As a contemporary food trend observer and writing about it, I was looking back at the series of incidents and trying to connect the dots. Yes, connecting the dots is not corelating the incidents but let’s look at them.
- January 10 2017, Mr. Vir Sanghvi writes about how Masala Library has pulled up Connaught place, laments about Park Street and Church Gate losing its lustre and wishes perhaps Mr. Zorawar Kalra, will take his bet on Park Street
- The day The Fatty Bao gets launched in Kolkata with the bloggers meet, that’s the day Mr. Kalra confirms opening of Pa Pa Ya Kolkata in Park Street by first quarter of 2018. If you happen to meet the super efficient and energetic Sonali Priy Kapoor – Marketing head of Pa Pa Ya, then share this with her and get an impish smile back.
- Pa Pa Ya Kolkata starts operation in Kolkata from 26th February 2018 in Park Street .
Where is Pa Pa Ya Kolkata located
The otherwise Magma House building in Park Street is the location but this is at the 11th floor and what a view of Kolkata one can get from here. If my memory serves correctly, no vehicles were allowed inside Magma House earlier. Now that’s going to change. The front visibility may be a slight problem considering the over crowded Park Street but am sure that can be worked upon and the management perhaps is doing so.
High energy dining
Buddy – Can you increase the volume of the music please – Mr. Zorawar Kalra says half way through his meal with us. It had been a great afternoon by then. He had been explaining why he loves Kolkata and why after Mumbai and Delhi, he opened up in Kolkata. He wants this place to be rocking and complains that most of the time, it is the managers of his restaurants who reduce the volume of the music. A charismatic man with a very high energy level and extremely passionate about his food, it’s tough to make him sit in one place for more than 10 – 15 minutes. He would go to check the kitchen, the new apparatus, have a talk with the guys; no wonder the place exudes such high energy.
The huge wine cellar to walk through to the waiting bar area. Yes, the waiting bar is a first of its kind in Kolkata. As you wait for your turn to be seated, order your drinks and then either go for the Bar or the restaurant area. These are the two main divisions. However, within these two areas there are several pockets and various seating arrangements which take away the otherwise monotonous 2 / 4 / 6 seater or round table seating arrangements. My recommendation for a cosy conversation would be the corner seating area in the Bar which gives a view of both the iconic bridges of Kolkata, for smokers towards the end of the Bar, for groups-the lounge area and for family diners, the normal tables which are comfortably spaced.
Omakase in Kolkata?
This is going to be the acid test for Kolkata as omakase needs a certain degree of maturity to enter a place and trust the chef completely to allow him to serve you as per his wish.
Sushi out of a tree?
Their signature dish, 8 pieces of sushi are presented in various layers on a tree with the wasabi, pickled ginger and daikon in the centre. Start with Tuna Urakami rolls which has topping of Japanese mayo and tempura dust. The surprise is a sushi burger, where a spicy salmon gets sandwiched between two layers of rice and tied with a nori string. This is a signature dish of Pa Pa Ya. There is also Unagi and yellow tail too. This is one of the must have dishes if you are coming to Pa Pa Ya Kolkata.
You need to tighten your seat belts for lots of surprises and innovations in dimsums, sashimis and nigidis. While there are classics, there is a separate section dedicated to modern Sushi. The interesting part about this restaurant is the wide variety of equally appetizing vegetarian fare in all sections and strangely (for me), some of the vegetarian dishes outshone the non vegetarian ones. Take for example, crispy vegetable maki dehydrated spinach. Vegetarian sushi happens probably only in India but this one is par excellence. The spinach on top of the sushi crackles in the mouth giving a unique flavour and texture profile.
I had eaten crispy lotus stems at a lot of places but these ones here were humungous. Thin crisps of large lotus stems deep fried in a sweet and spicy sticky sauce with sesame seeds sprinkled is the best thing to have with your favourite cocktail.
Five dishes which you must try when you enter Pa Pa Ya Kolkata for the first time?
