The Esplanade Experience
Food in its right form and flavour form an intricate part of Bengali culture and tradition. I was super excited to be chosen to review one of the most popular and sought after restaurants serving Bengali cuisine, located right in the heart of Indiranagar-The Esplanade. Named after one of the busiest central business districts of downtown Kolkata, Esplanade has earned for itself a special place in the heart of all foodies for their authentic and delectable dishes from the heart of Bengal, right here in Bengaluru.
The moment you walk into the restaurant, its quaint architecture and old school feel is reminiscent of the buildings of North Kolkata whose walls have a thousand stories to tell. Embedded within its colonial appeal is the true essence of food and aroma that Kolkata is famous for. Owned by my friend Subhankar, he personally made sure that we were well taken care of and also explained the history behind the tasting menu in apt detail. The Tiffany lampshades in the verandah sit out section reminds one of the French avant garde that once used to embrace the streets and by lanes of Kolkata especially Park Street in the colonial era. The interiors of the restaurant and their classy all-white crockery reflect the bygone era so utterly unknown to the present generation. It is like a walk down memory lane as I sat myself to taste the specials that were curated for us.
We started our culinary journey with a quintessential Aam Porar Shorbot and Gandharaj Mojito as our drink of choice. The former has been a favourite for ages in mainland Bengal, especially during summer. Gandharaj Mojito made out of the extracts of the seasonal Gandharaj Lemon found in coastal Bengal is an Esplanade speciality and a must-try.
Our appetisers comprised of a generous portion of Chingrir Sahebi Kebab and Aam Kasundi Bhapa Bhetki. Chingrir Sahebi Kebab stands for whole-shelled Prawns baked with Kebab Chini or Peppercorn. The taste so acquired, yet essentially ethnic that one is immediately immersed in the complex flavours that this dish has to offer. The crunchiness of the shell and the real aroma of the peppercorn and induced condiments make this a classic. Bhetki or Sea bass which can arguably be stated as the Salmon of Bengal is steamed in a banana leaf in a Mango-infused Mustard Sauce to bring out its special flavours. Each of these dishes is so unique in terms of their palate and aroma that they stand out in their respective throne.
The second course is the quintessential Luchi and Karaishutir Kochuri with Kasha Mangsho that no Bengali meal is complete without. The Karaishutir Kochuri is flat bread stuffed with green pea’s paste, deep-fried and served with succulent Mutton in a semi-gravy preparation with Garam Masala and caramelized onions. Luchi on the other hand is the staple flatbread made out of flour again deep-fried and served with Vegetarian as well as Non-Vegetarian thick gravy dishes.
The third course comprised of a portion of Steamed rice with Ilish Paturi and Daab Chingri served in their authentic fashion. Hilsa, known as the queen of the fishes in Bengal is de-boned and steamed in banana leaf with Mustard and Fenugreek to render its authentic and unique flavour. Daab Chingri on the other hand is Prawns cooked in Coconut gravy within the periphery of a tender coconut. The latter is a speciality of rural Bengal and is a tough dish to replicate. However, Esplanade has mastered the dish perfectly and served it up, close and personal bearing its authentic grandeur r. As a foodie, this is my personal paradise. But let us not forget the Dessert without which a Bengali meal is incomplete.
Our dessert was again an Esplanade special-Baked Bonde which is a Crème-Brule with layers of sweet Boondi or Bonde as they are called in Bengali underneath. The sweetness of the Bonde and the scorched cream on top is the perfect end to a four course true Bengali meal. I have had such a delicious and soulful meal that I am sure I have added a few extra pounds tonight. If you want to savour the real essence of Bengali cuisine, Esplanade is your stop. The Uber chic old school feel not only makes you feel at home, but is a constant reminder of how fabulous our childhood days used to be, when life was simpler. A restaurant with a true soul of its own.