Thursday, August 26, 2010

Once upon a time in Tángra

Nostalgia is a strange animal. I had not been to Tángra in a long long time. Long enough for me not to remember exactly when was the last time. 

Chinese community has long settled in Calcutta, even so from the pre-independence days.When you think Chinese - you think Bentinck 'Footwear' Street with scores of footwear shops selling everything from naughty boy school shoes to hi fashion, high heel boots; you think Chinese shops selling similar footwear in Old New Market; you think Jimmy's Kitchen on AJC Bose Road; last but certainly not the least you think Tángra.

The other day when I was just willing away time on the internet, I came across a community blog on the Chinese community called, an interesting one I must say. This reminded me back in the days, Tángra used to be unanimous with Chinese food. People came from far and wide, the foodies came, the ladies came, the revelers came, the well heeled came in their fancy white chauffeur driven Contessas, the celebs came and then even the non-Tángra Chinese came. The last category underscored that this was where the Chinese ate Chinese !

I think I might have only eaten a few times in Tángra during my cash crunch college days. I did not recall much about the place - except for unpaved roads, open drains, and the smell emanating from tanneries mixed with that of Chilli Chicken. Despite the squalor environs Tángra was considered hip. It was creating a niche for itself when the term Tángra style Chinese Food was floated around.

I barely made it through college and some how got a sales job to stay afloat, I finally struck gold when I was able to take the proverbial boat into US of A.  It was bye bye Tángra. I was in the land of plenty, the land of the Big Mac, the  land of huge Grand China Buffets claiming to have all-you-can-eat - 120 items with 42 flavors of chicken. This to a boy from Calcutta was Disneyland of food !

Now Chinese food in USA is nothing like the Chinese food I was used to being from east of Cal. But it was still lots of food and a fixed price of  $6.99 (I don't remember the exact price, so bear with me here). A thorough research of all the 120 items led to part disappointment - yet there wasn't any Chilly Chicken or Chicken Chow-mien. The memories of a Chinese food vendor in office para Dalhousie drifted along as I sat down to eat 13 of the 120 items. The modest young fella did great business selling Chilly Chicken / Chow-mien to hungry office goers. He had 6 items at the most, including the chopped chillies in vinegar and hot chilly garlic sauce and NO it wasn't even all-you-can-eat, it was more like all-you-can-sell :))

Fast forward a few years and I return to be the prodigal son of the soil. The restaurant scene has changed in Calcutta. There are malls, there are restaurant chains, there is Anjan Chatterjee's Mainland China with multiple locations, there is boutique bengali food sold in restaurants yada yada yada ....

Downtown Tángra - choc-o-bloc traffic !

This past Sunday I wondered, if I should give Tángra a shot. Was able to get together two old buddies of mine, all foodies and we headed down the pike to China Town. Took a narrow lane into Tángra and was welcome by a place which didn't seem to have changed much (may be more restaurants and eating houses than before). I was amazed by a particular gesture though, as soon as you hit downtown Tangra, with restaurants lined on either side of the narrow concrete lanes, the uniformed valets of all the big restaurants flag you down, wanting you to stop at their employers. Some times you might have to maneuver the cars to try and not hit them.

The dilemma was to choose between big brightly lit restaurants or small, somewhat dingy eating houses possibly run by a middle aged Chinese Aunt. Not knowing what to expect at smaller hole-in-the-wall places, we settled at a big and very brightly lit restaurant named Beijing.

Beijing was a warmly done up restaurant and we sat down in a corner table, after some deliberation. I was surprised by a first glance at the menu, they were written in big bold fonts, and were at least about 1.5 times as much as even a fancy Chinese restaurant. One could order any dish in denominations of half/full plate.

Beijing Menu, look at the prices :-(

Smaller joint this Golden Empire, may be we should have eaten here ...

Here is what we ordered and the verdict

Pepper Fry Shredded Chicken - arrived barely warm, had to call in the manger and he had it replaced, after initially offering to microwave it for us ! I am not sure if this is just a Calcutta thing or not - that instead of replacing, managers have to first make a re-heating offer.

Schezwan Fish - was hot, nothing to complain about, nothing to write home about either.

Dry Chilly Chicken - BAD - this is not how Chilly Chicken was supposed to be, dry chunks of chicken almost white/yellow chicken (sorry no pics. for this baby !)

Gravy Style Chicken Chow-mein - Standard average fare

In addition to the above we had to drown ourselves in 2 drinks and 2 beers to forget the disappointment called Beijing in Tángra. Total damage: Rs. 1477. Average service, no tips !

We were split that if it was due to our idea to stick to a well-lit-up restaurant here as opposed to a eating house, was the reason, we got what we got ? Now with stats as above, I leave it for the house to decide, any Tángra experiences please share.

PS: Hindi-Cheeni "bhai-bhai", nah not at this Beijing :P


  1. Should try Golden Joy if its still there - very good food and much lower prices!

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