when you caught your man’s eye and when he was free, was competent. Drinks were poured out of bottles brought to your table and into peg measures. What was in those bottles was anyone’s guess. As a wise man once told me, ‘go for the basic denominator in places you are not sure off’. I wanted a good old Old Monk but had to settle with Mc Dowell’s. There was beer, fresh lime soda and the odd vodka on the table. A request for orange juice was met with orange squash. In a peg measure. Lady you don’t make Screw Drivers at Oly Pub!
Two non Bongs are witness to a Bengali rites of passage completed and documented

But it was the food at Oly Pub that really stood out. The quality and taste and sheer wizardry of the food was so unexpected. There is a Bengali idiom which goes ‘gobore poddo phul’ or a lotus blooming in a heap of dung.  With no disrespect to Oly
From the unlimited dalmoot which came with the drinks on the house. The potato fries which reminded you of chubby babies whose rosy cheeks people couldn’t stop pinching…crisp, soft with a mischievous dash of pepper. The fish fries which were recommended online by the Bengali wife who  our Parsi friend had left behind at Mumbai. The fish fries were served with the special house Kasundi or the thick local spicy mustard dip. 
Unlimited dalmoot. i was heckled by our table for taking this snap. Food snob I was dubbed

cherubic fries

Kasundi served with fish fingers
The steaks were everything that the newspapers of the 90s had promised. We tried the pepper steak and the mixed grill. They didn’t ask whether you wanted it medium, rare or well done. They got it for you ‘just right’. Very soulful and poetic meat served in a sea of boiled peas.
And then there was more meat. Cocktail sausages. Spicy sausages. A sort of British Raj meets the natives dish. Very respectable pork studded with fat peppered with a near garam masalaish flavour. You just couldn’t get enough of these.
Pepper steak

Mixed grill

Garam masala sausages
We finished off our order with the highly recommended chicken a la kiev. Never has been a dish so out of place in its surroundings. For, the chicken a la kiev at Oly Pub, belonged to the world of fine dining. Or even to the world of style and haute couture. Immaculately shaped. ‘The trick is to eat it while it is hot’ I was urged as I clicked away. I took a knife and fork and did the honours. One firm cut and I realised that the dish was hollow inside and out oozed a stream of butter across the batter coated chicken into omnipresent boiled green peas. The chicken a la kiev at Oly Pub blended in as well into its surrounding as a court dancer of Shirazuddaulah, the last Nawab of Bengal, would blend into a country liquour bar meant for masons and farmers. This was haute cuisine… even if slightly art deco. A warm buttery end to an evening of boisterous conversations, simple hardworking alcohol, smoky passages and spectacular food… all of which came to Rs 250 (5 USD) per head for a group of seven.
Unveiling the chicken a la kiev at Oly Pub

I can still taste it…epiphany

The Finely Chopped Knights Table at Kolkata
On the way down we spoke to the manager and found out the Oly Pub was opened in 1947. The year of India’s independence. Ironic given the number of students who came here to seek their freedom. We found out that Oly Pub was started by a Parsi family and till this day was run by a Parsi lady named Mrs Z S Tangdi. A discovery so unexpected in the middle of Calcutta that both Mumbaikars,  the Parsi gentleman married to a Bengali and the Bengali married to a Parsi girl, were stumped.
I guess there stories are all around you at Oly Pub. All you have to do is ask.

Note: The last order at Oly Pub is taken at 11 PM

Digging up the Oly Pub story

paans outside Oly Pub

Park Street J’etaime
Advertisements

8 Comments

Filed under Calcutta reviews, Conti, Finely Chopped Knights

>The Seventh Day: JATC turns into EATC

>

I got a bit emotional the other day when I saw that JATC had shut down. I poured my heart out at this post.

A week later the great but elusive @anaggh, ‘the ghost who tweets’, tweeted me about a food tasting as I headed to the gym. @musingsman was arranging it Didn’t take much to change my mind and I was off to what was once JATC. Turned out that it was opening as ‘Eat Around The Corner’. Cashing in on the old fan list though the name doesn’t really flow IMHO.

It was a secret tasting that evening. All hush hush. No photographs allowed. Mr Sanjay Narang was there and it was good to meet him. It was great talking to the the head Chef ,Chetan, a well travelled man who knew his food. I was relieved to see some of the old staff around. The look of the restaurant had changed to a more classy black and white theme. Gone were the chirpy sea blue and whites. The quirky posters were gone. Then I was shown that a few reproductions had remained for us loyalists. I was assured that waffles would be served too. And after a few attempts they managed to recreate the chocolate milk shake K so loved.

