It’s been a while since I blogged about my gluttony. Or about Kolkata.
I always look forward to my visits to the City of Joy. Not sure if it’s the people or the sights or the food that make my heart sing. It’s good to have a day job that takes me frequently to this vibrant city that unconditionally satiates my passions with equal fervour.
Every trip here has introduced me to a hitherto unknown cultural jewel or a delicious meal fit for a glutton. When I travel to Kolkata, I prefer to stay within walking distance of Park Street. Dining options here enjoy a cult status among graduates of the World School of Gluttony and regular people too. Each has been around for decades and continues to thrive because of the consistent deliciousness of their spread. On my last trip, this assumption was threatened. And deservedly so.
I wasn’t able to find a room around Park Street and settled for Ballygunge, a quiet little neighbourhood in downtown Kolkata, known for its affluent residents.
I had arranged to meet my friends Amitabha and his wife Sanjukta for dinner, and they suggested we eat at Spice Kraft. They had heard rave reviews about the place. They must have thought, what better way to break in a new place than with a certified glutton. Can’t say I blame them.
I got there a little early for our 8 pm booking and occupied a corner table until my friends arrived. Our host Abhijeet presented us with the menus. One look at the beverages menu told me I was in for a special treat. I have never before seen such a vast range of cocktails and mocktails. I am not one for alcohol and get my kicks from a good meal, but the occasional exotic cocktail is always welcome. And each cocktail on the menu seemed a little more exotic than the next. I copped out of the complicated decision-making process and asked Abhijeet to choose. Smart, intuitive man that he is, he picked a Liquid Bomb for Sanjukta, a Pain Killer for Amitabha and a Hitman for me. I didn’t remember seeing any of these on the menu. I wondered if these names of the cocktails had anything to do with the look on our faces. I did ask Abhijeet, but he shrewdly avoided an answer. But a deal’s a deal, and we went with the flow.
Spice Kraft is the brainchild of Chef Sambit, an alumnus of XLRI, Jamshedpur. A former professor at top B-schools his calling has always been cooking and fine dining. So committed was he to his dream, he worked nights as a trainee for four years in a reputed South Kolkata honing his culinary skills under the guidance of traditional master cooks. He took the National Hospitality Skill exam and passed with flying colours. He then spent a year in Paris pursuing a Diploma at the famed Le Cordon Bleu. One of his teachers was Professor Herve, the father of molecular gastronomy. Sambit also is certified Level 2 by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, UK and is now preparing for his Level 3 certification.
The menu at Spice Kraft is a validation of Sambit’s journey as a top chef. And his business skills have come in handy too. The menus have been beautifully wordsmithed and read like a short story. Every aspect of Spice Kraft testifies to Sambit’s passion and skill and carries his distinctive signature.
Back to our meal: Now that Abhijeet had passed our litmus test, we decided he would choose our second drink as well as the entrées and main course. All I asked is that for my mains he give me something that featured Bhetki. The man did not disappoint on any count.
For our second liquid jolt, he brought us a pitcher of Jet Fuel. A tall flask (reminded me of my chemistry practicals) with chunks of ice, beer, Tequila, Cointreau and Vodka in magical proportions devised by Sambit. The presentation was classy and the dispensing hose reminiscent of petrol pump hoses. Even the colour resembled car fuel. I was quite prepared to blast off into space.
The entrée, Shistuk, chunks of tender boneless chicken cooked in Lebanese style and Limon Samak – Arabic styled grilled Bhetki were presented in distinctive “Sambit” style. Pleasing to the eye and just the right amount of tease to whet your appetite. The dip served with Limon Samak demands special mention. It made a great dish taste even better.
For our mains, Abhishek served Sanjukta a Lobster Thermidor, Amitabha got the Sheperd’s Pie and I was treated to Bhetki fillet baked with cheese and cream served with parsley butter rice.
What a meal and a half it was. My only regret is that I had no room whatsoever for dessert. Tempting descriptions notwithstanding I couldn’t eat another bite.
I have promised Sambit that I will be back soon. I can easily say that this was the best meal I have ever eaten, until my next one at Spice Kraft. And until my next post, I bid you Bon Appétit!