Friday, October 03, 2008

Eating Out in Pune: New Options!

Oh! CalcuttaAh finally, I thought, as I read the neatly printed invitation. The folks who run Mainland China and Sigree restaurants were opening another one in Pune; they had invited me for a special 'tasting' session. I was obviously excited! Restaurants that serve Bengali food in an elegant setting are a rarity. Now Oh! Calcutta promises to do just that - in Pune. Along with Bengali classics, their menu includes dishes from the British Raj and those that came into Calcutta from the Awadh.

When we visited Oh! Calcutta, the indoor seating area was ready but they were putting finishing touches on their outdoor seating area - the entire restaurant has a very modern and contemporary look. Artifacts from Bengal have been used throughout (clocks, chandeliers, statues outdoor, etc.) that will bring a smile to anyone who's lived in Calcutta before. The menu is quite elaborate; since this is Bengali food, the non-vegetarian section is where the action is, so to say!

Oh! Calcutta Pune
Oh! Calcutta in PuneThe chef had created a special menu for us this night. Starters included the Murshidabadi Chicken - named after another historical city close to Calcutta, Bhapa Alu - boiled potatoes tossed in mustard sauce and poppy-seed paste, Bhapa Ilish - steamed Hilsa fish in mustard sauce. But the one that I really liked was the steamed Bhetki covered with a layer of home- made cottage cheese and spices.

Unlike some other Indian cities, Calcutta isn't very old. The city was largely created by the British East India Company during the 17th century. Before this, Calcutta existed as a village called Kolkata; during that time, the more important city in this region was Murshidabad. Several years later, the Bengal nawab Siraj-ud-daullah captured Calcutta from the British, who regained it after the Battle of Plassey. In 1772 this city became the capital of British India and remained that way until 1912, when Delhi became the new capital.

Bhapa Alu
Bhapa Ilish
Bhetki in ChannaOur main course consisted of crispy puris, aloo-kopi - cauliflower and potatoes made the Bengali way, kosha mangsho - mutton fried in Bengali spices, begun bhaja - eggplant slices fried in mustard oil with spices, and cholar daal - Bengali dal. They also served an interesting okra dish made with raw mangoes that was very interesting. My wife has decided to go vegetarian for a few days due to the festival season, which explains why there was less meat and fish than usual on my table!

I did not try the Biryani here tonight which has an interesting story. The Biryani came to Calcutta when cooks from the Nawab of Awadh fled here during the Sepoy Mutiny. The cooks arrived here with their biryani recipe which evolved over the years to create its own identity. The real Kolkata biryani is far spicier than it's other cousins and makes use of potatoes which absorbs the spices and their flavors during the cooking process. However, this biryani is more robust and less refined than the Hyderabad and Lucknow versions.

Main Course at Oh! Calcutta Pune
Lichu Payesh at Oh CalcuttaDessert consisted of a Leechu-Payesh, made of diced litchis in a sweet rice-pudding, which was very good. And of course, a mishti paan to chew on at the end. All in all, great food, especially for those who have been missing Bengali food. Purists may find some dishes not as authentic as the real thing; the restaurant has modified some dishes (such as the Bhapa Ilish?) to make them appeal to a broader spectrum of tastes. However, I am looking forward to coming here again to try some other items off their menu.

BTW, the bad news in all of this: Oh! Calcutta has opened where Bombay Brasserie once was (City Point, Dhole Patil Road). I loved that restaurant too, and was sorry to see it go away.

Update, Oct 30, 2008: You must try the Rohun Bhapa Maach: a starter of fresh-water Bhetki steamed with extra pungent mustard paste, garlic pearls and chilli paste. Excellent stuff! Also consider the Daab Chingdi, an entree of succulent prawns cooked in tender coconut morsels and spices, and served in a tender coconut shell. The Misti Doi is very authentic here too; this dessert is prepared and served in a earthern bowl. Approx price of above: Rs: 2000, pricey! Ph: 66011101

Another new restaurant that opened recently is Little Italy, right next to the large Central Mall on University Road. The dining areas are nicely designed and the whole place has an elegant, modern look. Sadly, they only serve vegetarian food and no alcohol. The food itself was good, but modified for Indian tastes. For those who wish to try the real thing, La Dolce Vita and Casablanca offer the only good options right now in this city. The pictures here are of the Bruschetta, Salad and Pizza we ordered that night.