I caught up with some prominent tweeps @berges, @B50 and @Netra but soon left them and chatted with Chetan as he hand crafted a gouda, ham and honey mustard multi grain melt which would have sent my pa in law cartwheeling in joy. The breads are baked in house apparently. I tried the pepporoni pizza which had a nice mouth feel despite being out at the counter for a while. A moussaka which I liked for a change… some enchanting hummus and I am quite finicky about it. My first taste of guacamole and later a tantalising strawberry cheesecake. From what I understand, EATC builds on the JATC concept of soups, salads, entrees, pizzas, desserts, coffees and teas… but gets more sublime, aesthetic AND expensive.

We were supposed to keep quiet about this but then the formal preview happened today. Bunkin Banu had done her disappearing act so I swung by at EATC on the way back.

Quite a few tweeps were there. @  @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @I ended up piling up meats beside Mahatma Gandhi’s Grandson who seemed to be doing the same. Found out that you don’t turn into a prince if a former Miss India shakes your hand.

K joined me after that and made a beeline for the ice cream counter after some salads. We sat where our old table used to be. Or so we thought.  The layout has been changed after all. The ‘John’ is gone and there are two swank loos now. Those who have more than a decade of history at JATC, like we do, would know what this means.

The fresh highlights for me were the rather sharp chorizzo and the curried rice which as Chef Chetan explained was made with coconut milk, beans and Indian curry powder. The latter’s apparently used in the Caribbean too. The dish didn’t evoke much faith visually but looks were pleasantly deceptive here. The Jamaican stew was too Indian curry like for me though. The Illy cappuccino was quite robust. Rs 127 according to the menu board.

We wanted to go to EATC for breakfast on my birthday. Hadn’t opened then. Is opening in a couple of days now and we will head their waffles soon. Hope they keep to the standards of the tastings when they get down to business.

Disclaimer: This was not an anonymous review. Was carrying my BB and not the camera on the day when it was not ‘in camera’!

The strawberry cheesecake won over my heart

Good to see some familiar faces

The coffee was pretty good

Berges who is on a mission to make the world a quieter place

Was impressed by how fresh the pizzas tasted despite being out at the counter

Chef Chetan justifiably thumping his chest after a job well done

The chorizo was nice and sharp

I think this is roughly where K and I used to normally sit

7 Comments

Filed under Bandra Bites, coffee shops, Conti, desserts

>Blood, sweat and olive oil. Chorizo & feta aglio olio recipe

>



In case you thought Italian food is always difficult to make, it is not. If you thought that pasta has to be heavy and cheesy, it does not. If you thought that you would rather stick to Chinese, then try this Italian dish for a transition towards the West.
Spaghetti aglio olio or spaghetti in olive oil is one of the simplest dishes to rustle up. Helps if you don’t chop your own finger as I did. OK, ‘chop’, is too a strong word but I did shed a lot of blood when I cut my finger while using a cleaver to finely chop chorizo. It took a while before I could find K’s make up removal pads which were the only cotton at home. In the process I learnt that turmeric can help stop the flow of blood. Not before the bedroom floor turned red. And then my friend Ranjit, @qtfan on twitter, patched me up though it was past 11. He offered to  come down but I drove to his place feeling like Bachchan in Agneepath or Don, driving with my bloodied palms, for 2 minutes (I love the drama). A tetanus jab followed, I had cut meat before with the same knife and us Bongs are hypochondriacs. Dressed and I was back. He dressed my finger the next day too, marinated with anti-biotic, I attacked the chorizo again. Feeling proud of my cooking scar. Now I can look Bourdain in the eye when I meet him. He had an entire chapter in ‘Kitchen Confidential’ on the violence in kitchens.

Day 1 after Ranjit patched it

Day 3, difficult to type without using a finger
The chorizo was a set of three fancy sausages that Soma, a junior at college and blog reader brought and sent to me all the way from the US, when she came to Calcutta recently. I couldn’t wait for K to come to open them. The meal took a day to cook with some bloodshed in between but it was all worth it. Some of us might find pastas, especially aglio olios, ‘bland’ for our Indian palates. That’s when strong meats such as chorizos and strong cheeses such as feta, which I used, help. I also used the Mediterranean spices of sumac and lemon powder, which Gia gave me, to flavour the dish. So, as you see, a number of my friends were a part of the making of this dish. 
 
