Back… to the Desi Cafe

Back… to the Desi Cafe is located comfortably in Sector V, Salt Lake, where I end up more often than not these days when I am nearby. One of those visits took me to a bar called Backstage, which, surprisingly, also had a cafe downstairs known as Back… to the Desi Cafe. Although I loved the way Backstage looked, I was more intrigued by the food, so subsequent visits saw me come back to the cafe more than the bar.

Situated on the main road which goes towards Infinity Building, the Cafe is near a Dhaka Biryani outlet, and you might just miss it if you are as foolish as I am, but well, just come in, because they have really flexible timings – read 8 AM to 12 midnight. I have never come here after 10, mind you, but the food, an eclectic mix of Indian, Continental, with some amazing fusion stuff thrown is, is worth exploring. On my previous visit, I had had their Keema Bun Sandwich, and found it to be all sorts of delicious. However, when D looks at me with quiet determination in her brown gaze, I decide to let her have her way.

The Cafe is quite the thing to look at – clean floors and wooden tables, with comfortable sofa-style chairs to sit on. There are book shelves downstairs, and you can pick up a book and read while enjoying your cup of coffee – a concept I absurdly love in a cafe. D decides to sit upstairs, however, because she likes the privacy of it, and well, it is mostly empty, except for another couple who would rather concentrate on each other than us – we don’t mind, we seat ourselves, although the server hovers with a slightly anxious look on his face, and we are soon comfortably reclining on the sofa-style chairs.

Lemonade.

The menu card is placed in front of us. D is a major fan of all sort of burgers, pastas and I am more of a meat girl, so we reach a compromise, order one from each segment to appease ourselves. I oblige my need for caffeine with a cup of latte (95/-), and D opts for the lemonade (75/-), not too sweet, as she tartly tells the server who jots everything down quickly.

My Cafe Latte is served hot, with a good bit of steamed milk on top – its bitter, sweet, and the brew is perfect on a cold day. D is happy with her slightly tart lemonade, and happily sips her drink while looking about and smiling at the decor.

Cafe Latte

I end up getting the Grilled Chicken and English Cheddar Panini (175/-) while D lusts after the Roasted Chicken Lasagna (275/-). We both relent, stare at each other, and ask the server for the Baked Chicken Wings with Spicy Aioli (225/-) because neither D nor I can ever resist the lure of chicken wings. The server is gone, and we indulge in our own tales, ignoring the world as it passes us by, and observing cute little things like the table number plonked on a wide cup with coffee beans inside it.

Grilled Chicken and Cheddar Panini

Our food arrives in about 15 minutes – all three of our main courses coming to the table together. We decide on attacking the chicken wings and the sandwiches first because the Lasagna looks quite hot, and needs to cool down slightly before we can attack it. The chicken panini is a pair of square buns with a good bit of lightly grilled chicken breast, lettuce, cheese and onions inside it, held together with a toothpick that also spear a black olive. It is in no way panini-like, to my utter dismay, reminding me of a slider, more like, but well, before I can question the server, he is gone, and D is already digging in the sandwich. Since I am not the one to complain, I decide to bite into my slider… oops, sorry, panini. The tang of the olive balances the otherwise slight blandness of the sandwich (a spice addict’s woe), it is a very well-constructed sandwich, otherwise. I am addicted to the fries, however, that comes with it. Crisp, crunchy even when they are cold, these fries are worth their weight in gold.

Baked Chicken Wings with Spicy Aioli

The chicken wings are hot, sweet, smokey and soft. As they are baked, they do not offer the crunch factor, but that is really not our concern as we plonk the pieces into the Aioli which reminds me vaguely of a kicked up ranch dressing – although it is in no way similar to Buffalo Wings, it is very satisfying, with a edge of smokiness left on your tongue which can be easily cut with the little pile of salad on the side, topped with a squiggle of spicy mayonnaise.

Roasted Chicken Lasagna

After this carnage, both of us look at each other and at the Lasagna, which had arrived to the table in its own frying pan. With two pieces of garlic bread, this is quite a formidable main course, and we attack the pan immediately, not bothering with the formality of splitting it into our own plates. The lasagna is constructed in a way which is quite fun – unlike the regular heavy plate of meat, cheese and ricotta, the meat here is shreds from a well-roasted chicken thigh, with a little bit of the pan juices to hold things together between the pasta sheets over a light but tasty tomato sauce, and the mess is topped with a healthy dose of cheese which is then melted in the oven and then flecks of parsley is sprinkled on top. Although the pasta sheets are clearly store-bought, they are cooked to a stage which is pretty acceptable, albeit slightly doughy, and the fun is in using a fork and tearing a small chunk of the lasagna, dipping it lightly in the pool of tomato sauce beneath, and piling it on top of the garlic bread for that perfect bite. A little balsamic reduction is on the side of the plate for a bit of variety of flavors, along with the obligatory little pile of salad. We demolish this quickly, our forks reserving the crusts of our garlic bread to soak up the last bit of tomato sauce.

Our bill, after the meal, comes to around the 1000/- mark, an acceptable figure, and we see that they had taken service charge already. There is a little delay in the bill, as the service is slightly slow after our food has been served, but that is probably not the servers’ fault, as the first floor seems to be a lover’s cove. However, they bring us our check soon enough. I do believe I will be back to this cafe for sampling more of their fine fare.

Back…To The Desi Cafe

EN – 1, Sector V
Salt Lake City, Kolkata

Phone: 033-66064206 Extension: 299 (according to Zomato

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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