Yes, my blog turns one! A big milestone indeed. A few posts down the line, a few blogging ‘good’ friends made down the way, a whole lot of unexpected blog love from all of you… Thank You very much indeed! A Romantic Dinner for two awaits a lucky couple at OPTIONS by Sanjeev Kapoor, featuring the signature dishes of Indian Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor.
RANNAGHAR, Bengali Food Festival at OPTIONS
A la-carte Bengali menu is being offered alongside the Eid Specials, till 2nd November, 2012
Each month a special food festival is celebrated at OPTIONS. Currently, the restaurant is celebrating the Bengali Food Festival to coincide with the Bengalis’ biggest festival – the Durga Puja. Though the actual celebrations just got over, the restaurant has extended the Bengali Food Festival, overwhelmed by its popularity and demand! The Bengali menu will be offered alongside the Eid Specials, till 2nd November.Lot of thought and detailing has gone into making the special Menu Cards associated with each festival that the restaurant celebrates. The Bengali Menu Card touches the right emotional chord – Black & White pictures of all Bengali legendary icons – Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and even Uttam-Suchitra accompanies some of the quintessential Bengali food that are on offer. But a brilliantly designed Menu Card and a luxurious romantic chandelier lit decor apart, how authentic was the food?
Growing up eating Bengali food cooked by different Didas/Maternal Grandmas & Thakumas/Paternal Grandmas (my own and others’), Mums (my own and again others’), Mashis/Aunties and a few Bengali Uncles – I have realised that judging authenticity is practically an Utopian concept. Each household has it’s own spice variation and unique tempering. Cooking style differs between regions within Bengal. Also, it differs within families whose ancestral lineage hails from Bangladesh which before Partition was a part of the Bengal province of the Indian sub-continent. So what is the hallmark of authenticity?
I think as long as it tugs at the nostalgic Bengali tastebud and confirms to a broad spectrum, small misses here and there can be overlooked. After all the subject - Traditional Bengali Cuisine, is absolutely vast.
Starters: you get a choice of popular Bengali Snacks, served essentially in a Bengali home if you land unexpectedly at an odd time apart from meal times – the Vegetarian Starters being Rokomari Pakora/Assorted vegetables fried in Batter, Singara/Samosa, Shobjir Chop/Vegetable Chop, Pyaazi/Onion fritters, Begun Bhaja/Fired slices of Eggplant while the Non-Vegetarian Starters being Deemer Pakora/Egg Chops, Chingri Macher Cutlet/Prawn Cutlet, Mangsher Chop/Mutton Chop. It is however a different matter altogether that nowadays nobody lands up in anybody’s home unexpected – so all these simple and unexpected snacks have had to get into a luxurious Menu Card in an elegant restaurant!
The verdict – the Deemer Pakora was fabulous tasting like the usual Egg Chops sold in road side kiosks in Kolkata or inside the Movie hall and is popularly known as the Deemer Devil. The sliced onions, carrots & the Beet roots accompanying the Salad with a bit of Salt & Lemon juice tasted as authentic as those available in Kolkata! No complaints about the Chingrir Cutlet and Mangsher Chop that we tried, but Deemer Devil was the clear winner.
The Rokomari Bhaja – Can anybody ever go wrong with fritters? Perhaps not. And a bit of addition here and there, for example, the Green Chilli fritters… perhaps to suit a wider Indian palate.
Vegetarian side-dish: It requires a lot of courage to offer Shukto, a traditional bitter vegetable preparation in the menu. This is a very very unique and traditional Bengali offering, had at the beginning of the meal. Gota Shedho/Steamed Whole Vegetables is another very traditional dish cooked generally the day after the Saraswati Pujo. Chaana Bhapa Shorshe/Steamed Mustard Paneer, Methi Phulkopi/Fenugreek Cauliflower, Aloor Dum/Potato and many other choices are available for Vegetarian diners.