Here’s the recipe for chorizo & feta aglio olio (my version, not authentic Italian Mama approved):

1.       Boil spaghetti and keep aside. Start with 100 g if it is for one person
2.       Heat 4,5 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. This is the base of the dish. You can even add some extra virgin over it once the dish is ready
3.       Add a tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
4.       Once the garlic turns yellowish, add a tablespoon of finely chopped tomato
5.       Stir. Once the tomatoes go soft, add about 3 tablespoons of chopped chorizo or any strong flavoured meat. Wash off any human blood which could Have smeared on if you were careless while chopping. This is not a fundamental step
6.       Once it cooks (1 minute) add the spaghetti, sprinkle salt and gently toss the spaghetti with a ladle  so that the sauce (meat and garlic seasoned oil) wraps around the spahghetti
7.       Add a few bits of feta or any strong cheese
8.       Season with sumac and lemon powder or ideally chilli flakes which is more authentic
9.       Photograph and eat.

Simple, right? Was incredibly well flavoured for a dish so delicate.


6 Comments

Filed under Conti, Lazy cooking, Recipes

>A great come-back… Indigo Deli, Palladium

>

A quick note on Indigo Deli at Palladium.
I had been there earlier. I had written about my inconsistent experiences during my visits to Indigo Deli. Some dishes thrilled. Others under-awed. And the chairs gave you a bad back.
Well, we went there a few nights back after watching ‘Dhobi Ghat’. An Indian film that tried hard to match up with the best of world cinema. Too hard perhaps.
Well, there was no flaw at our dinner at Indigo Deli this time. The food was uniformly brilliant. The chairs were the same but the exquisiteness of the food washed away all pain.
We ordered barbecued pork spare ribs. Extremely luscious meat in a sauce with a point of view. The sauce had a nice coarse texture and the shreds of red chili added an exciting touch. It had just the right amount of sweetness and tart to tantalise without being mushy. Each bite was followed by a nod of approval from us. It cost a bit more than Rs 400 (8 USD) but could have fed both of us. 
The sweetish corn bread which came with this was not too impressive. A uniquely disquieting combination of sweet and smoke.
The spaghetti in pesto that we ordered made up for the bread. We asked for mushrooms on top as chicken didn’t seem that interesting. And extra pine nuts. The pesto was refreshing and without cream as I had specified. The parmesan was understated and was a perfect foil to the zest of basil. The sauce could have been a tad stiffer and less liquidy in my opinion. We still loved it though. Including K who doesn’t like spaghetti. This, at Rs 400, was a bit too expensive if you ask me. But we had ordered off the menu and this was billed as ‘guest’s special’.
K’s dessert choice of baked chocolate brownie cheesecake couldn’t be faulted. It was dessert heaven. Warm, sensuous, seductive and with ice cream a bit too raunchy for public display.
We ate well. Definitely ‘worth repeating’ as my Mom in law would say.

3 Comments

Filed under Conti, Fine dining, Mumbai highs

>A fantastic birthday treat at the best buffet in town… Brunch at Olive, Bandra

>

The best buffet at in town: Brunch at Olive

I had earlier written about being underwhelmed by Olive at Bandra. I found the prices to be too steep and the service uninformed for those prices.

I have also often said that I am against buffets in principle. I am against binge eating. I would rather savour individual dishes. Plus most buffet servings look like horse bucket food – congealed, unappetising and stale.

I eat my words today.

The Christmas brunch at Olive, Bandra, was out of the world. The best that I have come across in a long time. It was very expensive. 2000 Rs (40 USD) plus tax on Christmas and 1500 on Sundays. Madhumita treated us to it on her birthday. Felt bad about the erosion to her net worth. But what a spread. Mind blowing. A bon vivant moment if there ever was one.

A tremendous selection of Mediterranean food. Heaven if you dig this light and elegant cuisine the way I do. Fresh, visually appealing despite being a buffet. Constantly replenished. Jon, the customer service manager, who has come from Greece, said that the main difference between the food in the Mediterranean and at Olive was in the produce. The feta and the olives were more robust there.

The buffet included alcohol which was a bit of a waste for our table though a couple of us did taste the mulled wine folks in the UK were tweeting about. Warm with spices infused in them. There was a moderately good pizza with very nice cheese but the crust could have been less crisp. The macarons not a patch on those of Le 15.