Bruschetta
Italian Salad
PizzaAnd finally, Barbeque Nation has opened in Pune too. The idea is to try cooking your own kababs and marinated meats at your table (don't worry, they usually come 90% cooked already). It reminds me of dining at Melting Pot in the USA, but there the meat came completely raw and had to be really cooked at the table. Barbeque Nation is located on Nagar Road (near Aga Khan Palace), behind the Dass showroom. Phone: 32327788, 7799

Update, Oct 30, 2008: Here are some pictures of the excellent buffet at Barbeque Nation from our visit about two weeks back. At this time, I would rate this best buffet in town (not counting the 5-star hotels). Move your cursor over the pictures for a description. Enjoy!

Cooking kababs at the table in BBQ Nation
A full plate at BBQ Nation
Crabs at Barbeque Nation
Open Kitchen of Barbeque Nation
Desserts at Barbeque Nation Recent Updates on Pune's Dining Scene:


40 comments:

ray said...

Hi ,

I was reading ur blog posts and found some of them to be very good.. u write well.. Why don't you popularize it more.. ur posts on ur blog ‘travelers tales’ took my particular attention as some of them are interesting topics of mine too;

BTW I help out some ex-IIMA guys who with another batch mate run www.rambhai.com where you can post links to your most loved blog-posts. Rambhai was the chaiwala at IIMA and it is a site where users can themselves share links to blog posts etc and other can find and vote on them. The best make it to the homepage!

This way you can reach out to rambhai readers some of whom could become your ardent fans.. who knows.. :)

Cheers,

Deepti said...

Its really sad that Bombay Brasserie shut shop :( but will try the new option... Barbeque nation was good at Bangalore .. hope its the same thing here too :) The options just keep increasing in pune ..

Amar said...

Hi Shantanu,

Great to know about Oh'Calcutta! I'd been to Hotel Mainland China last week and noticed that they were opening it shortly!

Nice snaps (as usual!) and the dishes seem too tempting!

HAREKRISHNAJI said...

That's terrific. It must have been quite a fantastic experience to be at a special 'tasting' session , that also for your hometown food. Oh Calcutta has got branch in Mumbai also. I have never tasted Bengali food before.

Anonymous said...

B. Brasserie's Kebab Factory was great when it started out early this century, but the last year or so it's been so-so. Ditto for the lunch buffet. Sigree next door is far better, IMHO.

Oh! Calcutta is certainly a welcome change. I've been to the one in Calcutta and was treated to a most amazing dish - daab chingri - prawns in tender coconut and coconut milk, served inside a green coconut. I hope they have it on the menu at Pune, or I shall be forced to stage a rasta roko or a bandh or whatever authentic Bengali method is in vogue for expressing the just demands of the starving working classes.

I am not a purist or a native, but yes, I agree the food is toned down compared to the "original", no doubt to cater to a wider taste.

My definition of "original" comes from a small place near Park Street, Kolkata, called "Kasturi". A pretty ordinary looking joint, but one which serves the best paturi I've had, and a thing called kochupata chingri bhapa. They know their mustard and they're not afraid to use it, the way God meant it to be :)

sansmerci said...

i've blogrolled u at chennaifoodreviews.blogspot.com :)

Shantanu said...

@ray: Thank you. Re: Rambhai, very apt indeed! Pre-Internet, it was at the college chaiwallah's where many ideas were born and shared. I will certainly check it out.

@deepti: Yes, BBQ Nation is the same Bangalore-based chain. They plan to open more outlets in Pune.

@amar: They just opened; I guess you will now see hoardings advertising this restaurant in Mainland China.

Shantanu said...

