Feluda's new South Indian neighbour, SurFire The Coastal Cafe, Kolkata
Bengali’s favourite sleuth Pradosh C. Mitter aka Feluda has a new South Indian neighbour. SurFiré the Coastal Cafe has cropped up just two plots away from the detective’s fictitious residence on 21, Rajani Sen Road, off Southern Avenue in south Kolkata.
A 32-seater, all-day diner serving Tamil, Goan and Kerala cuisine has a colourful yet serene ambience. The brightly painted canary yellow walls with colourful graffiti on them fill you with mirth the moment you step in. The light polished wooden furniture complement the interiors flushed with natural sunlight.
The filter coffee made with freshly ground beans seemed the right beverage to set the conversation rolling, as we sit down for lunch on a sunny afternoon interspersed with bursts of rain. Opened by husband wife duo Mukund Balachandran and Ishani Priyadarshini, this 23-day-old eatery has already created the right buzz in the adjoining areas, courtesy its precise but distinctive menu and the friendly nature of its owners. “From Prawn Chettinad to Pork Vindaloo to Thattukada mutton, we offer dishes available in the coastal regions down South” says Priyadarshini.
The first dish, Crispy Karuvapillai Chicken, nuggets cooked with black mustard seeds and curry leaves, held freshness for the Bengali tongue, so used to the typical chicken fries marinated with ginger, garlic and onion paste.
The rising expectations met with satisfaction on the arrival of Pork Vindaloo accompanied by appam. The pork was well cooked in its own fat, with the spices in perfect balance. The blandness of the appam – the best ones we had after a long while in the city – neutralised the spices in Vindaloo immaculately. Unlike some other diners, SurFiré employed the typical Keralite method while cooking the appams, using only rice and coconut. The sweetness of the fresh coconut enhanced the taste of the appams manifold.
Priyadarshini, a Bengali married to a Malayali, learnt cooking South Indian food from her mother-in-law. Having lived in Chennai for many years, she has now perfected the art of cooking homemade south Indian food, which she plans to replicate in her restaurant. “There is no such thing as authentic South Indian food. Each household has its own little improvisation on the same recipe. Just as our favourite steamed hilsa can be cooked with different proportions of mustard seeds and coconut paste, use of South Indian spices in varying proportions leads to differences in taste,” explains the ebullient Priyadarshini.
But one rule that the owners adhere to is that they get a few spices such as star anise, kadapalasi (used in Chettinad cuisine), almond gum, kudampuli (a souring agent used while cooking fish in Kerala) directly from the South. “This has been appreciated by our south Indian guests, since the aroma and taste are closer to home,” she smiles.
The next dish was the Thattukada Mutton. Served with parantha, this dish was the show stealer. It has been inspired by a curry, usually made of beef, which is available on the roadside dhabas dotting the highways in Kerala. “Since the meat is cooked throughout the day, it is rendered soft and succulent. The only difference is that our dish is way less spicy,” informs Priyadarshini. Indeed, the mutton cooked in a gravy of coconut, mustard seeds, tomatoes, onions and curry leaves, makes you crave for more. It’s not too tangy, nor too spicy or sweet, yet delicious to eat.
The Chorizo dosa, made with Chorizo sausage curry cooked in Konkani style, was typically sour and spicy, and if you don’t like things sour, we would suggest you to avoid that dish. The main course came to an end with lemon rice and sambhar, which was cooked to perfection.
The showstopper was a Tamil beverage, Jigarthanda, made with almond gums, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and milk, which is popular with the children, who visit the place.
To keep with the happy spirit of the restaurant, SurFiré holds a live gig with upcoming bands every Wednesday for the guests. “We will be having more of such musical events along with an even more eclectic menu offering a wider variety of coastal dishes from the South,” avers Priyadarshini.
We surely look forward to that.
What: SurFiré The Coastal Cafe
Where: 24, Rajani Sen Road, Kolkata - 700 026
Contact: 86971 43007 / 86971 53007
A meal for two: Rs 700 AI