Monday, June 15, 2009


I am writing on a trip, which I had made in 1995, sounds pre-historic, but when I think of it, it doesn't seem so old. I was then a management trainee in Ispat industries. The company had very generously asked our whole batch of 33 trainees to go on a month long company tour to visit all their plants across India. It was really a month long picnic on our part. We were fresh out of college, and a month long crisscross across the country was something which we were enjoying to the hilt!

Our month long travel was coming to an end, and the last halt was Balasore. Ispat had a factory there which we were supposed to visit for a week. For us, what we were also looking forward was that Balasore is great for seafood, especially prawns!!! We boarded the train at approx 9 in the night, and we were supposed to reach by 1 in the night. Our group, luckily, had all foodies, guys who could consume huge amounts of food and thoroughly relish it!! As the train chugged on from Howrah to Balasore, most of us, had made plans for own our sea food festivals!!!

All of us had decided, that we should not miss anything, as far as sea food was concerned. On reaching the town at 1 in the night, we were taken to a hotel (It was hotel swarnachuda, do not know whether it is still there or not).

As the jeep screeched to a halt at the reception of the hotel, all of us jumped out of it and headed straight to the restaurant, leaving the jeep full of luggage behind (we had not even checked in to our rooms, we did not want to waste time, lest the cook goes to sleep!!!). We asked the staff to open the place for us to 1 in the night.

As per our carefully laid out plans, which we had made on our train journey, our targets had to be two of Balasore's famous exports - prawns and cashew nuts. All of us ordered two jumbo plates of each followed by a dinner, which obviously included some items where these two were the main ingredients.

Our stomachs were obviously not keeping pace with our enthusiasm, but we were the last persons on earth to give up. We gobbled up everything that night, the waiters had a baffled expression on their faces, but they thought probably a good night's sleep would sober us down.
For the next week, the whole of the staff and the cooks of the hotel, have laid on our tables, the amount of food, which they probably lay to their guests in an entire holiday season. Our day would always start and end with cashew nuts (fried or salted or roasted or just raw). Meals would always start with cashew nuts, as if it was the holy bread, would have to include 2-3 varieties of prawn dishes (fried, gravy, roasted etc) besides other non-vegetarian stuff, ice-creams and kheer, and a lot of other delicacies.

It was as if it was a crime not to eat. Each of us was competing with the other on the amount of food one could eat. In the midst of all this cut-throat(or stomach!!!) fights, one of us (Sanjeev, I think) suggested we should go light on one day and stick to something light like dal-chawal.
It was as if he had uttered something sacrilege. The whole gang pounced on him - HOW DARE HE EVEN THINK LIKE THAT??? He beat a hasty retreat and went back to the familiar diet of cashew, prawns, mutton, ice-creams and other such staple stuff.

Balasore is famous for prawns, sea fishes and cashews and unless you eat against time, you will not be able to gulp the huge volumes of food which will leave you totally satisfied with the visit to this unique place. By the 5th day, it's as if we had reached the moksha of eating happiness. It's as if we had climbed a huge mountain of food, done it, conquered and was savoring the victory.

When we caught the train back to Kolkata it was mission accomplished!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bon vivant!!!!

I am starting this new series of food reviews of my latest gourmet adventures.It's been a while , that I have written a post, honestly I ran out of ideas, and then it's the foodie in me which responded. From now on, I am going to write a review of every eatery I visit.

I start my account with my recent visit to Rajdhani restaurant in the Eastern suburb of Mulund in Mumbai. Actually, I made two visits to the same place in a span of a month, the first with my office colleagues (this is when I first came to know of this place and liked it!!) and then with my wife. The second visit, was to make my wife also experience the ambiance and the food which I liked on my first visit.

This place serves authentic Rajasthani / Gujarati food and we took their special thali which I am told is their specialty there. The place is quite large although the tables could have been better arranged giving a more cosy dining experience. The place is pure vegetarian, and although I am not a Gujarati or Rajasthani myself, the dishes seemed to me to have an authentic touch (some of my Guju friends do not agree with this, though!!).

What immediately strikes you after you order for a special thali is the amazing range of items being brought in at regular intervals (you actually keep looking at the staff who keep walking towards your table with amazing regularity) your plate never seems to get empty. If I recollect rightly, it starts off with starters like kachori and chaat and then the actual meal comes. The meal has an assortment of Indian breads(theplas, rotis etc), the rice varieties and khichdi, the farsaans, four types of bhajis and three types of daals, followed with chaas, basundi and other sweets, and deserts.

Overall it is not a meal but as my wife says its a dining experience!!

I am told, that the total count of items on their thali is 32, which includes mostly Gujarati, Marwardi , Maharashtrian dishes. The quantity is unlimited, although it does not make sense, no body can go beyond tasting each item (on my next visit I am going to choose select items and savor them rather than trying to finish their entire range).

The service is quite fast, and it's striking to notice the waiters using some kind of strange hand signals to signify which items someone wants a repeat.

Personally I liked some of their daals, the basundi was good too!!! The snacks serving could have been less (initially a lot of snacks come, one may tend to over eat that) the items needs to be spaced better. I had been on a Sunday, I would personally have preferred a more lazy serving, which gives me more time to savor the dishes, rather than get boggled with the number of katoris I have to finish. Rather than going on with the endless winding story I am going to rate this place for myself:-( out of 10, remember, I am a harsh critic!!!)

Food:- 8.5
Ambiance :- 7
Service :-7.5
Authenticity :- 9

Overall a great dining experience and to cap it all if you have liked the food there is a small hammer which you can strike on a dhol as you exit. It's a nice and unique acknowledgment of the guest and the host for an experience which both have enjoyed. The guest thumps the dhol and the host responds with a team cheer!!!

vivant......till my next burp!!!!!!!!!!!