@anon: I guess you are right about Bombay Brasserie. Along with the recent competition (from Sigree next door), they also had some management trouble (it was a franchise of Bombay's Copper Chimney). Re: bandh, etc., haha, that won't be required at all. Dab-Chingdi is in their menu too!

@sansmerci: Thank you, thank you. :)

@harekrishnaji: It certainly is. I think they have a Calcutta rickshaw in front of the Mumbai one - which is cool.

Priyank said...

Very cool, haven't tried a lot of Bengali foods before other than the standard desserts. Looking forward to my visit to Kolkata next month and ofcourse I will ask you for recommendations :)

HAREKRISHNAJI said...

I celebrated my birthday today in one of the restaurant as suggested in your blog. That's Mainland China at Senapati Bapat Marg and we throughly enjoyed the dinner. It was one of the finest and delicate chinise meal I ever had.

Sig said...

I've been reading a lot about Oh Calcutta lately... hope to try it some day!
I am so jealous of you Shantanu, you have the best of both worlds!

Lakshmi said...

Story of Calcutta is quite similar to that of Madras - Its been ages since I tasted some bengali dishes -the last time was in college when all my roommates were Bengalis :)

Vikash Kumar said...

So sad to hear that Bombay Brasserie is gone, I also loved that place. Nevertheless that gives the chance to try this new place, which I sure will, in a short while. Thanks for the info...

I had been to Barbeque Nation recently and liked the place & food and wrote a review for it as well.... and about Little Italy, isn't it the new branch of the old La Pizzeria?? & I find the original La Pizzeria (near old Central Mall) quite a place for Italian food in Pune, not sure about the new one though.

Shantanu said...

@priyank: Bengali food isn't as ubiquitous (outside Bengal) as South Indian or Punjabi food. There is a restaurant called Aheli at Peerless Inn in Esplanade which I love. Authentic Bengali specialities served in a traditional Bengali ambiance.

@harekrishnaji: Glad to know that. The two outlets of Mainland China in Pune have been remarkably consistent with the quality of their food. I have never had a 'bad day' there yet.

@sig: I guess that is true. Travelling frequently does have some benefits. :)

@lakshmi: Madras, Bombay and Calcutta do have similar histories since they were all important port cities for the British.

@vikash: Welcome to my blog. Re: La Pizzeria, I have stayed away thus far because I knew they do not serve meat. :) I am not sure if Little Italy is owned by them.

Vikash Kumar said...

Thank you Shantanu!! and yes no meat is a disappointment for me as well..

Anu said...

shantanu da excellent narration was in pune last week did visit mainland china n sigree but didnt get a chance to have in Oh Calcutta bcoz the day we planned to hv lunch there they were closed that was disappointing anyways Machaan is also opening up in pune i think in Kakade mall nr Pune univ -Have a lovely Pujo am badly missing Kolkata and yes Aheli is my fav joint as well really feel so nostalgic now

Kalz said...

I am a big fan of little italy..For those who miss the non-vegetarian though can visit Toscana too (Next to Sohos). Their veg dishes resembles mysteriously with little italy.

Sangfroid said...

BBQ Nation is the de facto corporate eating joint (atleast for my employer), here in B'lore. And I simply love it. The good part is that they do not have a fixed starter menu. It varies on each visit!

Little Italy is good too though a little overpriced I'd say.

btw, can people other than your family accompany while you go on these tasting expeditions? If yes, u know whom to ask :-)

Anil P said...

What a coincidence. Just yesterday I saw a well done documentary titled 'Oh Calcutta' :)

Pune was always the place for restaurants, na?

Shantanu said...

@anu: Wish you a Happy Durga Puja too!

@kalz: Yup, Toscano is good; I have reviewed it earlier. After you mentioned it, I noticed that Little Italy does add La Pizzeria to its name.

@sangfroid: BBQ Nation will be next on my dining out list now. Re: Tasting expeditions, heh!

@anil: Until some time back, Pune was a good place for low-priced food. Now there is a boom in upscale dining.

HAREKRISHNAJI said...

I have posted few photographs of Mumbai Sarvajanin Durgotsob on my blog. You may please have a look at them

Anonymous said...

