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Restaurants that fill you up without emptying your pockets.
Mumbai | Bong Bong
Starting out as a tiny little kiosk in Bandra, dishing out calorific (and terrific) kathi rolls with alcohol-soaking abilities to revelers staggering out of the next door watering hole of Toto's in the wee hours of the morning, Bong Bong - The Bangla Footpath has undergone a metamorphosis.
Although still small in size, Bong Bong is now a full-fledged restaurant, having moved a little uptown to the more sober climes of Khar and off the footpath. The colourful, 500-sq-ft restaurant is a cozy, inviting space decorated with antique kerosene lamps hanging from walls painted with Mario Miranda-esque murals depicting scenes from everyday Kolkata life.
Billing itself as a "progressive Bengali restaurant", Bong Bong gives a contemporary spin to some good old Bangla classics created by Chef Sanjib Das and co-owner Surjapriya Ghosh in consultation with Chef Joy Banerjee of Kolkata's famed Bohemia restaurant. The inexpensive dishes served here take you on a culinary journey that is deliciously unexpected to say the very least.
Take the Broccoli and Mango Pickle Envelopes. The subtlety of the broccoli and cottage cheese goes perfectly with the kasundi-enhanced piquancy of the mango pickle. The almost dim-sum looking Herbed Chicken Money Bags pay obeisance to Kolkata's Chinese community and wouldn't be out of place in a Tangra tea house. But just when your taste buds begin to wander, they are taken back to the mustard-obsessed Bengali home with the Panch Phoran Aloo, a complex amalgamation of five spices rubbed onto fingerling potatoes.
Kolkata's pork-loving Anglo Indian community is represented by the succulent Spicy Pork Spare Ribs that literally fall off the bone. Another Anglo favourite, the Railway Chicken Curry with steamed rice, makes its presence felt with its full-bodied flavour.
The Green Chilli Mutton with Paratha is redolent of coriander which tends to overpower the other flavours and the parathas are disappointingly on the doughy side. But it is the Cauliflower and Peas in Creamy Coconut Curry with Saffron Rice that sucks you in with its punchy flavour. No self-respecting Bengali restaurant - contemporary or otherwise - will risk ostracization by not serving up dishes that 'worship' the bounty of the sea or river. And Bong Bong is no exception. If we loved the crispiness of the Kolkata-style Prawn Cutlets and the citrus hit of the Lemony Pepper Crab Cakes, then we were in lust with the plump prawns that jostled for space with the spicy rice in the Chingri-r Mashla Polao. What gets our vote for sheer ingenuity is the Plastic Chutney that revels in its translucence and rubbery (in a good way) texture. Made up of thin shaved slivers of unripened pineapple tempered with mustard and sweetened with mango, the chutney is the perfect foil to the robustness of the Dry Cooked Kosha Chicken that is made in a style that evokes old Bengal where the family cooks toiled over the perfect chicken dish.
Drinks like the Tender Coconut Refresher with a hint of lime and the Mint and Coriander Julep are happy to take a non-starring role. But with the desserts, it's another ballgame. The rather show-offish Daaber Payesh is a tender coconut laden treat, while the innovative Baked Roshogolla has just the right amount of sweetness, minus the clichêd diabetes-inducing syrupiness one finds in other roshogolla specimens. But then again Bong Bong isn't just another Bengali restaurant.
Silver Croft, 16th Road, Near Khane Khas, Khar, Mumbai-400059. Phone: +91-22-65555567, 7738009353, 65882574. Timing: 11. 30am to 12. 30am. Average meal for two Rs 800, plus taxes.
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