Newly opened fine diner Chilekotha serves Bengali cuisine with a twist
Anyone who has grown up in a house -- and not an apartment -- must have lovely memories of time spent in the attic. Whether playing with toys during childhood, or reading that first love letter, escaping enquiring glances of the elders, an attic has always been a special place to seek solace in. Interestingly, rooftop attics and old Kolkata have a very special relationship, which goes back at least a couple of centuries.
Newly opened eatery Chilekotha, which literally means 'attic' in Bengali, tries to capture this nostalgia of Kolkata. Tucked away in the corner of south Kolkata’s Dover Lane, an area full of houses that typically have attics, this ground floor restaurant serving authentic and fusion Bengali food has tried to recreate nostalgia both on plate and in its looks.
This 35-seater diner, spread over 1,100 sq ft, has its interiors replete with things of the past including a gramophone, an antique wall-mounted telephone and a railway clock. The spiral stairs, ornate metal railings and a fresco depicting a typical cityscape, as seen from an attic, give one a feeling of standing on an attic, despite being on the ground floor.
As we sat on bench-like chairs for the dishes to arrive, the owner, Debolina Chakraborty texplained that her aim was not to turn this into another Bengali diner. “I didn’t want to turn away the college goers or the young crowd, who like interesting and never-heard-before dishes. Hence, I thought to keep an array of fusion Bengali dishes, too,” says Debolina, who experimented with more than 150 dishes along with executive chef Abhishek Biswas, before zeroing on the menu.
We began the culinary trail with Quail Jhal roasted Pulao, a happy fusion of Bangladeshi roast and Kolkata Pulao with quail adding to the twist. In Bangladesh, meat is typically roasted in spicy gravy and the quail meat was well-cooked. Mutton Tehri, a dum-cooked dish made with Gobindobhog rice and chunks of mutton sautéed in mustard oil with spices like Jaifal and Jayatri, tasted authentic but the aromatic flavour of ghee was missed.
The authentic north Kolkata fish fry, often referred to as Diamond Fish Fry was a real surprise. We didn’t expect the mildly flavoured, well-marinated slice of bekti to be so thick. The thin layer of crusty, biscuit crumb coating added to our joy. We gorged on it with the accompanying pungent mustard sauce and salad.
Another dish that’s rarely served in diners is Machh Makha or mashed Rohu fish fried and garnished with raw onions, green chillies and mustard oil. It’s a typical dish from west Midnapore district of Bengal, where they sautee the dish in tamarind sauce before having it. “It’s a great coolant during summer and prevents heat stroke,” informs Debolina, who avoided the tamarind part to suit urban palates.
The Patapora Fish, of ilish marinated in mustard and wrapped in sal leaves, was interesting to say the least. You can also try the Bakarkhani Roti with mutton Bhuna, Pinacolada Prawns, Gondhoraj chicken or Chana Galawati Kebabs, which are equally delicious. A special mention must be made of Komola Mutton Kofta, cheese stuffed mutton balls dipped in Oriental orange gravy. The juicy meat balls tasted heavenly.
Our meal ended with the Guava Custard and honestly, we didn’t expect the hot and sweet burst of authentic guava and green chilli flavours that left a lovely aftertaste, lingering for long. Definitely a must try!
Price for two: Rs 800 ++