It’s tough to have a peaceful coexistence with Chef Joymalya Banerjee. Either you like or dislike his work. My initial tryst with Bohemian was a disaster and I didn’t like it (would blame myself though as my palate was not that much evolved then) . I went back last year to attend one of his promotions and my notion changed completely. Visited the place a few more times in the last 2 years and the food never failed us.
There was a word around that he is changing his menu, which he also told us that he wants to reinvent. The new menu was supposed to be relaunched around Nobo Borsho. After much anticipation, the new menu was launched sometime around November.
Just when the city was gearing up for Christmas festivities over a long weekend, we reached the place along with a couple friend from Delhi, Tanushree and Om. The signage as well as the tag line has changed. Bohemian is now Glocal kitchen and club bar. The signage has been done on an asbestos sheet and the standees with the restaurant name is spelled as NIAMEHOB . I later asked Chef Joy and he explained that in a standee, the Brand name is always spelled from top to bottom, where someone has to end up looking down on a brand. Knowing him, he wanted to give it a spin.
New Interiors of Bohemian Kolkata, new menu Naya Andaaz
It’s too early in the day to comment on the new interiors. Dark ash coloured walls make it a tad low on light, especially during the day. However, on speaking with Chef Joy (who is himself designing the interiors) confirmed that the illumination is incomplete and that there would be more of interesting light fittings to jazz up the place. I would say again that it is an innovative spin to old industrial look on the whole. Long AC foam pipes have been used as lighting sources by running LED lights through them. The name Bohemian reflects on the wall on non stick pans, each holding one letter of the Brand.
Bohemian Kolkata – The new menu – Naya Andaaz
With time, all of us need to move and that also holds true Chef Joy. The way the menu is being created is like flipping through an old album of memories of food. Just like his father’s creation – Bapi’s Anda Keema Bake, which is halved eggs covered with spicy saoji keema and baked with cheese, like the caretaker Pitambar da used to cook Haanri Murgi in Ghatshila- chicken cooked in earthen pot with healthy dose of garlic, red chili, cashew, mustard oil and more… the story continues. Bohemian Kolkata new menu is a long one and have different sections like Boho Lunch , Dil Lagaa Ke (the large portions) , Halka Phulka (small portions), Oneke Milay (sharing plates which can be shared amongst large groups) . There is also Boho working lunch, which is served from 12 to 3 on weekdays, served in tiffin boxes with staples and has various options.
What did we have from new menu –
We ordered Lanka chingri batter fry (price INR 325), Soft pork belly and Dalle Pickle (Price – INR 265) and Chef joy sent over Malai Mutton Chaat. For me, he Malai mutton chaat was the surprise winner which gets served as the chaat with sev sprinkled from the top. As you dig in the tender mutton pieces flavoured with chaat masala, the spunk from the chopped onions and the typical chaat flavour welcome you. The soft pork belly comes with two baked eggs which are like perfect ornaments in the plate. The small tender pieces with papri chaat on the top guarantee to be wiped off fast. There were different layers of flavours punched into one dish with the fat from the pork belly, the spice from the dalle chilies and a hint of mustard. Lanka chingri batter fry got ordered twice. If you have had furuli in Bengal, then the batter matches that. Perfectly done prawns with a mystery dip (we had to ask to figure out what it was) of aam tel with mashed potato and orange n coriander salad will sing to the heart.
In the mains, we ordered Pagla Mamar biryani. Being in Kolkata, a new take on a Biryani is a must try. Pagla Mama, the character who happened to be an uncle of Chef Joy used to be in Army Service and has traveled the country and this is his take, which Joy has reproduced. There is the customary Aloo, a large piece of mutton, perfect soft eggs with a runny yolk and with it comes Saoji Mutton Keema chutney and a salad. Strong presence of fennel, Tellicherry black pepper and green chilies makes this slighlty spicy and yet light. He serves this in a large enamel bowl making it look like a one pot meal. Yes, this is a biryani without rose water or Keora and no familiar flavours can be expected. Do I recommend it? Yes. Disclaimer, it is not your regular biryani, neither does it try to be. It has a completely different character, which works for me.
The next and the last mains ordered was Pork er Khichuri. Khichuri is a dish which is close to Kolkata. Albeit not many commercial places serve it one a regular basis. Dices of pork in a khichudi with molten cheese had all that was needed to make a perfect December afternoon in Kolkata but over spice and imbalanced addition of black pepper ruined it. This experience does not make the concept bad but I give it a pass as an one off case. Some questions remain unanswered though – was the food not tasted before being served on the table or else this dish should be flagged off as high on spices and if you have a high tolerance on heat then this is your go to dish.
It would be unfair to give a final opinion on the food with just one dining experience. It would be inhuman to actually taste every dish too. The pending list is perhaps more interesting than what we tasted. My next time target list will be Thandaai inspired raan, maccher psychedelic jhol,Coca Cola chicken (chicken cooked in coco cola), luchi tacos and many more.
A word about the cocktails at Bohemian Kolkata – New menu
The cocktail menu remains unchanged from before. As my friend OM figured out – the cocktails are cheaper than the beer, which is rare and each cocktail that we tasted had generous amount of alcohol as the prime suspect and Daab Sangria or Gondhoraj martini or Sunrise at Sunderbans; each one hit the right spot. We wanted to try all the cocktails which we didn’t get and that was a miss. It’s more a miss when you don’t get cocktails like ‘Just Bohemian’ in winter in Kolkata whose main ingredient is Nolen Gur and hopefully it was a one off occasion at the restaurant.
What am I worried about Bohemian Kolkata – Naya Andaaz
We identify food with names/ stereotypes and look for a familiar name in any menu. Perhaps these are the food which make us explore a menu further to unknown territories / experimental/ innovative dishes. The menu is detailed and a huge one and as a first timer, when one enters the place, one would need some guidance on the food and the taste to place orders. It won’t be possible for Chef Joy to be present on all tables, so the waiting staff needs to be properly trained to explain it further to the guests. A discussion with noted food researcher Pritha di also popped up this observation of the all the dishes being strong in flavours and standing strong on their own merits. So trying to find a combination can be challenging. How much a club bar concept will work in Ballygunge, which has some great traditional eating places around – yes, the established brand identity of Chef Joy and the brand name of Bohemian will definitely work.
I started with a peaceful co existence between Chef Joy and his guests. His work may not have been liked by few, some may have called him overly obsessed with panch phoron, another lot may not have been able to handle his confidence in analyzing ingredients, pairing and reinventing them but not for once, people have stopped speaking about his food. Bohemian Kolkata New menu is at lower price points compared to the previous menu, lots of options available in different portion sizes and it’s an image shift from a serious fine dining one to more casual one and an easy ride. It’s not that some of the old dishes are not missed and for a Bohemian regular, that will be an eternal debate. The last time I had written about Bohemian, I compared it with ‘Lamhe’ the movie. This time, Chef Joy has thrown up the question to his guests – which one was better, the earlier one or the new one? Which Sridevi was better in Lamhe? The classical beauty who sang Mourni Bagama bole or the contemporary bubbly one who goes for grape stomping singing Kabhi Main Kahoon, kabhi tum kaho ?
P.S. We went to enjoy the meal and the pictures were kindly taken and shared by our friend Om. Can say as much dont go by the pictures.