Mitra Cafe’s Mutton Afghani
R stood in the middle of the road and kept on contemplating where he wanted to go. It was dark, and 7 o’clock in the evening, and I was slightly tired and feeling light-headed. For a while, we contemplated going to Tung Nam for the Wonton Soup, or to Dilkhusha Cabin for some of that excellent mutton. But then R looked reflective, and a glimmering smile lit up his face.
“Let’s go to Mitra Cafe.”
And my fate was sealed.

Mitra Cafe has a number of branches around Kolkata, but the branch which has always made me love it the hardest is the one opposite Sobha Bajar Metro Station. In college, I would deliberately take a detour, with the excuse of dropping S off at her place, but the moment I had done that, I would walk back to the crossing, and indulge in a Brain Chop – Creamy and buttery inside, with a deliciously crunchy exterior. In time, they have actually nearly stopped making this particular favorite of mine, but they do make up in other ways.

We push our way to the cash box to secure a table. Its peak time for all sort of food for them, and groups are standing in front of the restaurant, looking for a seat. The cashier greets me like a long lost friend, and within four-five minutes, amid the huge crowd that hovers around him, he manages to bully a server into giving us a seat. Glasses of water in plastic cups are banged rather unceremoniously in front of us, and the server demands what we want with a little frown on his sweaty face.

A menu card hangs on one side – take a look at that rather than seeing the rather badly molested paper menu which comes without a price tag. Of course, both R and I are familiar enough with the place to rattle off some of our favorite things in the menu as soon as we are seated. At first, the server mentions that the Deemer Devil is all over, but seeing the disappointment in my face, smiles wanly and says, “let me check once, okay?” I smile back, with what I believe is a seductive smile meant to charm. He rapidly disappears into the kitchen, and then comes back in a trice, his eyes shining with delicious naughtiness.

“We have two devils. You want one or two?”

R looks at me. I look back. Its a moment of perfectly harmonious silence.

“Two.” Our voice mingle in a chorus.

Deemer Devil (Egg Devil)

The next five minutes are spent discussing mundane stuff while surreptitiously looking at the kitchen from where a truly staggering number of food comes out. Packages of chicken roast, chaap, kabiraji, chop, cutlet – the list is sonorous and glorious in its rhythm and pace. This place does not serve cold drinks of any sort – it is all about the food here, and if you want to fill your stomach up with fizzy drinks, please step outside and do so. The cafe is not really the place where you linger. You are supposed to get in line, eat, and run away to make place for others.

That’s just the way it is.

And just when we feel the need to go check on the food, out come two plates filled with fried gloriousness.

The Egg Devil, or what can be roughly called a Bengali version of Scotch Egg, is a half of an egg wrapped in mincemeat, crumbed and deep fried. It is served with a mustard-poppy seed based sauce which is milder than the regular English mustard, toned down to suit virtually every palate. We scarf it down, the egg yolks perfectly in harmony with the spicy mincemeat.

Fish Roll

Unlike the rolls available in most places, at Mitra Cafe, the Fish Roll is a fillet of fish wrapped around a spicy minced stuffing, crumbed and deep fried. The fresh flakiness of the fish binds everything together, and the mince is sweet and spicy, counterbalancing the buttery fish.

Mutton Afghani

For our mains, we had ordered two dishes to share. The Mutton Afghani is essentially a mutton cutlet covered with a spicy gravy which is similar to their Mutton Kasha gravy. I am not much of a fan of this dish, simply because I find it a bit too salty on my palate, and today is no exception. Rather, I sneakily attack the other main course on the menu.

Toast

And at Mitra Cafe, I would always choose the toast over the rotis that R ordered, because the toast here is crunchy and soft and thick. Just the way I love it.

And yes, there’s a reason why I like it more than rotis. These toasts have the delicious habit of soaking up the gravy like a sponge, and that makes my meal even more decadent and glorious.

For the meat makes its appearance now.

Mutton Kasha

The Mutton Kasha at Mitra Cafe is dark, sweet, oily, and in my case, filled with shinbones, which means there’s a good bit of marrow in the midst of it. R and I share a large plate of it, and we dip our bread of choice into it, pulling apart moist, tender flesh and chucking it in more of that gravy before consumption. We finish our meal, and after a few minutes, ask the brusque waiter for our bill. With a little grimace, he brings it along, and its around 371/-.

There’s a genial smile on R’s face while he looks at me through a haze of contentment. We finish our meal with Thums Up that we buy after leaving the shop and hop inside an auto on our way back home.

Mitra Cafe

47, Jatindra Avenue,
Shobha Bazar
Kolkata

Phone: +91-9830342665.

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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