Where is Casablanca?

Zhu said...

Casablanca is in Morocco ;-)

I have this really bad craving for Indian food now. Damn.

Shantanu said...

@harekrishnaji: Great pics! Enjoy the festival season.

@anon: Casablanca, the restaurant, is located in Fortelezza Shopping Complex, opposite Gold Adlabs multiplex in Kalyaninagar.

@zhu: :-o This particular variety of Indian food will only be avaialble in Canada if a Bengali family cooks for you at home. Bengali restaurants are a rarity in North America, actually even in India.

Niladri said...

When we went to OH CALCUTTA on 8th October ( Ashtami of Durga Puja )in the evening around 7 pm, there was just one table full of diners.

We were disappointed to find the dish "kosha mangsho luchi", not upto our expectations. The mutton was hard and not soft melt away type. On complaining, the manager apologized but said the mutton in Pune is of low standard. But this type of excuse is baseless,considering the reputation of the restaurant. On the whole, I would prefer SIGREE to OH Calcutta, though being a Bengali I should be having a soft corner for Oh Calcutta. But

Limesh said...

Hi Nilandri,

I feel I was there too that day and yes the kosha mangsho was not upto mark.But i feel you should give them a chance as they are just setting up.The food is getting better as I visited it again today.Did not order mangsho but the rest luchi / zhinge posto or boneless bhapa ilish and misti doi were awesome and so was the amer shorbat.In all worth another visit :)

Limesh

maitreyee roy said...

shantanu, your blogs are a delight to read. i am totally hooked on to them!!i too live in pune and am a foodie, so ur blogs keep me informed about all the new joints which have opened up here.carry on the great work!!

Arindam Mukherjee said...

Happened to visit Oh! Calcutta yesterday ... and no doubt the food is very good (and a touch too pricey). But I was hoping that they would serve good Mishti Doi ... a rarity outside Calcutta. And honestly I was very disappointed with their over-fermented, somewhat smelly Mishti Doi.

Vikash said...

I visited Oh! Calucutta last Friday on your recommendation. I found the food to be very good. I am not an expert in Bengali cuisine but I found the dishes pretty good. However in dessert only Malpua was really good.. others like Payesh, Mishti Dahi were not impressive.
But worst part was their service. Service was quite slow through out and at the end they made us wait for an hour just to give us the bill. In that duration they didn't bother to inform us the cause of delay. They didn't even attend to us in the mean while. It was really disappointing giving the upscale status & pricing of the place. You don't expect this from a place where you are paying avg of Rs. 1000 per person.

Shantanu said...

@Niladri: Yes, the mutton tends to be a little chewy. I guess this place is good for the one-in-a-while craving for Bong food.

@Limesh: I guess their Mistri Doi is inconsistent in quality, probably because they don't make them afresh every day. I was lucky the first time but not the next.

@Maitreyee: Thank you so much! Thank you for visiting.

@Arindam: Well, I found the same thing in my second trip! However, from what I have seen with how they handled Sigree, they will probably get better with time.

@Vikash: I guess we need to give them this feedback; they push those feedback forms pretty aggresively now-a-days. :)

Toronto Suites said...

Yes Pune is the great option.I been to Pune before and I love the food in the Dhaba outside the Pune.

Manjiri said...

Hi,
I am Manjiri, chef, writer and educator by profession. It was really good to read your blog. Your passion for food is commendable.If you wish you can visit my blog too.Though I have not written much will update soon.

http://manjiri-foodtravelandmore.blogspot.com/

Shantanu said...

@Manjiri: Thank you! I will look forward to your blog posts. It was interesting to see that you have worked in most of the great Oberoi hotels/resorts in India (one of my favorite chains).

Sharmila said...

Hi Shantanu! Am so glad to have found your blog. One newspaper had reviewed Oh!Calcutta and described it as not upto the mark .. which made me pick Sigree. After reading your post am tempted to give it a try ... though I do like the food at Sigree.
Looking forward to more such reviews. :)

Shantanu said...

