The 15th April marks the first day of Bengali calendar year, Poyla Boishakh. Just like the 1st January, Bongs celebrate with traditional sweets and savory treats with family and friends. I do it too or say used to celebrate but of late, it just passes off like any other day. However, this year I had the privilege of having my school buddies over at my place for Bong New Year Eve celebrations and that kind of rekindled the BONG in me and I thought of celebrating POYLA BOISHAKH. So, I called up a friend who was visiting India from Australia and checked if he was free for a couple of drinks and typical Bong dinner thereafter. Although, he had an invite at Gurugram, he decided to take my offer. We planned to meet at our place for the drinks and then go out for dinner.
Sanjeev, my friend landed up at my place around 8 pm and by the time we finished our drinks it was almost 9:30 pm and we decided to try out often heard Bong restaurant called BONG APPETIT in Qutab Institutional Area. The place was midway for both of us and that made sense. After a bit of searching, we found the place using Google Maps. It was inside the Automobile Association of Northern India premises and we had to sign in the gate register at 10 pm even though we were just going to the restaurant!!
Anyways, we reached the restaurant after climbing 4 or 5 flights of stairs to the top floor. We wondered how any middle aged Mashima or Mesho will manage to climb up! The restaurant appeared cosy with 4 tables – one for larger group of 8 persons, two for 4 persons each and one for a couple. The couple table was vacant and we took that up in the absence of any maître d. There was a lone server, a dwarfish steward. After about 15 minutes a guy (I forgot the name, it could be Subroto or Suvobroto or Somboron) wearing kitchen apron came out and asked if we had made reservation. When we said no, he very firmly said that he cannot serve us food as that evening they are only serving fixed Thaali priced at Rs.1200/- + taxes. We had seen the menu board which had luchi, dal, fish fry, fish curry, kosha mangsho and some other vegetarian dishes totalling about 8-9 items including the sweet dish. Frankly, I have never heard of any restaurant that makes food for a fixed number of guests, especially on festive days when it can definitely expect few walk-ins like us. When we pointed out the vacant table, he said it was reserved for some other guests, we thought what will he do with the food if those guests don’t turn up? Isn’t a bird in hand better than the two in the bush?
We came out contemplating where to go now, options being Al Quasar at RK Puram or some dhaba at the Qutab Instt. Area which are usually open till very late. Then I thought of checking with Oh Calcutta, another Bong restaurant in Nehru Place, not wanting to disappoint Sanjeev on Poyla Boishakh. They said, they are open till 11:30 pm and we can walk-in as they are not taking reservation for the evening any more. At that hour it was smooth traffic and we reached there around 10:45 pm.
Even at that hour, Oh Calcutta was running in full steam, there were at least a dozen more people waiting to be seated beside us. It took another 10 minutes to find our table. I have been on many occasions previously also and the service has always been pretty decent. The manager said we should go for the buffet as ala carte will take time. The buffet spread was large starting with salads, appetizers, main course and sweet dishes, over 25 different dishes. And priced at Rs.1035/- plus taxes. We ordered for their famed cocktail – Kaal Boishakhi, a heady mix of Vodka and Aam Panna.
We decided to skip the salads and concentrate on the appetizers and main course. In the first round we had chholar dal-luchi, fish fry and prawn malai curry with pulao. This was followed by more of them and kosha mangsho. The food was as usual excellent, neither spicy nor oily and suited us very well. In the sweet dish, we had all that was on offer right from nolen gurer soufflé to bhapa sandesh to rasmalai (bengali style) and mishti doi. It was a real feast and we profusely thanked Bong Appetit for refusing to entertain us which prompted us to come here at Oh Calcutta!
When I dropped Sanjeev at his place in Vasant Kunj, it was well past midnight and I realised that I have superbly overeaten. My stomach felt like bursting but the feeling of being well fed in true Bong tradition on Poyla Boishak was overwhelmingly satisfying.
Epilogue: Recently I was checking the rating and reviews of Bong Appetit as I thought of visiting that place again for a personal experience. The overall rating in Zomato is 3.4 and reviews are mixed with a large number of reviewers complaining about service and arrogance of the owner/ chef. It also seems that the whole place is run by just 2 individuals, one is the chef cum maître d cum manager cum cashier and the other is that dwarfish steward. Nothing wrong in it if you are able to manage it, I have seen many such joints in coastal India and in the hill station of north India where the restaurants are managed by husband-wife team. But then, they were super efficient in their respective areas.