Non-Vegetarian side-dish: Daab Chingri/Prawn in tender green Coconut, Lau Chingri/Calabash & Prawns, Doi Maach/Yogurt Fish, Shorshe Bata Maach/Mustard Fish, Murgir Jhol/Chicken Curry, Kasha Mangsho/Mutton Kassa… the choice of the Menu is pretty perfect.
The verdict – Shukto is a teaser. It requires an elaborate preparation process. Plus Posto/Poppy Seeds is an essential ingredient in Shukto which is banned in Dubai for it’s addictive properties. Yet, the Shukto tasted as authentic as it can get – cooked by Bengali Mums in traditional Bengali homes. This is a feat by itself!
We absolutely loved the Daab Chingri. Though the sizes of the prawns are an eternal subject of debate – you can never ever be too thin, too rich or your size of the prawns too big!
Shorshe Bata Maach… you can order the very famous Ilish Maach/Hilsa Fish cooked in this style or Hamour. We tried both. For those uninitiated to Hilsa, this can be really bony. Many restaurants in Kolkata have perfected the art of preparing bone-less Hilsas. A gentle suggestion here requesting the Chef to learn the technique so that many diners who are curious about the Hilsa can try this. Did we like our Hilsa? We did like the preparation but not the taste of the Hilsa by itself. But then, that is a issue of debate worldwide regarding Hilsa this year.
‘Special mention has to be made to the Hilsa fish. The Hilsa is synonymous with Bengal and is considered the ‘queen’ of all Bengali fish. Hilsa is also of political importance. It is a serious bone of contention between India and it’s neighbouring country Bangladesh. Which Hilsa is better – the Hilsa that is found in the Padma river in Bangladesh or the Ganga river, the last phase of which flows through Bengal before it merges into the sea-waters of Bay of Bengal? The entire month of July and August, that is during the Monsoons, Kolkata is gripped by Hilsa. Hilsa festivals and special Hilsa lunches are organised in different clubs and hotels. Each conversation revolves around Hilsa. This year had been hard-hitting for the Hilsas with the prices shooting upto as high as Rs 1,500/kg (Dhs 100/- approximately!). The fish markets in Kolkata are in itself a subject for immense discussion – perhaps better kept for another future post. The bony Hilsa is a delicacy and is prepared traditionally in many ways – the Shorshe Baata/Mustard Hilsa, Kalo Jeerar Jhol/Black Cumin Curry, Bhapa/Steamed etc.’
We did not find the Kasha Mangsho to be very authentic. But then Chef Kuldeep Raturi had his own justification – this was his version where he had added some of his own elements. Definitely tasty, but not as the ‘Bengali’ Kasha Mangsho.
The Chingrir Polao/Prawn Polao was very good but wasn’t impressed with the Bhuna Khichuri… but then it could be my mindset – I am so much into Bhoger Khichuri/Khichuri that is traditionally cooked during the festivals that any other Khichuri pales in comparison!
BTW, you can also order Luchis/Deep-fried flatbread made of flour. However it’s not mentioned in the Menu Card.
Sweets: Sweets are a necessary sign-off for a Bengali meal and here, all the right boxes are ticked, all the nostalgic sweet pores are clogged out and emotions are carried back home. Bengali Sweets can be mind-boggling and the array can really make a sweet-lover go astray. You have a whole industry and artisans (if I may call so) who are engaged in sweet making. So it’s not expected that you’ll be having a huge variety of Bengali Desserts on offer. But what you have is, I would describe it as a limited version of classic Bengali Sweets – Mishti Doi/Sweet Yogurt, Roshogolla/Rasgulla, Pati Shapta/Sweet wraps, Semaiya Kheer/Vermicelli Pudding… Incidentally, my last post was on Semaiya Kheer, a sweet dessert traditionally had during the Eid.
The verdict – To be honest, the Rasgullas are really one of the best Rasgullas that I have ever tried so far. Very very soft and soaked deliciously in the sugar syrup. And the presentation has been inspiring me ever since! Misti Doi was also very good – perfectly set and not too sweet and strikes definitely a very high score in the Bengali Sweetness tasto-meter! I personally didn’t try the Semaiya Kheer, but my companion loved it. Pati Shapta was missing on both days that we visited. And unfortunately, Mishti Doi was not there on our second day – a proof that the Bengali Sweets must have tasted quite a ‘sweet’ success!
