Kolkata is called the cultural capital of India. And food is a big part of culture. The state capital is a cosmopolitan city which is known for its people’s love for good food and evolved tastes. So it’s no surprise that restaurants dot the entire city: importantly, a good many of which are affordable. From the old cafes (e.g., Mitra Café) and ‘cabins’ (a la Basanta Cabin, Dilkusha Cabin, etc.) to the bigger restaurants and the posh ones, there’s something for everyone. Kolkata can surely boast of being the home of some of the best eating joints in India.
In recent times a good many restaurants have come up. Many of these specialise in particular cuisines, like Lebanese, Japanese, Mughlai, etc. and others offer a mishmash of all types of food. Lebanese seems to be a current favourite in Kolkata, and shawarmas are being served in many restaurants, and it has become a popular takeaway too. Nowadays people are spending more and more on eating out. However, quality is also an important factor these restaurants have to remember, as Kolkata is also health-conscious. People want to spend money on healthy food. So there is a ‘healthy’ competition among restaurants.
Another factor enabling a healthy competition and helping them to be constantly on their toes is the constant assessment by the public through online restaurant rating and review websites, restaurant guides, food blogs, social media write-ups, etc. Any new cuisine, format, etc. gets highlighted. Similarly, any complaints regarding food, ambience, etc. also spreads pretty fast. So one simply cannot get away with shoddy work.
Here are some of the better newer restaurants in Kolkata:
JHAAL FAREZI, Park Circus
It serves a concoction of food ranging from the street food of India to the delicacies which were served at old clubs and North Kolkata restaurants, relished by many even today. The interiors are a celebration of retro Indian pop art with Rajasthani appliqués, Bollywood songs from the 90s, barber chairs, comic strips, tongue-in-cheek posters inspired by Bhojpuri songs, all adding to the versatility of the cuisine it serves. On the culinary offering, there is the Café menu consisting of simple recipes from the streets of India like masala chai, vada pao, phuchka, ice golas, aloo dum, ghugni, Parsi akuri and more, but most definitely with a twist in the way they are presented. The Dining menu has its roots in traditional Indian and old continental influences with a stress on freshness and authenticity setting it apart from any regular menu.
SHAWARMA NATION, Prince Anwar Shah Road
This is one of the best Lebanese restaurants of Kolkata. The decor is bright here, with floral wallpaper and a touch of green and yellow in the upholstery. In keeping with the menu is the mood that the owners have tried to create, complete with Arabian tunes on the sound system. On the platter are yummy picks like Shawarma Roll, Oriental Chicken Salad (green vegetables served with pan-fried grilled chicken) and Baba Ghanoush (roasted eggplant served with Arabic bread). Wash it down with fruity Mango, Kiwi or Strawberry Smoothies or a chilled Mint Cooler. According to a partner, Prashant Menon, all the spices are imported from Dubai as they want the taste to be authentic.
AOI, Sarat Bose Road
Aoi is currently the only authentic Japanese restaurant in the city, and it keeps really things authentic. This is a restaurant chain, and the first branch in Kolkata is the one on Sarat Bose Road. It follows all original Japanese recipes and styles of cooking. The décor is also Japanese. The entire range of Japanese cuisine can be found here, including the worldwide favourites, sushi and sashimi. What's more, the fish, meat and vegetables are imported from Japan to ensure that the food tastes exactly the way it should. The 1,300 sq ft restaurant has two Japanese chefs, supported by a team of Indian cooks trained in Japanese culinary techniques.
Japanese fare at Aoi
Chili’s serves Mexican, Italian and American cuisine. It is located inside Quest Mall, the latest mall to open in Kolkata. Chili's houses booths, tables and bar stools. Among the great-tasting food are roasted pepper chicken, fajita trio, tripple dipper, country-fried chicken and cilantro pesto pasta (chicken and shrimp).
