On the occasion of the Bengali New Year, ‘Poila Boishakh’, Novotel has brought forward a set of local flavours to tantalize the taste buds. I recently checked out their menu, which boasts of a plethora of fish for the occasion, including Shorshe Ilish and Tel Koi. With the arrival of Poila Boishakh, Square at Novotel would be serving quite a few Bengali dishes with their regular buffet menu, and I had to sample some of it.
As we were seated, glasses of cold jal jeera came to soothe our tired, overheated souls, quenching our thirst and whetting our collective appetite for what can only be called a laid back lunch, filled with food which delivers comfort.
A platter filled with fried potato and chhana fritters appear, with a side of kasundi, the fragrant, sinus-clearing mustard sauce of Bengal. Beneath their crunchy exterior, the chhana filling is soft and slightly sweet, while the potato is salty and moreish, and I wished for a bowl of muri and a couple of green chillies to eat them with.
With rice, we started with a bit of cold, tomato pora. The Bengali lunch should ideally start with a pora or a bhaate or teto, either something burned and mashed, or boiled, or something bitter, because these are healthy and good for you. The roasted tomatoes were mashed to a course paste, and served with some green coriander on top. By itself, it was a superb starter, cold and delicious, and I preferred having it that way instead of with rice.
The potato was boiled and then mashed with some chillies, mustard oil and salt. I am a fan of this with some dal, and after I requested for it, a bowl of plain masoor dal was set before me, and it went rather well with it. I also liked the mildly sweet cauliflower and potato curry, which reminded me of the way my mother would cook the dish for bhog (food which is offered to the Gods).
For our main course, there were plenty of options, but I picked the chicken because it was simply cooked, with a good bit of cumin which shone through. It wasn’t exactly what I would call a Korma, but it went well with the rice, so I wasn’t complaining. I wasn’t too fond of the paturi, where the mustard didn’t have the necessary heat to bring the oomph factor to the dish, which I find a rather important aspect of this particular dish.
The Mutton Kasha, on the other hand, was soft and succulent, with slices of green chillies cooked with the meat, and I gleefully broke a couple of them and mashed them with my rice, savouring the delicate heat from the chillies with the unique comfort of the rice. I did miss the potato, but the succulent meat sort of made me forget all about it after a few seconds.
Instead of the popular chutney and papads, dessert was a huge plate filled with a rather impressive assortment of desserts, both traditional and fusion. There was a bowl of rather excellent, dark and sinful Mishti Doi, some fluffy and saffron-laden Rasmalai, silky Creme Caramel with Nolen Gur in it, and Malpua Cheesecake which was quite divine. The Bengali Food Festival at Novotel is on till the 23rd of this month. Lunch buffet is between 12:30-3:30pm, and dinner buffet is between 7:00-10:30pm at INR 1423/- +taxes. In the evening, live Bengali music performances are yet another attraction that should not be missed.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to the event by the management.