The Sign-off verdict - We landed up for the Bengali Food Festival on two occasions. On our first day we tried out a whole lot of things from the Menu. My Aunty who’s visiting us from Kolkata accompanied me. I thought she would be a better critique, being a traditional Bengali cooking Bengali food in a very traditional way. She enjoyed her meal. The fact that there’s not a single Bengali staff in the kitchen and yet they have managed to cook up quite a lot of Bengali dishes, a few of them with great success – is really commendable. If they can cook up Shukto as authentic as this, they can learn to cook up everything Bengali in the most authentic way.
A little suggestion is to add some ‘Chutney’ in the Menu. The Bengali Chutney slightly differs from the other Indian Chutneys in the sense that they are not eaten as dips with snacks and savouries but as a mini sweet sign-off before the actual desserts. Chutneys have several variations.
Dubai doesn’t have many places where you can get to taste a Bengali meal. It’s definitely worth a visit if you have never tasted Bengali food. And if you are hell bent on being a traditionalista, I’m sure the Deemer Chop, Shukto, Daab Chingri, Murgir Jhol will be scoring high marks. And if everything fails, then the Rasgullas are definitely worth the visit!
Don’t miss out the special Diwali Menu that is going to be celebrated in OPTIONS from 8th November till the 23rd November. A small peep into the incredibly delicious menu that Chef Raturi has prepared and that really caught my fancy…
In Mocktails…Bhustrina Lassi/Chilled yogurt blended with flavored lemongrass! Or say, Kiwi Ka Panna/Refreshing kiwi drink with a spicy twist!!! In Appetizers… Gosht Ka Dahi Vada/Mutton balls are dipped in sour yogurt, black salt and liberally doused with tangy-sweet tamarind chutney… Non Vegetarian Starters… Tulsi Patte Ka Lobster/King Lobster marinated in holly basil Leaves and fragrant Indian herbs, cooked in Charcoal Tandoor or the Jhinge Ki Galouti/Pan fried prawns patties, mixed with aromatic Indian spices, and served on ulte tawe ka paratha! In Vegetarian Starters… Palak Anjeer Ke Kebab/Minced spinach patties stuffed with figs, cooked over hot grill! Or the Nadru Shammi Kebab/A Kebab made from lotus root and odoriferous herbs cooked over hot tawa! In Desserts… Blueberry Kulfi/Creamy blueberry kulfi, served on bed of falooda dazzled with almond flacks!
‘A man with a dream will not be denied,’– a famous saying that Sanjeev Kapoor, the celebrity Indian Mega Chef abides by. He’s one man who has single-handedly changed many mindsets (specially in India and the subcontinent) into now considering the Chef’s profession as a very sought-after profession. I really appreciate his vision and his dream of ‘making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering Indian women to become self-sufficient through the power of cooking’… as taken from an excerpt of FooDiva’s. Further insight into this man from Dubai Guzzler.
Options by Sanjeev Kapoor
Award winning Family restaurant; Fully licensed; Free Valet Parking
This is my first giveaway as my blog celebrates one year! One lucky couple gets a Romantic Dinner Giveaway from OPTIONS by Sanjeev Kapoor.
The competition closes midnight 15th November, 2012 (UAE time). Though this giveaway is only for those who can avail of the dinner giveaway in UAE, I am planning the next giveaway for all the readers who have been reading my blog, irrespective of all geographical glitches. Don’t forget to leave your comments as well… I’ll be putting them in the draw-list for my next giveaway.
One year… not a very long journey. But definitely a very momentous one with all your love. Looking forward to many more years of celebration.
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: We visited OPTIONS on two occasions. On the first occasion, I had been a guest – the Bengali food blogger, very generously hosted by OPTIONS. The second occasion was an independent visit. The opinions regarding both the visits are my own and are independent of the dinner giveaway from the Restaurant. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. While you enjoy seeing them please don’t use them. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.