As one of the food bloggers in Chennai Food Guide, I was invited to The Preview Dinner – ‘Bangalir Bhuribhoj – The Divine Taste of Bengal’, the Bengal Food Festival at Paprika cafe, Courtyard by Marriott Chennai.
What better timing to host a Bengali food festival than during Navratri ! As I entered, I noticed that the interiors of the restaurant were changed a bit to suit the theme, but at the same time ensuring that they did not overdo it. A catchy set at the entrance to the restaurant, a cut-out of an Ambassador Taxi, very typical of West Bengal, and a poster of the iconic Howrah Bridge was on the wall. Bengali music played in the background and overall, it set the mood of being somewhere away from Chennai.
As we settled down, The Executive Chef Mr. Sridhar Sigatapu came over and spent sometime with us explaining the theme and various dishes in the food festival. He also told us that some of the desserts like Mishti Doi, and starters like Jhal Muri and Puchkaa will be available from tomorrow, so that was a miss 🙂
We had an initial look at the buffet counter and were wondering as to how to click pictures, when the chef suggested that the dishes, in small portions, will be plated and sent to the table to be photographed. That seemed like a nice proposition as compared to clicking food at the buffet counter. What we noticed was that the buffet spread was well-balanced with special Bengali dishes and the other ‘usual’ dishes. So we understood that not all dishes were part of the food festival.
Again, since I only eat Chicken and no other meat or seafood, I was greatly limited for choices. I had to predominantly stick to vegetarian and chicken dishes. I started with a Chicken and Mint Shorba, which was not essentially a part of the food festival. It had a nice flavor, but was merely lukewarm. I would have definitely liked it hotter. Started with Beguni Chop, which was typically a thin slice of eggplant, dipped in batter and deep-fried in oil, just like how we make a Bajji. Piyazi was more like crispy pakora and was very good. There were two more variants of chops that left me wondering why so many similar dishes – Mutton chop and Egg Chop. I did not taste the Mutton Chop, but the Egg Chop was good and in between the egg and batter, there was a layer of spicy mashed potato and that was a tasty twist to the otherwise usual Egg Bajji.
In the vegetarian section of the main course, there was Lau Masoor Dal, Bhindi Bhaja, Aloo Posto, and pulav. The non-vegetarian section had Roi Maach Sarson Batta, Murghi Mangso Jhol, Mutton Kassa and Grilled Tenderloin with Roasted Onion Gravy. In general, there were other dishes which were not a part of the food festival, however, I stuck on to typical Bengali dishes for the meal. Took a bit of everything in the vegetarian section and just the Murghi Mangso Jhol from the non-vegetarian section. The breads were served at the table, and we got a couple of Rotis served. The rotis were ok, nothing very special. I liked the chicken pieces in the chicken gravy, cooked well, soft, and it came off the bone easily and had a very nice flavor to it. All the vegetarian dishes were tasty and good, but somehow felt a bit simple. After all, how complex can it get with a Dal and Bhindi Bhaji! Aloo Posto stood out among them. with a distinct flavor of poppy seeds. As it is advertised, it is meant to give you an ‘At Home’ experience and probably that is why it was kept simple and light. Some of my friends and fellow-bloggers tasted the mutton kassa and Grilled Tenderloin and seemed to enjoy it. I heard one of them say the fish piece in the Roi Maach Sarson Batta was ‘bony’ and wasn’t very easy to eat, however they seemed to relish the fish pieces in the Fish Biryani.
The desserts for the evening were the ever-popular Rossagolla, Jalebi with Rabdi and Malpua with Rabdi. Rossagolla was wonderful and Jalebi was very good, hot and crispy. Malpua could have been better. It was something to do with the batter I think, it was a bit rubbery. They also served us some Bengali sweets like Nakrel Narru, a coconut laddu which tasted good. As I said earlier, Mishti Doi was missed as it wasn’t available for the preview dinner, but would be available for the ‘actual’ food festival.
From what we heard from the Chef, there would be small changes to the menu each day, throughout the duration of the food festival and addition of Mishti Doi, Jhal Muri and Puchkaa to the menu would certainly make it more inviting.
Overall, the food was tasty and good. My thoughts on this meal – The four types of Bajji/Chop could have been reduced to two, making way for two other starters and someone with no restriction to eating all kinds of meat and seafood would definitely relish it better than what I did.
‘Bangalir Bhuribhoj – The Divine Taste of Bengal’, the Bengali Food Festival at Paprika Cafe, Courtyard by Marriott Chennai, commences on September 25th until October 03rd 2014, from 7PM – 11PM, and is priced at Rs 1250 plus taxes per person.