|Arsalan Mutton Biryani, Kolkata|
|Condiments – Pudina Chutney, Mixed Pickles, Chillies and lime|
The leader of the pack sat herself down on one of the comfortable six-seaters at the back, and dared the server to comment otherwise. Of course, the wise server quickly returned with menu cards, and handed them over. After a brief tussle, where M1 wanted to order everything a carnivore could eat, and M2 wanted to eat light because her tummy was still full, they lifted their eyes from the menu and ordered. Of course, the ever-confident P (well, that’s Presented by P for you) knew what she wanted, and did not bother with the menu. The server filled the water glass, took the order, and the hungry girls waited for the food to arrive.
But before the food arrived, the condiments and the Masala Coke did. This belonged to M2, and she declared it to be nice and spicy, just what she wanted. She also looked as if she would bite anyone who would dare touch it, so P wisely refrained from taking a sip.
|Mutton Burra Kabab|
M1 was nice enough to share her mutton burra kabab with P. Charred slightly more than what she would have liked, the chops were tender and the meat had plenty of juices without falling off the bone. These chops needed a squeeze of lime to balance out the saltiness, and a few slivers of onions added some crunch too.
|Chicken Garlic Kabab|
The Chicken Garlic Kabab, M1’s second choice, was quite similar in taste to the Chicken Arsalan Kabab, with its thick coat of seasoned gram flour and cream over the juicy pieces of chicken. These were great on their own, but brightened further with a few dollops of the creamy mint and coriander chutney which was served on the side. At this point, the focus shifted towards the two mains ordered by the remaining members in the table.
Growing up, memories of rumali roti and its making had always been associated with a nearby Punjabi dhaba, where two young men would make endless number of those rotis, and cook them quickly on both sides before bringing them to the table. Unlike a normal tawa or tandoor, they were cooked on the back of a iron kadai, and flipped quickly to make sure small brown spots appeared on both sides of the paper thin roti, indicating their ready state. Here, M2 had paired her rotis with a Kolkata classic, the Rezala.
It is not exactly sure where Rezala came from, but apparently, the rezala has strong Afghani connections. Since it is cooked with cashew and poppy seeds (or so it says in a considerable number of dishes), and has dried red chillies and sometimes makhana added to it, I would not really argue with the Afghan story, but strangely enough, I have never really found this dish in the menu at any Delhi Mughlai or Muslim restaurant. On the other hand, the rasalla or rizala is very popular in Bangladesh.
The Chicken Rezala came with a piece of tenderly cooked chicken breast in a mildly tangy yogurt gravy, topped with a piece of deep fried chilli which was clearly added at the last moment (because the chilli had not absorbed any of the cooking liquid, which, I would say, is a damn shame, because the liquid-laden chilli is any heat lover’s delight).
|Mutton Biryani from Arsalan|
On the other hand was the famous Mutton Biryani from Arsalan, which beckoned with its soft nalli, the tender shank redolent with intramuscular fat, or the elusive pardah and the buttery soft potato, which was a perfect accompaniment to the long-grained rice. Somewhere deep inside also was an egg. The egg is a relatively newer addition to the Kolkata chicken biryani, and is now accepted and added to most versions of the same. But then again, Biryani “purists” like Royal and Shiraz is yet to add that to their Biryani. Arsalan’s version of the Kolkata biryani is spicy, with a definitive whiff of meetha ittar, ensuring a lingering aroma clinging to your fingertips long after the meal had ended.
Although desserts were on offer, there was, sadly, no space for it in anyone’s stomach, so bill was called for, and it was very reasonably around the 1200/- INR mark, which was definitely a bargain considering the fact that some of the kabab had to be taken home in a doggy bag. Arsalan offers a nice sit down budget dinner option for Kolkata, and the combination of good food, reasonable price and prompt service is definitely a bonus.
191, Marina Garden Court,
Park Street Area, Kolkata