There is something about restaurants serving desi home-style food which warms my heart and brings a smile to my face. Kasturi in Kolkata is one such place where I just loved my simple meal.
Kasturi specializes in East Bengal/Bangladeshi cuisine which I didn’t know much about. It is a zero frills place but with so much character. You need to climb a flight of staircase and you reach a place where tables are fitted just about everywhere and there is barely place to move about. If you are lucky you’ll get a sit immediately, if not, well the food here is worth the wait.
The most enticing part comes now. They have no menu cards, instead they have walking talking menus. Once you are seated, the server places a mound of hot steaming rice in front of you. For a rice loving, and almost roti hating person like me, this itself was half the battle won. Next the staff will bring a tray with all the first course options available and you can pick whatever you want. The tray contained a dal, a chorchori (mixed vegetable) with fish head, some other vegetable dish which I can’t recollect. We chose the kochu paatar chingri (my favourite), alu sheddho or alu bharta as we Odias know it as, saag bhaja (spinach fry) and jhuri alu bhaja.
I just have to talk about the kochu paatar chingri. Kochu Paata is the arbi/alu/colacasia leaf and has a distinct pungent and tangy taste to it. The kochu paatar chingri was a simple steamed dish cooked with the kochu leaf, small shrimps, mustard paste and coconut I think alongwith with some mustard oil and tasted divine. Eating food cooked in mustard oil is an accquired taste but for us people from the East of India, it is regular fare. The kochu paatar chingri has simple clean flavours and reminded of of a ridge gourd and shrimp dish which my mother makes. That is one of my absolute favourites too, but somehow the mother doesn’t make it often. The jhuri bhaaja (potato string fry) is another favourite and a trip to a bengali restaurant is incomplete without a serving of the same.
A plate of rice, a dash of cow ghee on top and a squeeze of Gondhoraj Lembu and the kochu paatar chingri, trust me that is all you will need to have a blissful meal. But it doesn’t end here. The staff watches you like a hawk and the moment you are coming to the end of the first course, he appears with a tray laden with second course options which are mostly fish based.
From this enticing selection, we chose the Bhekti paturi ( Baramundi coated with mustard paste and steamed in a banana leaf) similar to Patra-ni-machi, the Chingri malai curry (Prawn cooked in coconut milk) and the Hilsa curry. The hilsa unfortunately was a little underwhelming and did not please me and was also the most expensive item on the menu. The server rightly said this wasn’t the right time to eat the Hilsa and it was kept in the menu only because of heavy demand.
I am absolutely going to recommend a trip to Kasturi in Kolkata over the Bhojohari Manna’s and the Oh Calcutta’s for 2 reasons, first the price point-this is way more pocket friendly and secondly the authenticity and ambience. The dishes are more geared towards Dhakai Bengal cuisine and have the ability to leave you absolutely gob-smacked.