Take our pick here –
Other than the ones already spoken above,
Avocado Carpaccio- I have never seen avocado cut into such thin slices. Topped with coriander, jalapenos, dried kelp and yuzu soy, once you put a couple of slices at one go into your mouth, it explodes with a variety of flavours.
Horenso Gomae Roasted Garlic– It’s spinach and sesame seed sauce. But who knew this could be such a beauty not just to look at but also on the palate. Break the cracker in to the sesame paste, stir it all up with your spoon and scoop some spinach with the sesame sauce. The umami from this dish is unbelievable.
The motherload- Butayakitori. It’s pork belly imported from Belgium. It comes in a skewer with a soft and juicy celery stalk in between two cubes of the belly. The bellies are soaked in soy, mirin and sichimi giving it a strong sweet salty and sticky effect. Pop one cube in your mouth and it melts away. It comes with a side of apple and betel leaf salad.
Lamb rendang– The curry flavourful with kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass and the meat falling off the bone. What else do you need. Just a few pieces of prata and scoop it up to reach a different level of ecstasy.
Chorizo takoyaki, negi tare, parmesan tuile – It came to the table and started dancing. Yes, they were dancing flakes or commonly known as bonito flakes. It covered a dumpling of grilled octopus and chorizo. Surf and turf at its best, if you are a seafood lover, this is a must try dish.
From dimsums to sushi, sashimi, soups, salads, sliders and even tapas portions, they have it all. If you can manage to pick one dish from each of the above and still have some space left to explore (which you must), then the main course will baffle you. Beautiful combinations of noodles from udon to efu to pad thai will bowl you over along with their rice staples and a variety of pan Asian delicacies.
All this gastronomic experience will never be complete without the choicest of spirits in the form of cocktails. You will get your classic cocktails as well as modern and Asian take on them. Some of the interesting ones are Tokyo Summer, Pa Pa Ya Sling, U-Isuki-Sho and more.
The perfect climax to a great meal with many layers. Flambé is once again back in the city. This time in the form of chocolate ball on fire. The flambé is done with cointreau poured on a ball of chocolate. As the chocolate melts away, the various elements are exposed. There are dry fruits and nuts, chocolate crumbs, chocolate brownie, vanilla ice cream and caramel. When all of these are mixed, they become a perfect marriage of flavours and texture.
Will Pa Pa Ya Kolkata revive Park Street
While Hard Rock Cafe, Pa Pa Ya Kolkata now and Mamagoto in the recent past has definitely added on to the glamour factor and is pulling the crowd back to an extent, old crowd pullers like Peter Cat, Mocambo Bar B Q, Flavours of China need a lot of rehash and revamp and the first two in particular, in terms of food and service completely. Who would not agree the same about Flurys too? The service is on a downhill since long and doesn’t even reach a plateau.
A certain street can survive only when there are multiple options left open to the guests. Oasis serves one of the best baked fish, Olypub was a coveted watering hole as well as the best beef steak in the city, Waldorf on Little Russel Street after changing its erstwhile location from the place where Mamagoto is now, is distant from its past glory. In the same place, Marco Polo opened and shut down. Silver Grill is another watering hole which had excellent chili pork. Over time, the customer profile changed but these places didn’t upgrade themselves, hence as a gradual process, they stopped attracting the new generation who would come to these watering holes. Trincas is a cult place, why it can’t be a preferred food tourism destination? Their managements would probably disagree since they go housefull for every single service. But what happens when the older gen moves on. This is one of those streets in Kolkata where once upon a time, almost each joint, used to have live music over dinner. It was one of the most happening night spots in Kolkata. For how long will restaurants in Kolkata ride on nostalgia driven strategy. It is bound to give in someday. There cannot be a better time than this to cash in for these joints. Like a giant mall, there are enough anchor brand stores but finally one needs to pull the customers inside the store and then showcase the products. I believe there cannot be any other place in Kolkata which can be an ideal one to change boys to men, to celebrate the first salary, to go on a dinner date, to propose and to come back with family.
For the time being, the space of KFC and Bodega Cantina Y Bar is up for taking, is Mr. Zorawar Kalra listening to that?