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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

For this Delhi restaurant, Kolkata is the muse

The Tangra Project at DLF Avenue offers a magnanimous menu -- from Mughlai food to Anglo-Indian signatures, from traditional Bengali gems to popular Indian-Chinese inspired by the Hakka community who migrated to India.

Written by Divya A | New Delhi |
Updated: November 1, 2021 10:22:47 am
"Isn't that what Kolkata is all about - inclusiveness and a fusion of cultures, wherever everyone is welcome and everyone leaves a mark," remarks Roy.

Post-pandemic, it feels slightly off to encounter a suitably packed 120-seater restaurant on a weekday dinner – a new one at that. But that is where “openness” has worked for The Tangra Project at DLF Avenue – in that it has two entrances, a street-side entrance, and the mall-side entrance, which is completely open with nothing keeping one away. And that is perhaps where Chef Vikramjit Roy plays the biggest ode to the city of joy, Kolkata, the muse for his first venture.

A name to reckon with when it comes to Pan Asian and East Indian cuisine, Roy has been associated with some of the iconic restaurants in the country such as Wasabi by Morimoto at Taj Mahal Palace, Pan Asian at ITC Chola, Chennai and Tian – Asian Cuisine Studio at ITC Maurya. For his first independent restaurant, which opened three weeks ago, the Kolkata boy has crafted a food menu that touches upon the famous food districts in Kolkata.

From Mughlai food to Anglo-Indian signatures, from traditional Bengali gems to popular Indian-Chinese inspired by the Hakka community who migrated to India, the menu is magnanimous with more than 200 dishes. It has been segmented based on the neighborhoods and influences – such as ‘From Burrah Sahib’s Bawarcheekhana’, ‘From My Mum’s kitchen’, ‘New Market’s Kathi Mera Sathi’, ‘Bao Baazar’, and ‘Kowloon to Kalikatta dumplings’.

The menu has puchka, jhaal muri, organic spinach and leek salad, Talumein soup and sizzlers on the same page (literally and metaphorically). In that, it amazes us, but if one understands where it’s coming from, everything falls into place. “Isn’t that what Kolkata is all about – inclusiveness and a fusion of cultures, wherever everyone is welcome and everyone leaves a mark,” remarks Roy.

At around 11pm, just before they are going to down the shutters for the day, Roy sits with us and goes back in time to talk about what we see around. “At the height of its imperial glory in the 19th century, Calcutta became the most cosmopolitan city in Asia, often called the second city of the British Empire. It drew to its fold a host of immigrants,” he says.

The Hakkas, literally dubbed “guests” in China because of their wanderings in search of work, arrived at the docks looking for employment at the mills and tanneries. Wajid Ali Shah, the Nawab in exile from his native Avadh, settled down with his entourage at Metia Burj, followed by his courtesans and cooks. From the Deccan came Tipu Sultan’s family, with their entourage. And there arrived many other outsiders, besides, who would become insiders: the Armenians, the Danish, the Dutch and the Portuguese from earlier colonial outposts; and the enterprising Marwaris.

“Everyone who came was embraced by the city. And that created a convergence of conflicting ideas, impulses and tastes, which spread across India, and continues to inspire artists, intellectuals, adda-enthusiasts, and, yes, cooks and chefs like us,” he remarks. The rasgulla, kathi or Tangra-Chinese, the city’s best-known food exports, may well be symbols of this spirit of inclusiveness and inventiveness. At The Tangra Project, we celebrate this spirit, and seek inspiration from it, he adds.

The entire space flows around a kitchen that bares its workings, and is visible from all tables. The space is also like a stage that changes character throughout the day. These lights change several times throughout the day – ranging from a bright sun-lit room, to a monsoon evening, or a thumping night atmosphere with the shining city lights.

A bar to the left is placed shallow, and brings one in, even as the eatery is still awaiting is liquor license. Once that happens, tcan musical evenings be left behind.

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