Thursday, August 19, 2010

1,2 - Cha-Cha-Cha

Warning: This post is likely to transport you back to the late 1970's - the year of the release of the bolly/holly thriller - Shalimar a.k.a  [Raiders of the sacred stone] starring - Rex Harrison, Sylvia Miles, John Saxon and our very own "Garam-Dharam pa ji".

I was introduced to this 132 year old eatery in north-central Calcutta by a friend who had caught a glimpse of this otherwise forgotten hole in the wall. It sits on Bidhan Sarani (very close to the Scottish Church College); also opposite from the ancestral home of Swami Vivekananda.

I found some trivia about this eatery penned by one Goutam Mitra on The text below has been reproduced as is: (click here for the original write-up). You will need to scroll about half-way down to see the review.

Those who know about Kolkata City will surely agree that this hotel used to a landmark in Bengali life of North Kolkata! Started as humble roadside dhaba ( simple eatery where ethnic food is served) in 1875 by great grandfather of Mr.Bishwanath Patro, an Oriya businessman, for the Taxi Drivers of North Kolkata, soon earned fame among Bengali gentlemen that this place provides excellent food, Mutton cooked in Punjabi style with paratha. It became very famous that many aristocrats, theater personalities, movie stars, doctors,and students started getting their meals from there.
The hotel was just a shanty and located just next to the paternal house of Swami Vivekananda (the famous sage/ saint of India). It was shifted in front of Swami Vivekananda's house to fix a statue of Swami  ji next to their house after 20 years of long request from Ramkrishna Mission.(see picture). It was rebuilt as an air conditioned facility and fancy chairs. I too have tasted their food many times in my child hood. It now has completed 136 years of it's existence! Bravo! and kudos to our Bengali palate, this is going to continue in years to come. - Goutam Mitra

Now, do not go to this place expecting fine dining, exquisite service or any such banal element of eating out. This place serves just food and that's all they do. We reached there close to 9 pm. It is a three-storeyed eatery, with the ground floor exclusively reserved for carry outs. A narrow staircase leads you to a small floor space with low-ceiling dining room on the first floor, which has been fitted with three air-conditioners, hard at work. The place was busy as a mill canteen from the 70's. Two erudite looking men with french-cut beard kept a watch from behind the counter; closer observation revealed they were the cashiers.

All tables were full - we gingerly approached the bearded men and were assured that it would only be a few minutes for a table for two. I patiently stood in a corner next to the cash counter, waiting for a table. In the meanwhile a waiter hollered from the second floor and we were ushered in to a dining room pretty much a replica of the first floor sans the french-bearded men.

Chacha's menu

We sat down and without wasting any time, and after only a cursory glance at the menu card; quickly ordered - based on the advice of my friend who took me there. I got a Fish Fry and a Fowl Cutlet, while my buddy got himself 2 Fish Fries to begin with.

The fish fry was relatively small, but easily the best fry I have had. This does reinforce that  best things in life do come in small fried packages. The crust was neither too thick nor thin, yet flaky. And surprisingly this Fish Fry had fish in it ;-) unlike most places where there is more 'masala' stuffing than actual fish. The fish fillet too was moist yet flaky, well marinated, not too spicy, just right with shredded green chillies embedded into the crust. The round thing next to the Fish Fry on the plate was the legendary Fowl Cutlet - made with minced chicken blended with 'khara masala' and deep fried. The crust was unique almost fluffy like a 'Poori', the taste raised all my tastebuds. All this was served up with a generous helping of onion-cucumber and 'Kashun-dee' !

Half eaten English Fry
It was 9 pm in the night, but I was a man on a mission; not willing to stop quite yet. Got myself another order of a Fowl Cutlet and English Fry ! English Fry was an oblong shaped fry, different only in shape; almost identical in taste.

The fries were Rs. 53 a pop, and the Fowl Cutlet I believe was priced in the mid-forties. The deep fried dinner started to settle in and we agreed it was time to hit the road. Amongst the two of us, we rustled up a bill of Rs. 253 - not bad for a Sunday dinner !

