I have previously talked about New Arafat briefly, in this post, precisely, and sang praises about their soft Beef Seekh Kababs. The place, simply known as Arafat to me, was one of those places frequented by me when I was in college. We were a bunch of poor kids, and when the month end came around, a Beef Roll from Arafat would be all we could afford with our swiftly dwindling pocket money. That, and when the season was upon us, a bowl of the Beef Haleem. I remember clearly, a bowl of Haleem would cost me around 15/- back in the days. Now, thanks to inflation, its much more than that, but, the quality of the Haleem has improved a lot too!
New Arafat

Located at the juncture of Marquis Street and Wellesley, or Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road as it is called nowadays, you would find people frying chicken in front of the shop. An assortment of colourful marinated chicken lie on huge platters, and on order, fried and served to you inside. A big handi of Haleem is kept outside too, and a sweet smell of baking bread can be smelled from the opposite footpath. Come inside around five in the evening, and you would be seeing huge batches of freshly baked Sheermal, covered with sesame seeds, glacé cherries and raisins. No, this isn’t the Sheermal that is generally finished with saffron and is flat and without traces of fermentation, like the Lucknow style. This is a different thing altogether, because it has a generous dose of leavening, which, I was told once by a rather abrupt cook from Lucknow, is not going to go into making a Sheermal. Anyway, that’s another story, and I don’t think this post can take it.

Beef Seekh Kabab

Therefore we enter, get three seats in a corner, and order the Beef Haleem, together with one of the residing bread beauties, gloriously fluffy and soft, and a few sticks of Beef Seekh Kabab (18/- per stick), because really, I don’t see the point of coming over to Arafat and not eating Seekh Kabab. These are essentially small pieces of beef, marinated in spices and cooked over charcoal fire after skewering. You can call them boti but these guys call them Seekh, and I am not complaining. The Kababs are soft, charred around the edges, and after a squeeze of lime, fabulous with the accompanying onion and chillies.

Sheermal

The Sheermal (50/-) comes to us cut in four pieces. Our server, Mr. Jamal, smiles and gives us extra bowls to distribute the Haleem, and I pick up a piece of the Sheermal, and bite into it. This is an experience which I always considered to be rather glorious – fresh, sweet bread, with a lovely crunchy bottom, still faintly warm from the oven, and topped with cherries and raisins and sesame seeds, all crunch and sweetness. This is what I keep coming back to, like a little addict coming back for her fix whenever the time is ripe. Meanwhile, the Beef Haleem is distributed amongst the three, and we top our bowls with some of the herbage (mint and cilantro), add lime juice, and eat a spoonful.

Beef Haleem

The Beef Haleem (65/-) comes topped with a generous spoonful of oil (some people call it Tari), and it contains little pieces of mostly boneless beef which melt in the mouth.  The meat was, to be very honest, falling off the bone, and on the verge of disintegrating into the soupy dal, which, mind you, was rich, thick, with a smoky aftertaste, and hints of fennel and mace that added to its character. It was, what I would say, a moment of sheer ecstasy, and the excellent beef kababs paled in front of it. Of course, Arafat makes gorgeous Paaya (trotters) as well, which is another gem when you want a quick meal which would make you feel drowsy afterwards, and the fact that they cook the meat for a very long time makes these dishes incredible.

Our bill, for the meal, was around 200/- which I would say is beyond reasonable. The three of us left Arafat with huge smiles and brandished rounds of the Sheermal which we had scored from there to take back home.

It didn’t reach home, to tell the truth. The lure proved to be a bit too much.

New Arafat
75B Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road,
Wellesley
Kolkata
Phone: 033-22176398

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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