‘Oh! Calcutta’ (OC) is an upscale Bong restaurant in Pune. I had read about this restaurant a while ago when fellow Pune blogger Shantanu Ghosh wrote about it. His vote meant a lot coming from a Bengali person. As a vegetarian, I had many concerns visiting this place. Firstly, would they have a good vegetarian spread? And what if the place smelled fishy? Cross contamination was another concern because of my allergies. So I did not have high hopes going in.
The place is situated in what seems to be an aisle or cul-de-sac of well known restaurants. Mainland China, Mezzuna, Sigree etc. are all located in one large complex. Sigree and Oh! Calcutta actually had a connecting door and are managed by the same entity. We got to know all about the connecting door since we were seated right next to it, in spite of most of the restaurant being empty!
We decided to go for the buffet thinking it should provide a good sampling of the food. There were two appetizers. Both vegetarian starters were potato based. One – Bhapa Aloo – steamed baby potatoes in a spinach and mustard sauce was well balanced with the kick of mustard, slightly on the spicy side. Cheese balls were tiny grape sized deep fried treats made from potato and cheese. It would have been nice to have at least one Paneer or Tofu starter, or something more robust, even a Veg Chop maybe.
Main courses were again a surprise. There was a mixed vegetable called Chori Chori which was made from Methi, Sweet potato/pumpkin, green peas and a few other vegetables. The other veggie dishes were Okra, Ridge gourd or Dodka, Parval, Bottle gourd or Lauki and were a big disappointment at first glance. I mean, these are the most boring vegetables, what I would call weekday vegetables, and no one really wants to eat these in a fancy restaurant. But since there was nothing else to eat, I was forced to taste a few. The Ridge Gourd preparation, called Posto Aloo Jhinge, had a rich sauce of poppy seeds and was mildly spiced. The Parval was served in a coconut sauce which was more of a west coast preparation.
I had really hoped to see some of my favorites – Bong dishes like Peas Kachori and Dum Aloo, Shukto, Echorer Dalna (Jackfruit), Dhokar Dalna, Green Dal, even Alu Gobhi – but none of them were on the menu that day. Desserts offered Rosogullas that melted in your mouth were really good. There were a few other sweets like Gulab Jamun, Vanilla ice cream, cut fruit and Jalebi. Once again, I would have loved to have Bong specialties like Misti Doi or the sweet yogurt in an earthen pot, Cham Cham, Sandesh, Ras Malai etc.
Ambience was good and there was surprisingly no scent of food – certainly no fishy odors, thankfully. Service was up to par. Surprisingly, there was not a single so called exotic vegetable such as mushroom, colored pepper, broccoli etc. on the menu. Nor was there a single Paneer preparation. The non-vegetarian menu was much more varied and had different types of fish and meat. Food quality and preparation was good and different. But the menu might leave most vegetarians wanting. All the food was labeled in Bengali and it would be nice to have English translations.
Finally the parameter readers will want to know about – cost. At 650+ per head, there are many other options in this price range. Some might say, better options. But the thing that sets these people apart is the type of cuisine. There is no doubt it is heaven for pescitarians.
‘Oh! Calcutta’ is a good option when you want to eat Indian food but are tired of the cumin/coriander or Garam Masala based tastes. You will definitely get to taste something different here.