Thursday, April 10, 2014

ITC Sonar Poila Boisakh , 2014

Welcoming Poila Boisakh with ITC Sonar's Grand buffet

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The spread for Poila Boisakh 'Bengali New Year' at ITC Sonar is a grand affair for those who would want to explore the culinary fare of Bengal. I was invited as part of of the Kolkata Food Bloggers Team to sample the lovely dishes on offer and it was a gala affair indeed with some delightful kitchen secrets and a few anecdotes from Senior Sous Chef Gaurav Lavania himself.

The Gondhoraj Lassi

On arrival our lovely hostess Arundhati took us to the Eden Pavillion and we were immediately served the 'Gondhoraj Lassi' which had a beautiful Bengali twist to the lovely drink with the addition of a particularly fragrant lime from Bengal called the 'Gondhoraj'. To be fair with my first sip my immediate reaction was that the lassi needed to be thick and then I realized what is actually being called lassi is Bengal's own 'Ghol' a version of the lassi which is much more thinner in consistency. I would say it is the perfect way to begin a meal on a hot summer's day. Chef Lavania did mention that the traditional 'Aam Porar Shorbot' (a classical summer cooler made with burnt raw mango) would also be available with the buffet spread for diners to indulge in.

When it came to presentation ITC is impeccable. The meal itself is served on earthenware dinner plates and bowls which gives the entire meal a very rustic Bengali touch in a sophisticated environment .

For starters one can expect the classic vegetable chop fried perfectly with the perfectly crisp yet light breadcrumb coating and soft mashed filling . It was a delight to indulge in the vegetable chop. To be honest the fish paturi (a classical Bengali dish of fish prepared by first wrapping it in Banana leaves and then steaming it) did fall short of my expectations. I personally found the fish a bit tough and missed the soft flakiness. Besides what was served as a starter is usually taken with hot steaming rice but then again I have to admit that the mustard sauce coating of the fish was nothing short of perfection with its sharp taste which was a delight for the taste buds.

From their elaborate spread one can except perfectly puffed up soft luchis (Now luchi is something similar to puris but quite different since it is made with all purpose flour and is supposed to be paper thin yet soft ) and I am delighted to say that the luchis served at ITC are perfect indeed. I was intrigued to know that the recipes for Bengali dishes followed by ITC were originally sourced from handwritten recipes from a long time ago and you can except some long lost traditional dishes. The cholar dal' (chana dal) was exactly how a Bengali would expect it to be prepared with the mild sweet taste. There is a host of other dishes waiting for you to indulge in.

Now I have always maintained that taste is subjective and the same dish from a region can taste different when cooked by different cooks. While the 'mochar ghonto' (banana flower curry) isn't what many Bengali households are used to , ITC's delightful twist to this dish makes it extremely tasty even though it strays a bit from the usual route. The chef shared an interesting story which threw a beautiful light on authenticity. A particularly famous guest of ITC had wanted his 'aloo posto' (Potatoes cooked in poppy seeds) to have a yellowish tinge since people from a certain part of Bengal use turmeric with their 'aloo posto'. Quite frankly as someone who is used to 'aloo posto' being white in colour I would have considered it unauthentic but thanks to this beautiful story shared by our chef I can only ask diners to enjoy the dishes without thinking too much about what is considered authentic because if it tastes well it has won all the battles.

From their main course you can expect a delightful chicken curry which has a lovely thin gravy with the perfect blend of garlic ginger and onion , typically served in Bengali households . On offer would also be a host of fish curries which are commonly eaten for special celebratory occasions in Bengali households and then of course there is the 'Kosha Mangsho' (mutton curry) which is a delight with the 'luchi'. This I found a bit too dry for my palate but my fellow diners gushed about it and even I have to admit that the texture of the meat was perfectly soft and succulent.

For me the best was saved for the last with the array of desserts. I must say that I have to appreciate the chef for having served the 'rajbhog' slightly warm yet not completely hot which simply made it melt in my mouth. 'The 'chanar jilipi' is another classic Bengali sweet and the 'payesh' made with 'nolen gur' ( Rice pudding made with palm jaggery) was simply marvelous with the right amount of sweetness.

Also on offer are some delightful preparations of Prawns but since I am allergic to prawns I unfortunately missed out on some delightful dishes.

You can indulge in a full course Bengali culinary affair (from their buffet spread) at the Eden Pavillion from the 11th of April to the 19th of April for Rs2000 plus tax which includes soft drinks and for those who love their alcohol the spread is on offer for Rs2750 which includes unlimited drinks from selected premium brands of alcoholic drinks.

If your palate craves food from the North West frontier you can indulge in their delightful spread available at the very famous Peshawari restaurant.

You can also read Archita's experience and Amrita's experience of the same event.

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