People around us were ordering Chinese, Tandoori, Biryani, Parantha and Mutton. Chacha's lately has dissolved into a mult-cuisine restaurant - a fad these days. But we stuck to their specialty. Now was time for some dessert.

We were in Kolkata's Sweet Meat Valley namely Ram Dulal Sarkar Street (a.k.a Beadon street). This stretch has no less than 5 'Mish-tee-r dokans' only within a few meters of each other - including the legendary Girish Chandra Dey and Nakur Chandra Nandy famous for their invention of the 'Golap-pati-sandesh'. These were 10 bucks a pop !

 A fresh consignment of 'Golap-Pati-Sandesh' (not in picture) had just arrived and I got 6 of them for take-away ! It is sad to see even a traditional store such as this has ventured into 'Mango, Strawberry, even Kiwi flavored' sandesh. Being no fan of them flavored variety, probably made just to suit the the global bengali palate, I passed on them.

The store by itself looked gloomy; lit up by white lights, but I were to learn later the 'Golap-pati-sandesh' were to kill for.

Next stop Nalin Chandra Das and sons - a 160 years old sweet-ery. This place was brighter and more welcoming that the previous and recently renovated.

After reviewing the display, we settled on 'Abaar Khabo' - an interestingly named (each famous sweet shop has their own recipe for it) , this one was about quarter of the size of a golf-ball, stuffed with a medley of pistachio and cashew. I tasted one of this and liked it enough to get half a dozen of them for take-away.  The store boys were again trying to push the 'Orange, Mango, Strawberry and Kiwi flavored' varieties, but we declined the offer at it's onset.  The second take-away choice was for my chocolate loving son - Chocolate Sandesh. We were told it was made of pure chocolate with a centre of liquid chocolate filling. I was to find out, it were true. My son quite enjoyed the bizzare combination of chocolate and 'chhana'.

There was a funny incident at this store, I was clicking away with my camera phone when  I was asked by one of the store boys where was I from ? I told him I was very much from Kolkata and have been born, raised, stayed, lived and blogged right here !  Our taking pictures got the attention of the store manager and he came up to us and requested us to try their Butterscotch Ice-Cream Sandesh, he insisted that it was a new addition to their menu; a must try and it would be on the house ! Both me and my buddy were offered one each of the wonderfully moist and cold - Ice Cream Sandesh, with a butterscotch crunch filling each bite !

And who said, people in Kolkata don't smile at strangers, or better even don't offer free dessert to customers !  To some this might mean that the City of Joy is stuck in the 80's - a city of yore, I would say it with aplomb that I am proud of such gestures. Only in Coolkata !

Sweet dreams, sleep tight and don't led the bed bugs bite !


  1. Gosh why do i always come across your articles at 12 o clock at night when there is no option of getting food from anywhere(i live in a hostel).Because reading them makes me extremely hungry!
    I am a huge foodie,and there is no place like Kolkata when it comes to delicious food and at cheap rates.Everytime i come to kolkata i usually do a round of all my favourite jaunts including most which you have mentioned here...Flurys and all.
    I would love to be your "partner in crime" sometime!
    Till then....oopps thats another grumble from my stomach....oh i can almost smell that fish fry....

  2. Hey Avishar,

    Thanks for your comments! Were you already in the know of "Chacha's"? Which is your favorite food place in Kolkata and when is your next trip to Calcutta, during Pujo may be ? Just come on down and holler for me and I will be there. Till then save your appetite and see you soon ! For now - just raid the hostel fridge and see what you can get ?

  3. This is one of the most authentic blog on Kolkata and its everfresh charms! I am now following you oacross FB and Twitter. You rock ...also try out the "Fish Kobiraji" at Chacha's its great.

  4. Thanks *Finetuner for thy kind words ! Got to try the "Fish Kobiraji" the next trip down chacha town :)


Related Posts with Thumbnails