CHENNAI: We got to sample the best of two worlds recently. Zamindari and Bengali cuisine – coming together with one decadent spread, courtesy chef Rajib Mohanta from Sonargaon, Taj Bengal’s iconic restaurant, named after the commercial centre of Bengal. As it turns out, the English translation of the Bengali name Sunārgāon is ‘city of gold’ and this is just as well as its cuisine is quite rich, having has evolved several times over through the rule of the British, with Islamic influences and effects of partition. This is probably why the festival which is on at Beyond Indus, Taj Club House this week, is anything but predictable.
In fact, chef Rajib tells us that he went so far as to bring his own mix of five spices with him (panch phoron) that comprises jeera, black onion seed, methi, saunf and radhuni. And he adds, “Most of the dishes have been made in mustard oil, rather than sunflower.” Now that we have a rough idea of the basics, it’s time to dig in. And the appetisers of Beckti Macher Fry (Deep fried fish crumb cutlet) and Hara Matar Bhutte Palak Tawa Kebab (a kebab of corn kernels, green peas and spinach) would nearly have spilled over into the main course, if we didn’t hold back.
Thankfully, we did. Or we wouldn’t have gotten to indulge with appetites that did justice to the gorgeous Sunheri Nalli (tender lamb shanks in gravy), a North West frontier province speciality, or enjoy serving after serving of Chingri Malai Curry (a light gravy with coconut cream and fresh river prawns) – both a must try if you’re making reservations at Beyond Indus anytime soon.
For dessert, we eagerly hope for a familiar Mishti Doi or rasagullah bowl to arrive, given that a major portion of the Sonargaon menu is after all Bengali. And what better way to end that with sweet syrupy Bengali favourites? So there is pang of disappointment when we learn that the options for the night are Patisapta (a rice flour pancake rolled with fresh coconut cooked with jaggery) and a lesser attractive brown dish called Gurer Payesh (rice cooked in milk finished with molasses Nolen Gur). But one spoon in and we understand why these are signature classics. Rich, sweet and undeniably addictive... with the Gurer Payesh especially, it’s tough to put the spoon down!
Sweet endings are the very best endings aren’t they?
The festival is on at Beyond Indus, Taj Club House till May 10. For reservations, call 66313131.