I made my first Bengali friend in early 2013 on my second day of work. She’d brought Aloor Poshto for lunch and I’d got idlis, and our mutual love for food started that conversation which hasn’t really stopped since, even though we both don’t work there anymore.
I credit Sunaina for introducing me to all things Bengali/Bong- whether its our shared love for good books or the joys of buying a shaada shaari laal paar. But most importantly, she proverbially opened my eyes to the heaven, that is Bong food. And relish, I did, whether it was from her Dabba or at Oh!Calcutta that she first recommended.
Mom and I have now been fans of Oh!Calcutta for years, to the point where we don’t need a menu to order anymore. But here are the specifics to anyone who hasn’t made them a visit just yet.
This particular branch of the acclaimed restaurant is nestled in a little bylane at Tardeo, with a picturesque curricle at the entrance.
You walk in to a decent sized seating area, with wooden accents, walls and plates adorned with pictures of bustling Kolkata and a bunch of friendly waiters, more than willing to explain the menu and their specials when requested.
Our server was kind enough to recommend an Aam Paror Shorbat (A Bong Aam Panna, if you will) for me and some hot water, honey and ginger for mom’s raging cough. And with that, we decided on the rest of our menu:
Fish Fry-Calcutta Style
Boneless Fillets of fish, coated in a crispy and spicy batter and fried. The fish is crunchy on the outside and positively melt-in-the-mouth within. And it pairs exceptionally well with the mustard, mint and tamarind based chutney served alongside.
This dish is also offered in Basa, but I would recommend sticking to the authentic boneless Bhetki fillets because they’re absolutely delicious.
Deep fried Bengali pooris. Tradionally, pooris are made with wholewheat flour (atta), but luchis are made with all purpose flour (maida) which gives them that characteristic white/golden brown colour. They’re soft and pillowy and the best kind of bread to mop up the mains with.
Hing Aloor Dom
Aloor Dom is a Bong staple, and basically has baby potatoes in a thick tomato based gravy. Their version is slightly more laced with hing or asafoetida. I’m not a fan of hing in general, but the addition of it to the tangy tomato gravy here works perfectly because it offsets the tartness from the tomatoes but is subtle enough to not overpower your tastebuds.
A spicy, deeply satisfying mutton curry, Kosha Mangsho is filled with garam masalas, but somehow the spices and the sweet caramelised onions is a great accompaniment to the relatively simple Luchi. The pieces are bone in and cooked just right. We did get a couple of bone fragments in the gravy due to the extended cooking process though, so keep that in mind.
The portion sizes aren’t small by any means and despite our careful ordering, we ended up with parceled leftovers, so definitely exercise caution while ordering for two.
Now, even if Bengali food isn’t something you have sampled, their desserts have been widely popular all over India. And I honestly don’t think Indians will ever get enough of Rosogollas or all khoya based sweets- all offerings from West Bengal originally.
What is however special about the desserts at Oh!Calcutta is their focus on “gurer” or date palm jaggery.
Nolen Gurer Ice cream
Quite possibly my favourite dish of the lot here, its their self churned icecream flavoured with the date palm jaggery. the ice cream is filled with little spongy bits of cham cham and topped with a gurer caramel. It is sin in every bite, and something I could eat everyday, if there was any way at all to make it calorie-free.
Essentially a mix of khoya or sweet paneer, palm jaggery and cardamom, its soft and delicious and so deceptively easy to stuff yourself with. The version here has a jaggery and assorted nut filling as well, just in case the carbs and sugar you were already taking wasn’t enough somehow.
To sum up, Oh!Calcutta should definitely be on the list if you haven’t tried Bengali food, or love seafood and have no idea what you’re missing. In addition to what we ordered above, there have been so many other dishes we’ve sampled there and none of them have left us disappointed. We are more than content having this gem a few minutes away for the times we develop a mild hankering. It really is instant gratification at its best.
And to Sunaina, the tiny, chinky girl who introduced me to all of it, I couldn’t possibly be more thankful to have a friend who is as passionate about food as I tend to get. And I am so genuinely pleased this coincided with your birthday. Here’s to many more conversations about Kerala, Kolkata and FOOD in the future ❤