At Chili's, Ballygunge
AU BON PAIN, Park Street
Boston-based cafe chain Au Bon Pain made its debut in the city just before Christmas with its first outlet on Park Street. It has come up where Music World used to be. The cafe is a 140-seater 4,000 sq feet store. Food here is available at all price ranges, from Rs 25 right up to the indulgent tuna sandwiches at the upper end of the spectrum. The chain has a wide range of offering including a mix of US breakfast and baked version of Indian street food. The bagels, freshly baked stuff, great sandwiches and signature soups and salads have all been well-accepted pretty quickly. It has two new concepts – a marketplace model where consumers pick their choice of food from the shelves and bills it out before settling down, and a 24-seater community seating table which would encourage people to freely interact and socialise.
Au Bon Pain
OUDH 1590, Deshapriya Park
This recent restaurant at Deshapriya Park specialises, as the name would suggest, in Mughlai and north Indian cuisine. Oudh or Awadh was the erstwhile kingdom of Nawab Wajed Ali Shah, which was annexed by the British and the nawab sent on exile to Kolkata. Here he created the typical Kolkata biryani with chunks of potatoes, but that’s another story. The food here is very good. Galawati kebab, Afghani kebab, chicken Iraani, shahi tangri kebab, Awadhi handi biryani, gosht biryani, moti biryani are among the delicious, succulent and perfectly cooked meat fare. Another plus is the encyclopaedic menu, giving a lot of interesting history and details on the fare.
FLAME AND GRILL, South City Mall & Park Street
Flame and Grill is one of the finest restaurants serving some of the finest kebabs. There are two outlets, at South City and on Park Street. The most interesting fact is the personal grill attached to each table. Since it specialises in kebabs, it is best to have them: chicken reshmi kebab, mutton sheekh kebab, fish kebab, prawn kebab, etc. are must-haves. Vegetarians need not despair though. The splendid quality of meethi jhinga, paneer Patiala, achari aloo, tandoori mushrooms, charmoula barbecue, hara bhara kebab, etc. can whet any appetite.
Flame and Grill
AFRAA RESTAURANT, City Centre Mall, Salt Lake
Afraa in Arabic means white and the restaurant-cum-lounge bar is in white. Seating is comfortable and this is a great place to lounge and have a drink. The all-white decor, sink-in sofas, quiet corners, open decks, wraparound bar, a happening DJ churning out foot-tapping music, all make for a delightful ambience. The heady mix of Mediterranean, Szechwan, Italian, Japanese and Indian dishes is a gourmet's delight. All in all, a pleasant mix of creative cuisine and striking ambience. A wine library, with its range of wines from Italy, France, Chile, Australia, South Africa and of course India, takes the dining experience to another dimension. The internationally acclaimed couturier Kiran Uttam Ghosh has designed the apparel of the service personnel, which is themed with the white decor.
The stunning white decor of Afraa
RANG DE BASANTI, Salt Lake
The funky décor is great; the huge tractor at the entrance, the oldie advertisements, the quirky posters, the wooden benches, and the colorful menu card together give off an absolutely authentic Punjabi vibe. The food is equally great and nothing is worth missing actually – laal surkh jhinga, chicken biryani, dilli ka butter chicken, garlic naan, butter naan are all absolutely fantastic.
The dhaba-like interiors of Rang De Basanti
This is another of the great new restaurants. Tucked away in a nondescript end of a bylane, smallish and cosy, this is a new jewel in the crown. The fare consists of highly innovative, continental experiments with local, familiar names and ingredients. The menu is bound to thrill, and the taste will take you to another world. What with chilli pickle and cheese baked crab cakes with kolmi greens, vodka-soaked prawns with garlic aoili, hilsa baked with bori crust to start with. Palate-cleansing gondhoraj sherbet or aam ada Sorbet (mango and ginger based), main courses like mutton in kolmi saag, sosha ilish, pork vindaloo, huge, family-sized pizzas, and awesome chana and panch phoron mousse, gondhoraj souffle, mustard and tender coconut mousse and homemade death by chocolate to end with.
The delectable fare at Bohemian