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OUR BEST FOOD FORWARD

Garlic bread

Where: Salt & Pepper, outside City Centre

Why it’s a must-eat: The garlic bread here is made of home-made dough. The chefs then do it up with cheese and mayonnaise and bake in a tandoor of sorts. That’s what gives it the melt-in-your-mouth quality.

Pocket pinch: The eight-piece family platter costs Rs 120 and the four-piece one costs Rs 80.

Also serves: The Crispy Chilli Babycorn and pasta dishes here are also sought after.

When available: 11am to 11pm

Customerspeak: “In other places we are served bread with a sprinkle of garlic. Those are just garlic-flavoured breads. But here, the spices are overwhelming, the crust is crispy and the inside soft,” says Tiyasha Maitra of New Town, who has even tried to prepare the dish at home.

Chefspeak: “We serve continental, Indian and Chinese cuisine too but regardless of what type of cuisine is being ordered, every table at our outlet orders garlic bread,” says manager Kingshuk Bhattacharya.

Mutton Tikia

Where: Aahar, EC Market

Why it’s a must-eat: This chunky blob of minced meat cooked in gravy has great recall value. So popular is the item that the giant hot plate at the entrance of the outlet is on the boil round the clock, cooking the meat. Two rumali rotis and a tikia make a wholesome meal.

Pocket pinch: Rs 45 for one piece

Also serves: Kebabs and Chinese dishes

When available: Noon to 11pm

Customerspeak: CD Block’s Anirban RoyChoudhury is an avid fan of Aahar’s Tikia but confesses to getting acidity after having it. “Aahar’s Tikia is like Delhi ka laddoo. He who eats it suffers from acidity but he who resists it suffers even more for having missed out on it.”

Chefspeak: “We’ve had Tikia on our menu since Day One and it’s our fastest moving dish,” says owner Liton Pal.

Karunamoyee Fried Chicken

Where: The stall is called Solid Gulp but there’s no placard saying so. Just look for the most crowded stall at Karunamoyee, opposite the international bus terminus. Better still, ask anyone where Bapida’s outlet is.

Why it’s a must-eat: The chicken is tender, juicy and crunchy and if picked up on the way home from office or college, will quell your appetite but not ruin your dinner.

Pocket pinch: Rs 50 for one piece (quarter chicken)

Also serves: When Bapida started this shop momos were the only item available and they have become his signature dish. Chicken Lollypop, Chicken Wings and Chicken Pakodas are also favourites.

When available: 5.30pm to 8.30pm

Customerspeak: Besides eating his grub, Bapida’s fans have opened a facebook page called “Bapidar Momo” in his honour. The page has more than 700 likes.

Chefspeak: “We cook all morning and serve all evening,” says chef Bapi Banerjee who happens to be a resident of Karunamoyee’s G Block. Bapida is a former hotel management student who opened this outlet in 1999. “We sell items made of 30 to 40kg of chicken a day.”

Victoria Vada

Where: The chaat corner in the park outside the swimming pool

Why it’s a must-eat: The mini vadas are an appetising mix of moog dal, ajwain, jeera, coriander and green chilli. It is served with two chutneys — one made of pudina and coriander and the other of garlic. One plate serves six vadas but it’s tough to stop at one.

Pocket pinch: Rs 25 per plate

Also serves: Dal ka chilla, chaats and pao bhaji

When available: 4pm to 10pm everyday except Sundays, when it is available till 11pm

Customerspeak: “I eat Victoria Vada whenever I come to Salt Lake to visit my parents,” says Ruchi Chowdhury of New Alipore. “Every time I tell myself that it’s oily and that I won’t eat it again but I fail to keep my promise,” she laughs, gorging on the hot vadas.

Chefspeak: Meghnath Shaw says this dish derives its name from the vadas that would be sold outside Victoria Memorial in the 1970s. “This preparation was very popular but the hawkers got evicted from there,” says Shaw, who learnt the recipe from the original makers.

Pan Fried Momo in Hot Garlic Sauce

Where: The Blue Poppy in Gorkha Bhavan, adjacent to the petrol pump near City Centre

Why it’s a must-eat: This momos here neither taste nor look like the lanky pale steamed momos we’re used to. It’s crispy and comes smeared in a red, dry sauce of its own. This sauce is hot-and-sweet and one need not dip it in the fiery chilli momo sauce before eating. One can choose between vegetarian, chicken and pork filling. Though the restaurant specialises in Himalayan cuisine, this recipe is a Blue Poppy original.

