From Thakur Barir Pulao to Mangshor Roast, Baraanda is stepping it up when it comes to the Bengali fine dining experience
Running an all-Bengali fine diner at the heart of Kolkata is the riskiest bargain, but Copenhagen-based culinary specialist and food writer Baishali Ghosh learnt about the true impact of Bengali food thousands of miles away in Nordic country. Her Southern Avenue restaurant Baraanda is only a year-and-a-half old and is proof that when it comes to Mangshor Roast and Thakurbarir pulao, we will always want more.
"In Copenhagen we see all our Bengali neighbours and acquaintances cooking Bengali food and hosting other people, they're making everything from scratch! They have kept the culture and the food alive and it’s actually a hit there. That's where I realised how special our cuisine really is," Ghosh tells us as we drop in for lunch at the gorgeously designed 24-seater diner.
Baraanda has a distinct old world-meets-urban vibe which is really remarkable; even the menu balances classic and fusion numbers. For their new Bhai Phonta menu, for instance, they have introduced a rather interesting range of dishes inspired by the Raj.
"The Sahebiana menu is actually a nod to the colonial cuisine which existed here. People who cooked for the British residents would often create European numbers using indigenous ingredients; you'll find numbers like Potol Roulade in Dorma Gravy and Tok Doi Mangshor Roast which will give you an idea about this," we are told. We started off with some delicious American corn cutlets and Sabudana Pakoda, the latter being a revelation as it's so entirely different from the homely sago starters we've had, and had an unusual pillowy density.
The menu gives you a wide-ranging palate influenced from both sides of Bengal. For instance, we found quite a few Aam Kasundi or mango mustard dishes; the Aam Kasundi Bhindi was a slow-cooked marvel in a deep scarlet, intensely seasoned gravy made with rich garam masala and juicy ladies’ finger. The Aam Kasundi Ilish goes in our must-have list owing to its generous flavour profile.
The Baked Fish Patricia Memsaab was a stunning curation, inspired heavily from the colonial kitchens, made with juicy, wholesome bhetki baked with homegrown spices and served with a cheese relish and herb-infused Basmati rice.
You’ll find some beloved classic like Bhapa Ilish (Steamed Hilsa) and Pabda Tel Bori (Butter catfish with lentil dumplings), and you’ll find some more adventurous ones like Thakurbarir Pulao, a bona fide specialty from the Tagore household which features a smooth rice pilaf cooked to perfection with vegetables and dried fruits. The Murg Palak was a surprising entree, an ethnic take on the hit chicken and spinach dish, and had a feisty after-taste as it retained quite a bit of zest.
Some of the other Baraanda signatures are Prawn Masala Circuit House and Begun Jhal Farezi. As for dessert, we were hoping to have something unconventional and Baraanda didn’t disappoint. The Crispy Gajar Ka Halwa is a gorgeous pastry-influenced number featuring semi-crunchy rolls stuffed with sweetened carrots, it’s delicious and hugely satisfying. Price for two: Rs 1,000.