@Sharmila: Thank you! Do let me know how you find Oh! Calcutta.

Rajarshi said...

Hi Shantanu,

I have been reading your posts regularly since quite sometime. Having spent 2 years of my life in Pune, I enjoy reading your updates about the dining joints of Pune. Didn't know that Pune has so many gastronomic delights to offer (apart from the usual Thousand Oaks). Just wanted to point out a small thing. Calcutta has been derived from 'Kalikata' and not 'Kolkata'. At the time of Job Charnock, the three villages on the banks of Hooghly were Gobindapur, Sutinati and Kalikata. The details can be found at www.calcuttaweb.com/history.shtml.

Thank You

Shantanu said...

@Rajarshi: Thank you for pointing this out. Welcome here!

Uttiya Das said...

Hi Shantanu-da,

i have been to Oh!Calcutta-Pune and came out dissapointed. The food was a disaster just like Oh!Calcutta-New Delhi (Nehru Place) & Oh!Calcutta-Bangalore(Indiranagar). The "kosha mangsho" was not at all good, the "bhapa ilish" was totally different from what i had been since birth, "pabda tel borir jhol" was not upto mark unlike what my mom cooks (she being a punjabi).

Dissapointed from my first visit, i still felt to give it another try, thus, my 2nd visit happened last month. i checked out their "daab chingri", "bhetki gondhoraj", "cholaar daal" & "jhinge poshto". This time too the food wasnt upto mark. "gondhoraj bhetki" is far better in Oh!Calcutta-Mumbai (Lokhandwala branch), "daab chingri" too was a big dissapoinment (Bangalore has the option of '6-ballygunge place' for better "daab chingri"), "jhinge poshto" wasn't that good too.

The worth mentions in Oh!Calcutta-Pune till now has been "aam porar shorbot", "khejurer chutney", "mochaar chop" & "mishti doi".

Oh!Calcutta-Mumbai (Tardeo branch) & Kolkata are the best Oh!Calcutta in India, though not expecting AAHELI, BHOJOHARI MANNA & TERO PARBON to be in Mumbai-Pune. But heard, 6-BALLYGUNGE-PLACE is opening a branch in Mumbai!

Hopefully, Pune-based Non-Bengalis (& Bengalis too) will get much more good of bengali food in coming years as they deserve to learn about bengali cuisine.

And regarding Mainland China, all i can say is that it is much over-hyped. The dishes there are not all value-for-money especially to a Bengali from Calcutta who's upbringing circled around the Chinese food of Tangra Chinatown and Park Street. Though i have some favorite dishes in Mainland China too like the peking-duck and dimsums. But, the dishes have consistent taste in both their Senapati Bapat Road & Dhole Patil Road branches unlike in Mumbai where you can slightly differentiate the taste between Andheri West and East branches.

Anyways, ur blog is really a good-one and hope to read more about other Pune restaurant reviews. I went to MYSTIC MASALA & WHISPERING BAMBOO after reading ur review and and discovered KIVA & ARTHUR'S THEME through your blog. It was great to be all there.

hopefully, aaro bhalo bhalo restaurant-in-pune discover korte paarbo through your blog..

Shantanu said...

@Uttiys: Thank you for the detailed perspective. If beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, I guess taste lies in the palate of the beholder! To each his own. I do find Mainland China good - remember that both Mainland China and Oh Calcutta do not try to be completely 'authentic' but try to ensure they have a wider acceptance amongst people.

I did have the pleasure of eating out at Tangra in Calcutta. BTW, there is a new chef in town from the Tangra area - Red Dragon in Kalyani Nagar (near Bounty's).

Uttiya Das said...

okk... where is this RED DRAGON in Kalyaninagar ??.. do u have the phone number ??..
i'll check out then this week only...

meanwhile, i had chinese-dinner at All Stir Fry & it was another harrowing experience. The interior was really good but the food was equally bad.

Shantanu-da ki bolbo tomake.. i really miss Kolkata-r chinese food.. specially Tangra & Park Street restaurants..

by the way, ei year-er kalyaninagar-er durga pujo hochhe ??..