India, Nov. 10 -- Bong Bong, until recently a Kolkata roll stall, has metamorphosed into a charming sit-down eatery. It is now a 30-seater with framed old Indian print ads, a Murphy radio, colourful wooden benches and old lanterns that light up the restaurant. But the most exciting upgrade is the food itself. Partner Kanika Mohan Saxena describes it as "progressive, not too oily, crafted to suit all palates."
Mains arrive plated, rather than family-style.
On the second day of business, Saxena and business partner, Surja-priya Ghosh were working the tables, explaining the dishes to diners, taking orders and managing the staff. (When the partners were in the kitchen, though, the staff looked perplexed and slowed down considerably.)
Bengali techniques and flavours form the backbone of the menu, but many dishes are modern riffs on traditional ones. For example, a take on paturi has broccoli and paneer in a pickle paste, wrapped inside a banana leaf 'envelope'.
We tried it and instantly wanted to pack some for lunch the next day. Our appetisers were all stellar - the five spice potatoes (or paanch phoron), melon-balled spheres of tubers in a slightly cheesy spiced sauce, were perfectly cooked. The coriander and chilli stir-fried prawns were juicy, mildly sweet and packed quite a punch.
After that build-up, however, the mains let us down. A creamy cauliflower and pea curry in coconut milk (inspired by chingri malai curry) tasted somewhat musty. We abandoned the parathas that accompanied our Green Chilli Mutton since they were dense and greasy instead of flaky, and devoured the soft meat and more-aromatic-than-spicy gravy by itself.
Desserts redeemed the main course. The Daaber Payesh (reduced milk with slivers of tender coconut) was more creamy than sweet, and the Baked Rasgulla had the wonderful aroma of dungar, the smoking technique in which ghee is poured on a hot coal, which is then lowered into a vessel of food.
Bong Bong offers a new intriguing perspective to Bengali food, but it needs small rejigs.
- Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi (HT pays for all meals and events, and reviews anonymously)
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.