Honestly this is the most authentic Bengali food we’ve had in Mumbai in a while. The price is a little steep, but the food heavenly, says Dhiman Chattopadhyay.
A girl dressed as Bengali housewives would around 100 years ago, greets us as we step into Baluchi, the Indian restaurant at The Lalit. The entire restaurant looks like a Bengali zamindar’s palace tonight, complete with an araam kedara (reclining couch) and waiters dressed like Bengali babus. The restaurant at The Lalit is hosting a Bengali food festival and we are here to judge how authentic (and of course tasty) the food is.
We quickly flip through the menu. There is a lot in it for vegetarians as well as the carnivores. It’s apparent though that Baluchi is pushing patrons to order their mega thalis. While each item on the menu comes for Rs 800 upwards, the thali comes at just Rs 1700 (non veg) and Rs 1500 (veg).
We order one of each — to make sure we have enough to tell vegetarians. But first up is a thirst quenching aam panna (a mango drink) that sets the mood for the goodies about to arrive
The thali, when it arrives, scares us a bit. It’s not everyday that one gets 10 bowls filled with different kinds of mouth-watering food served in a heavy brass plate. We begin with the luchi (puris) and cholar dal and take a bite out of the beet chop. Delicious. The fish fry is just perfect as is the mutton chop — with not an iota of extra oil on any of them. The dhoka dalna is unique. This vegetarian dish is usually prepared by packing dried lentils into rectangular pieces and is served as a curry. But the chef has used peas instead of lentils in this case. It’s good, but it could have been better.
The kosha enchor (jackfruit) is above average too — very authentic though not a personal favourite. The alu bhaja (thinly sliced potatoes, deep fried) is just right though and goes well with the dal.
For fish lovers — any Bengali meal is a dream come true. The Rui macher kalia (Rohu) is a bit spicy and not for those who can’t take in a bit of chillies. But the pabda made with mustard is a runaway hit as is the chingri macher malai curry (lobster cooked in cocounut milk). The chicken, cooked as it is in most Bengal households on either side of the border, reminds us of home. But we decide not to go beyond a few nibbles on this one, mainly because we simply don’t have any space left in the tummy. The ghee bhaat (ghee rice) hasn’t done our diet any good either.
But then, how can a Bengali meal finish without sweets? Here’s where the meal disappoints a bit though. The malpua is too sticky and the sugar has crystalised. The rosogolla and the sondesh are both less-than-normal sweet. The pantua (gulab jamun) is super but the rest will not pass muster with a true connoisseur of Bengali food.
Overall though, this is a good chance to find out about lesser-known Bengali delicacies (I haven’t come across jackfruit, dhoka or even beet chop in any other Bengali restaurant in Mumbai).
Here’s a quick tip: order the thali. The standalone items are too expensive. And why would you want four pieces of the same thing anyway? The thali has it all and in smaller portions. And yes, don’t forget the paan in the end.