In the words of the legendary Amrish Puri from the timeless 1987 classic Mr. India - मोकाम्बो खुश हुआ (Mocambo khush hua) . I cannot remember when was the last time I dined at Mocambo. I am told though, it has topped the charts of Calcutta restaurants that specialize in continental cuisine, for decades together.
One fine Saturday evening, the wife and son had an invite at her friends’ and the husband was not invited. So the husband and a buddy decided to explore the uncharted territory called Mocambo on Park Street.
As you can see in the picture, this place is frequented by a lot of fair-skinned people from foreign shores. I am sure by now they are tired of eating curries and want some food as they remember it from back home. The two brown-sahibs were early bird and were able to squeeze in, without having to wait for a table. Most were in groups of 5-6, requiring longer waits for their table. Initially the steward offered us a table just by the door. The brown-sahibs were not very happy at being treated unequally. They saw a table just adjacent to it becoming empty, facing the big French windows. They grabbed it and settled down after all, this is Calcutta. You need to fight for every inch of your space. Did not make us look like very graceful guests, but then again we were here for the food not to exhibit graciousness ;-)
It was Saturday evening and the crowds were beginning to swell, with not another empty table in sight. We started browsing the menu. The place smelled good and the service was prompt. Our steward came up to us and handed over the menu, with an interesting preface.
I agree with the Englishman on the menu - ‘There is no love greater than the love of eating’ and I have a figure to prove it. :) . We were about to begin our culinary journey on a pleasant evening. Deciding to start off, with an icy cold beer (yes yet again). Skipped the starters to maintain the budget. The beer in most restaurants come with a side of nuts, or चनाचूर, চানাচুর (a medley of nuts, fried potato sticks, pulses and spices – that is the best translation I can do). The refills are free – No not for the beer but for the ‘Chanachur’. This stuff does a good job of filling you up prior to the dinner entrees, saves you money – a precious commodity in rare supply !
I suggested to my dining partner to skip chicken and go for the fresh catch (fish). He acquiesced. Ordering himself Fish Sizzler while I got was was called – ‘Want a neat fish ?’, it promised to be Fish N Chips, sans the chips. It had a nice warm and fuzzy description that I cannot recall in it’s entirety but it went like this - ‘The fisherman went to sea and returned with a fresh catch and asked his wife to cook it; who cooked it with the flour that was on her hands something something …’. I tried to imagine myself as the fisherman and my wife as his wife. After some deliberation we decided, while we were at it, might as well get a ‘Cream of Asparagus’ soup in 1 * 2 mode. The steward okayed it, he might have labeled us as cheapskates who could not afford one soup each. But life goes on.
The beer is served stylishly in heavy silver mugs, with the words ‘Mocambo Restaurant’ embossed on it. If you look hard enough, you can see part of it in the picture above. And no don’t even think about it, these mugs are NOT souvenirs you could keep or take them with you.
The ‘Cream of Asparagus’ was the best part of the Mocambo experience. It was silky smooth with small diced chunks of Asparagus, not aplenty, but just right. It had a very subtle taste that I had not experienced in a while. Needless to say I was grinning, the joy of eating was taking over. The soup came in silver bowls, with lids on top. The lids were removed promptly by the waiter serving us, even before I could say ‘Asparagus’. So no pictures. Oh and the soup was piping hot, just how I like it.
While I drank the last drop of the soup, I was wondering if it was a smart idea to go Dutch on the soup. We could have had one each. But then again. It was now time for the main course to arrive. Wait was over and the spread looked pretty darn good.
The sizzler did do all the talking. The ‘Neat Fish Fillet’ looked sexy ! It came with home made tar-tar sauce in a sort of a longish cup with a spout vaguely resembling the magic lamp from ‘Aladdin and the Genie’.
It would have been a shame, if I had no complaints to make. So here it is. The steamed vegetables and the cheesy pasta that was served along with my fried fish filet was stone cold. They did not even care to toss it into the microwave for 20 seconds. The steward got called and the complaint was lodged. He did offer to give me some warm vegetables. Just to uncomplicate matters and take it a little easy, I told him nevermind. He nodded apologetically and disappeared into the crowd. I was never to see him again that evening.
The total damage was about Rs. 800 (1 beer, 1 * 2 soup and 2 entrees plus taxes). We had a smile on our face. So the verdict in the match-up Amber vs. Mocambo ? Mocambo is the winner hands down ! Unless you are crazy about skewered Tandoori potatoes.
The phone rang , it was the wife. She was ready to be picked up from her friends’.