April 9, 2009 5:24:14 am
Forget cello kebabs and chicken a la Kiev. Timchi,risotto,paella,ratatouille,crepes and more,Kolkata is celebrating world cuisine and how. Talk takes a look
The White House
Picture a cosy little corner of an open air café. A dinner under the stars,minus the heat and mosquitoes of course. An avante garde spread of fancy porcini mushrooms,delicate crepes and pizzas glowing in tropical colours If the thought leads you down the perfumed aisles of some obnoxiously expensive five-star,think again. Because Casa Toscana,is probably something that has stepped right out of your dream and planted itself in a cosy corner off the Exide crossing. Toscana,which calls itself a pizzeria/trattoria is probably what you would want a nice pizza-pasta joint to be like. While the indoors,stylishly done up is mellowed down by dim lighting,its the outdoors which walks away with the cake. The atrium like ambience,transparent roof,greenery and antique lighting etc sets the tone for the lip smacking Italian specialties that follow. Be it the crunchy Crème di Funghi con Tartufo (a roasted porcini,button mushroom and truffle oil salad) or the all time favourite Provencale pizza,Casa Toscana makes quite a neat cut with worshippers of cream and cheese. We tried a Zingara non vegetarian pizza. The wafer thin crust,mozzarella,colourful peppers,and minced lamb made quite a heady concoction. And if you thought a dinner would cost you the earth,take heart. The non vegetarian pizzas start from Rs 220 and go upto Rs 330,and we are talking about the large size here. Salads start from Rs 80 and pastas and risottos mostly cost upto Rs 300,and the servings are quite generous. So,whats stopping you?
There must be a firang equivalent of maach-bhaat pangs. You know the very same overwhelming desire for home food which make Bengalis hunt maach bhaat eateries in every corner of the world,be it Boston,Pusan or Reykjavík. How else will you explain the cluster of eateries in the hub of foreign backpackers,Sudder Street? From paella (a spicy rice dish which can be best described as Spanish biryani) to panna cotta (a creamy Italian dessert),this tiny stretch of road has something for every homesick Western traveller. Blue Sky Café,the reigning queen of these low-end eateries,was established in 1974. Its continental menu is exhaustive to say the least. Pancakes,pasta,spaghetti,ravioli,gratins,porridge,crepes and puddings are the mainstays. And then of course there are milkshakes of every conceivable flavour. And all these dont really burn a whole in your pocket. A full-fledged meal for two (including beverages) shouldnt cost you more than Rs 250.
If the indifferent service of this joint is not to your liking,then you can sample a number of other eateries spread around the area. Café Taberna Vasca for instance,this cubby-hole of a café was established a few years ago and is a great favourite with Italian tourists. The cafés freshly baked Danish rolls (Rs 25) and bruschetta (grilled garlic bread) make for ideal breakfast items. And then of course there is Café Fresh and jJuicy,which replicates the Blue Sky Café menu in half the price (which one would have thought impossible). Spaghetti and meatballs for Rs 70. Try and beat that!
Street Side Story
Its easy to miss Tirupati Food Stall. Like countless other roadside eateries in the city,this Sudder Street establishment has no pretensions of poshness. Or does it? Look closely and you will realize that this is not your regular chow mein stall. It has a signboard in Korean for one. And a menu pasted on wall,announcing alien sounding items Pisto Machego (a Spanish stew),Kimchi (Korean fried rice) ,Basque eggs,marmitako (tuna and potato stew)
Mohammad Masum,a 18-year old entrepreneur,explains. This is my attempt to court world cuisine. I have a knack for picking up languages,which is why I befriend a lot of foreigners who visit and learn about their culinary culture from them, says Masum. It was his Korean friends who inspired him to start this business. Korean cuisine is very easy to make and is full of overwhelming flavours. I love dishes like kimchi and ramyeon (Korean noodles), says Masum. Soon Spanish and Italian dishes were added to the menu. Quintessential English breakfast items like bacon with eggs,porridge and pancakes followed. The prices,like all street food joints,were kept dirt low- none of the items in the menu will cost you more than Rs 30). Its not hard to source the ingredients since New Market is just a stones throw away. Moreover,if a patron asks for specific items we try and prepare it after consulting the internet.
The future of food industry lies in such dishes, predicts the young entrepreneur. So does he have expansion plans? No,I will leave for Japan to be with my girlfriend, he says flashing a photo of a young Japanese girl.
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