But, unfortunately for me, in my city Haleem is made best by a friend’s mother. And nowhere in Kolkata have I found something better. So when M told me she wanted to go for a Haleem walk I decided to go along, but told myself that I would have something else altogether while they ate their fill of the soupy delight.
So around four-thirty in the afternoon and M is already late, and I am slowly thinking maybe I should make it a point to come in half an hour late whenever she is concerned, and thinking of Choo telling me that she can’t make it, and I think of the place that is sort of calling me over.
Arsalan. Dear Arsalan. I love you for the good stuff.
When M and two others appear on the other side of the road, I meet them, greet them, and the four of us move to the much-crowded AC section of Arsalan post M telling a slightly dazed server when he asked whether we wanted a table for “chaar admi” with a rapid, Hingali answer, “Nehin, ek aadmi aur teen aurat”, whereupon the poor creature pointed to the AC section.
We enter, and the crowded place has one table unoccupied with two chairs…. we look at each other helplessly, but then a white shirted man (read, a senior server) tells us to wait while he clears a table where a couple was just washing their hands off. This place is really not very famous for friendliness, but well, the food speaks for itself.
We make ourselves comfortable while a server looks at M with disapproving eyes, as if accusing her of being too slim (is there a word like that? But if you see M then you might agree with the server) and hands us the menu. We decide to go with the Haleem, sharing two plates between three people, and M tells that she wants the cheese naan because it is right there in the menu. Our other friend wants some Masala Kulcha to mop up the thick soup, and I decided to order a Biryani for myself, because well, this is Arsalan and I want Biryani.
The server is gone. After waiting patiently for 5 minutes, I decide to catch the eye of the server, who suddenly brings out his little white notebook as he takes down our order. The order is placed quickly, but when M tells that she wants Cheese Naan, waiter frowns down at her, as if she has committed the greatest sin in the history of sin-creation, and tells her it is not available, in the most disapproving tone possible. The Masala Kulcha is dealt with the same fate, and thank God he did not do that to me when I asked for my Biryani, because I would have had to brain him if he did that to me.
So well, they order Butter Naans, and add Firni in the end because (whatdoyouknow?) Shahi Tukda is not available either!
After another 10 minutes of patience and perseverance, we get our food. There comes two plates of Haleem, the Biryani, the Naans and a Coke (guilty as charged). Everyone digs in.
What can I say? The Biryani was perfect. Screw those who say that it is bland. They clearly need to unclog their taste buds from the trash they have been eating. This is straight out of Mozart, a symphony of tastes waiting to be unleashed on your unsuspecting tongue. Mildly spiced rice is perfectly seasoned to taste and comes with a melt-in-your-mouth potato and a piece of chicken that also melts-in-your-mouth. The meat is tender but it still holds its integrity, only to be shattered the moment you bite down and savor the juices that unleash themselves on your tongue.
Poetry, thy name is Arsalan Biryani.
I look up from my swoonworthy plate and meet M’s eye. She is eating slowly, dipping each piece of Naan into the thick, soupy gravy. I steal a taste from her and thank heavens that I did not eat the Haleem. It is filled with bones, thick, and with a aftertaste of masoor dal in it. No Thanks! The naans are good at first, but as the meal progresses and the AC cools off everything, it slowly threatens to turn into leather.
|Haleem. The best shot I could get was this thanks to the low light. However this was the downside of the day for me.|
I look back at my plate possessively. By this time most of the Biryani is polished off and M takes a tiny bit of rice from me. My hoggage (okay, is there a word? If there isn’t they need to put one in the dictionary) has led me to finish off most of the Biryani within four or five minutes of order,and now only some sad bits of rice remain on my plate. I decide to finish off my coke and then look at M as a waiter asks us if we want anything else. We remind him of the Firni.
The Firni arrives and before I can take a picture, they nearly gobble down everything. Our bill quickly follows, and the total money spend is about 416 INR (about $10) for the four of us. We tipped a bit more, and walked out. A mixed bag of food, but the Biryani is worth every paisa and more.
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