Mezzes which were very sophisticated in taste. An indulgent, de-stressing and rejuvenating massage for your palate. Smoked salmon. Fresh mussels. Scallops and calamari fritters. Leg of ham with a crackling layer of fat. Enough to make you groan in sheer sensuous ecstasy. Olive with pickled red chillies which exploded in your mouth…the memories lasting long after like a passionate affair of the heart. A tantalising cous cous salad, so rare to get. Potato in chorizo. Poached pears. The rare pesto mix to satisfy my very picky pesto standards. The perfect creme brule. Dark chocolate brownies which streamed down your soul.

The way you would expect heaven to look when your time on earth was up.

At times reciting the menu says it all. And I had just eaten half of what was on offer. What more can one add? The spread at Olive made me finally understand the point of rap. Yo!

I didn’t have my camera but I took my friend’s Sony Cyber Shot. Similar to mine. Clicked tons of pictures. Couple of the staff got into the spirit of things. Returned to the table to find myself bang into the middle of some very girly talk. I scampered off to take more pictures.

Happy birthday once again Madhumita. Many happy returns of the day and here’s to many more lovely meals. And I still can’t fathom why you were scared about whether I would approve of the lunch. Am I that intimidating?

You can check this album on the Finely Chopped Facebook Page for these and more photos

Birthday girl Madhumita
Antipasti
Mulled wine
Fire in the belly
I ate my words

This pizza looks more sensuous than it tasted

Finally a cous cous salad that I like
Aubergine – delectable
Potato in chorrizo
Poached peach
smoked salmon
For the love of fat
A rare perfect pesto
Untouched
Heaven
What’s Christmas without turkey? I went for piggy though
He helped me shoot the food
It’s her camera at work. Followed this witha lesson on MS photo editor at home
“You are all my children”

A lot of the photos are thanks to their intense conversation

PS: Blogger needs a faster way of uploading pictures

9 Comments

Filed under Bandra Bites, Conti, Fine dining, Lebanese, Mumbai highs, photo blogs

>Cafe Mangii Revisited and vetted

>People whom I trust reminded me of Cafe Mangii when I attempted a list of my favourite restaurants sometime back.

I’d been to Mangii once before. Quite liked it. Went back again recently after a failed attempt to go to the recently open and heavily crowded Sancho’s. Here’s a quick sum up of what I found.

I had a sangria which seemed pretty good to me. Didn’t have a benchmark though. The pizzas sucked. We ordered pepperoni one and a goat cheese one. Bases of both were too crisp. Wood fire oven be damned. Prego, at Westin, beats Mangii hollow when it comes to wood fired oven pizzas.

The main courses, however, were stellar. Rack of lamb…very juicy, sauce bringing the meat to the forefront. I ordered a spaghetti aglio olio with squids, out of the menu. Wonderfully tossed, very well seasoned, the squids so fresh that a bit more olive oil and they would have started swimming on the plate. Restaurant pastas rarely satisfy me. This one delighted me. Had a bite from a three cheese pasta from across the table. Yes, this place is a winner. Barring the pizzas.

The place was a bit dark for non flash photography. The Jyotika of Follow My Recipe helped as she fired her bazooka of a camera and lit up my shots.

Sangria to set the Knife rolling
Disastrous pizzas
Lamb with loads of character
A very well tossed spaghetti aglio olio with squids
Jyotika lighting up the food for my shots

Three cheese pasta…harmony in food

4 Comments

Filed under Bandra Bites, Conti, Mumbai highs

>Beyond chicken soup for the sore throat …. chicken mince in ketchup & cheese

>

I made this dish last night for K. Thought it’s worth sharing given its the season of sore throats.

It was fairly late and we were a dish short for dinner. I didn’t want to order in. Remembered that there was a pack of chicken mince in the freezer. Thawed it in the micro. The rest of the dish took about ten minutes. Here’s the recipe:

  • Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a nonstick saucepan
  • Once the onions turn translucent, add the chicken mince (250 g)
  • Then add 2 tablespoons of ketchup, which gives the dish a sweetish taste, and same salt
  • Keep patting the meat with a ladle and toss it so that it cooks quickly
  • Once the meat is cooed (turns white from pink) add 2 slices of slim cheese and let this melt. This will add a nice creamish texture which soothes a sore and petulant throat
  • I topped it with some finely chopped bell peppers/ capsicum and the dish was done

Tasted pretty good. As my lunch mate at Fort MumbaiCentral’s  dad apparently says, ‘cheese …ketchup … it has to taste good’. Well it worked for K too and I kept a bit aside for a breakfast filler.

6 Comments

Filed under Conti, Lazy cooking, Recipes