Why do I say Chilekotha Kolkata is a good Bengali food joint in South Kolkata?
How do you define a good meal? There are several answers to this question but the one defining answer is the food that does not make you feel unwell after you have eaten, yet has a burst of flavours and textures are the best ones. I identified a second one while eating at Chilekotha- when a sudden silence overlaps the table after the food is served. We experienced both. The food was ‘good’. There were a couple of misses but the overall experience over a single dining was worth sharing.
Inside ChileKotha in Dover Lane Kolkata and the journey from baby car seat to fish sizzler
It was towards the end of our meal that Madhushree asked if this was earlier Ruby’s Grill and the wait staff confirmed. We had come to this location 7 years ago with Tugga and my brother in law. Tugga was just a baby and he quietly sat in this carseat with white linen pants and a blue romper. Tugga is now 7 and has a distinct food preference. So he tried out the fish sizzler. That’s the true journey from a car seat to a sizzler. The restaurant is small. It is divided in 2 parts. The entrance is an erstwhile garage converted into 10 covers which has AC too and a nice painting of Calcutta taxi as a backdrop. The main seating area is around 25 covers with wooden benches and a proper back support . Old style Kolkata shuttered windows, wooden switch boxes with large black and white switches and plug points, a gramaphone, a spiral staircase, an old telephone excites the nostalgic sensors well. An artificial railing with a North Kolkata scene painted on the wall reproduces the view from an attic on the roof. Chilekotha in Bengali means Attic and who can deny the memories involved with an attic.
Address of Chilekotha Kolkata –
7/2B, Dover Ln, Ballygunge, Kolkata, West Bengal 700029. Long ago, someone at a senior level from Hospitality industry had said that one of the best ways to make your restaurant running is open it in the same catchment area of a bigger, established brand. This is a very smart move here as Bhojohori Manna, the reputed restaurant is located in the next lane.
The food at Chilekotha Kolkata
The tagline says flavours of Nostalgia. It’s nostalgia in terms of some common Bengali dishes which we sleepwalk most of the time. It’s a challenge to play with Nostalgia too as nostalgia has too many emotions attached and one off tune note can make the entire symphony go for a toss. Someone offering you nostalgia food invites a lopsided comparison with memories of the diner. We started with gondhoraj chicken strips, 6 chicken tenders to be preise, juicy, dominant gondhoraj flavour with slices of gondhoraj on top scores distinction. There was a peek a boo of the green chili flavour without being jhaal. The menu has two sections- fusion and Bengali section. Tugga wanted to try a sizzler. The fish sizzler used bhekti, had layers of aam chutney in between the fillet studded with red and yellow bell pepper and the natural theatre of the sizzle as it arrived on the table. One spoon and Tugga didn’t want to share any further with us. The chutney in between the fish fillet was the high point of the dish.
The fusion section confused us and post three iterations, we finalised the order. Basanti Polao, Dhakai style Mutton Bhuna, Mete chorchori, Pata pora Ilish machh and sorshe bhekti. We dropped out diamond fish fry, a strong temptation of Haaser dim er kosha (this wasn’t available). Basanti Pulao was a perfect balance of flavours with cashews, raisins and copius amounts of ghee. It was perhaps a little too sweet for some taste buds but basanti pulao is supposed to be sweet. The only disappointing factor was that it was made with basmati rice instead of gobindobhog. Metey chorchori or mutton livers sauteed with spices can be a tough dish to make. This dish presented with small diced potatoes in a brown gravy loaded with masalas was the show stopper. The potatoes were melt in the mouth and there was a subtle hint of garam masala along with fresh coriander leaves. Just like the plot thickens in a story, the silence densified when Madhushree unwrapped the pata pora Ilish. A large sized Ilish, well marinated with mustard, baked and smoked in saal and banana leaves, slices of green chilies and served with a bowl of pulao was a tapas take on bhaat and ilish bhapa. The smoky flavour was not over the top and hint of mustard and coconut was blissful. The spices used in Dhakai Mutton Bhuna were strong, robust with flavours. Since I have never tasted the authentic Bhuna, cannot say if this is a perfect Kolkata copy but the Mutton was chewy and needed one or two more rounds of cooking. Soft chunks of Bhekti dunked in Sorshe is “nayansukh”, as we say in Bengali dekheo tripti hoy. A cruel slice of the fish covered with mustard. Buttery, slightly textured and one of the best Sorshe Bhekti I ever had.
The desserts sounded interesting on the menu but are quite passable. The various custards were basically different renditions of bhapa doi. Delight custard was good with a thick custard and orange rind. We ordered for guava and chili custard. Well, it tasted just like guava. What did I expect? There were a few more desserts but we were more than full to try out anything else.
In all the houses that I have stayed in my life, I have never had an attic. The romanticism involved with the attic never touched me. A delicious meal from this attic – Chilekotha made me feel – I missed an attic and its memories in my life.