I had two meals at Taj Bengal Kolkata during my staycation and a breakfast, which was almost a brunch. At the helm of affairs was Sujoy Gupta – Executive Chef Taj Bengal – who had recently taken over the charge. At the launch of Cal 27, the all day dining at Taj Bengal, the Autograph collection was introduced. It comprised of signature dishes across all the international properties of Taj. Bunny chow and meat Lamprais from that menu, is etched in my mind forever.
Before Sujoy, it was Chef Sonu Koithara as the Executive Chef of Taj Bengal Kolkata . Read his story here
Addition in the menu of Cal 27 Taj Bengal
The new menu at Cal 27 now looks like erstwhile Hub style classic menu. There are grills, burgers and chef’s signature collection with specialties. The pizza and pasta section of the menu has been reintroduced and vegetarian pizzas like burrata pizza, buffalo bocconcini pizza with pesto (will come back to this) have been introduced. Taste of Calcutta – a small section, which has the local connection over Machher Jhol, Railway mutton cutlets and others are also there.
Comfort food moves fast in a coffee shop for resident guests and it is part of the ‘mains section’. Prawn Moili, bhuna ghost and others, feature here from across India in Comforts mains. Kids’ corner along with today’s need of the hour- gluten free and vegan options, have been added to the menu. The mid night menu has also been revamped. Mr. Manish Gupta, the GM, expressed the idea of creating more signature dishes for the restaurant in addition to the popular ones, so that guests are attracted towards it.
Kosha Mangsho, Risotto and Pizza for lunch. Wait, there was a mud pie too. Sujoy Gupta Executive Chef, takes us on a journey
If that sounds weird, I cannot help it. The aim was to taste the signature dishes and we sought Sujoy’s help. While Manish restricted himself to his salads, I ordered my Kosha Mangsho, as Sujoy Gupta Executive Chef said that this is not in the menu but is provided on request. The Kosha Mangsho was, as the millennials call it- BAE . I rarely am happy with Kosha Mangsho in a restaurant, as I have faced many bad experiences over the years but this was a dish of substance. I couldn’t have been more happy with the flavour, colour and the taste of this kosha mangsho, which was perfect.
During this time, the Veg pizza arrived and by the time I could start on it, my companions were already raving about it. Thin crust with pesto, bocconcini cheese on top with rocket leaves and sunchoked tomatoes playing hide and seek was a beautiful flavour combination. This is a pizza which I don’t mind revisiting even if I am a diehard non-vegetarian.
Wanna know why Kosha Mangsho will be the last dish before I die? Read here
The Story of Kakori Kebab, Gelafi roti, Sonargaon and a Pathan suit
This is Sujoy’s second stint at Taj Bengal. He is now the Executive chef but as I feel, much of the grooming of the Executive chef happened when he was managing Sonargaon. I fondly remember telling him, that Sonargaon is to him like Eden Gardens is to Dada. The food has to be shown its due respect and so, I carried with myself a Pathan Suit for the occasion. How many times have you dressed up, especially for a great dining experience?
Sonargaon Taj Bengal menu is an elaborate one. However, we were told that Sujoy had something exotic planned for us. Like the invincible pair of Ganguly and Sachin in Indian cricket, we started with two star dishes- Kakori Kebab and Machhli Gondhoraj. Making Kakori kebab is a tedious process which involves skill. The silken smooth coating and “melt in your mouth” kebabs are worth dying for.
Sujoy explained the process of making Kakori Kebabs in Sonargaon Taj Bengal Kolkata
- Lean meat is minced for 8 to 10 times.
- Lamb Kidney fat is added in the mince at a certain ratio. This is the key to smooth and silky kakori kebabs.
- 25 spices including khowa, cinnamon, rose petal, chiranji, kabab chini, saffron, cashew nut, are all made into a fine paste and strained for 4 to 5 times so that no grains left.
- This spice paste is then mixed with the meat along with additional saffron, smoked and then it’s left for a day, so that the spices blend in the meat. It is important for this meat to marinate for at least a day, for a silky and smooth kakori kebab.
Superstars of Sonargaon, Taj Bengal Kolkata
The scintillating opening pair mentioned above gave a good start to the dining innings. There was more to come. It was almost like a dream team. There was Daal Sonargaon (takes almost 12 hours to cook) and Gilafi Kulchha. This was my first experience of Gilafi Kulchha and one, that will be memorable. The base was made with sourdough kulchha bread and on top, it was Shirmal dough. As I had a first bite, there was a sweetness which flirted, then there was the regular taste of the dough till it boomeranged and the sweet taste hit me in the end.
In the vegetarian menu, the star attractions were Dahi ka Kofta with a delicious stuffing of palak and Aloo Lal Mirch in a Cashew nut and onion gravy with yogurt and Kashmiri Lal Mirch. By the time I had reached these, I was still having a hangover of the Kakori Kebab. In the meantime, Nalli Nihari and Raan had made appearances. The meat literally fell off the bones and melted in our mouth. Cliché but true. Little did we know earlier, that the meat for both these dishes are always procured from Marwar region of Rajasthan.
Road map for future by Sujoy Gupta Executive Chef Taj Bengal Kolkata
This is a dilemma which perhaps all food outlets face time and again. The location and the cuisine makes Sonargaon a rare combination with no parallels around. Let’s also not forget that classic always has its own place. While Sujoy, has got no intention of changing anything in the menu, he might introduce a degustation menu. So, this is something which we will definitely look forward to.
The saga continued till next morning at Cal 27 over a breakfast. How many times have you cancelled your eggs to order?
I am a boring diner when it comes to breakfast. I follow a ritual of some bacon strips, some sausages and a double egg sunny side up. If in a better mood after this, then perhaps a poori sabzi or a masala dosa. Things you won’t find in my breakfast plate – fruits, corn flakes and fruit juices. After a great dinner the previous night, the breakfast had to be late and uncharacterizable laziness crawled in. So by the time I reached Cal 27, it was almost 10.15 A.M.
Can you please cancel my sunny side up? A quick guide to make an egg souffle omelette
I was picking up food from the buffet counter like my own ritual and ordered for my sunny side up. On my way back, I found Simran, the wait staff, carrying a fluffy omelette for someone else. I didn’t know the name. I am non-judgemental about eggs, so I requested her to change my order. Later Sujoy confirmed that this was an egg souffle omelette. Like the process of making a meringue, 4 egg whites are beaten to a peak. There cannot be any leftover egg white or liquid at the bottom. Finely chopped chilies and tomatoes are sautéed on the pan and the egg white is carefully poured into the frying pan without knocking out the air. It is cooked on a low flame and after a while, the egg is given 1 fold and the omelette is ready.
Regional platters at Cal 27 Taj Bengal as a part of the buffet and I clicked my luchi.
On that particular day, it was Gujarati platter but like all great chefs, Sujoy had started reading minds. Within few seconds of being seated at the table, Sujoy sent a plateful of dreams. Sunday dream for any ‘Bengali’ is Luchi. 4 perfectly done luchis with cholar daal, alur dom, chutney, mishti doi and some lonka bhaja completed the platter. And then things got complicated from here. Like a lover split between two individuals, my attention oscillated between souffle omelette and the luchi but I almost ended both. As a part of the South Indian buffet, we also got a South Indian platter and the sambar was to die for. The Luchi platter and the South Indian platter are available on request.
Three meals, numerous stories and taste memories etched in the brain and my heart – my final takeaway from Sujoy Gupta Executive chef, Taj Bengal Kolkata. Here’s wishing him all the best.