Pocket pinch: Rs 100 for eight pieces

Also serves: Phalay, which is a flat deep fried momo resembling a paratha, and Ema Dasi, which is a Bhutanese gravy dish made of cheese sauce.

When available: Noon to 3.30pm, 5.15pm to 9.30pm. The outlet is shut on the last Sunday of the month.

Customerspeak: “This restaurant isn’t high-end. Neither does it have elaborate decor but I get what I come here for — tasty and good quality food. The prices are reasonable and the lunch timings are quite long,” says Indrajit Chanda of BC Block.

Chefspeak: “People of Salt Lake love spicy food,” says chef Sachiko Seth. “They love experimenting with new items, especially pork.”

Tea

Where: Gupta Tea Platform, under Julie House, opposite City Centre

Why it’s a must-drink: Loyalists say the tea at this stall has just the right tea-to-milk ratio and the most enticing of aromas. The tea is available in sizes small, medium, large and even in an XL size.

Pocket pinch: Ranges from Rs 4 to 15

Also serves: Biscuits

When available: 6am to 9pm

Customerspeak: “We come all the way from AH Block to have the tea here. We shop at City Centre but come here for the tea. Not only does it taste great but the vendor — Kaka — receives us warmly,” say Subhashree Maharana, Priyanka Sharma and Sibani Patnaik, sipping on the beverage. Of late the girls, who live as paying guests, are trying to persuade Kaka to open a branch near their house. “His tea reminds us of our homes in Orissa.”

Chefspeak: “Shoppers, office-going folk and auto drivers all come to this stall. Once they taste the tea here they keep finding excuses to come back,” grins Kaka, also known as Lalchand Shaw.

Meetha paan

Where: Banarasi Pan Shop, BF Block, next to Gangotri restaurant

Why it’s a must-eat: So tasty is the paan from this shop that on popular demand, the vendor has started home delivery service. He has a laminated menu card at the stall with more than 20 options to choose from. But the meetha paan, with laxmi chura, neelam chutney, and yellow cherry, remains the best-seller.

Pocket pinch: Rs 15

Also serves: Besides common choices like Ghundi Paan and Meetha Patta 120 Zarda Paan, the shop also makes Chocolate Paan and Ice Paan but they have to be pre-ordered.

When available: 8am to 11pm

Customerspeak: “The paan here is a mouthful of delight. It’s juicy and so huge that once I pop it in I can’t open my mouth till I’ve finished it,” smiles Phuntsok Zorgay Gyarong, a customer in queue.

Chefspeak: “We try to maintain quality and we are generous with ingredients. We have fixed customers who come throughout the day. On Saturdays, I sell around 300 pieces,” says Birendra Chaurasia, one of the men behind this 25-year-old family-run shop.

orange kulfi

Where: At a stall next to the petrol pump at Tank 9.

Why it’s a must-eat: The USP of this kulfi is that it is served inside real orange skin. The pulp of the orange is scooped out. It is used to make the kulfi and later inserted back into the peel. Also, despite freezing the other types of kulfi inside thermocol boxes, the vendors keep the orange ones inside brass pots. This lends them a unique flavour.

Pocket pinch: Rs 40

Also serves: Strawberry is the other winter speciality. In summer they serve mango, litchi and sitaphal and all-year flavours include kesar pista and chiku.

When available: Noon to 11pm. But the Orange Kulfi will only be available till Holi.

Customerspeak: “It’s always nice to have dessert after dinner, especially if it’s cold and made of seasonal fruits,” says Devraj Paul, who had come for an Orange Kulfi. “And my three-year-old daughter is fascinated by the dessert inside the fruit.”

Chefspeak: “Even in winter, people come for frozen desserts. While the orange one is a novelty we don’t make more than 10 a day as they are difficult to preserve,” says Siddharth Thakur.

Mushroom on Toast

Where: Bon Apetit, AD Block

Why it’s a must-eat: This open sandwich comes with thick gravy poured generously on it. The gravy is prepared by cooking sliced mushrooms and herbs with cream. Brown bread is used as the base to make it crunchier.

Pocket pinch: Rs 75

Also serves: Chilli Cheese Toast and a dessert called Choco Avalanche, that tosses together ice cream, chocolate chips and cake.

When available: 11am to 8.30pm, Monday closed

Customerspeak: “I come here as often as I can and today I’ve brought my friends to try the Mushroom on Toast and Choco Avalanche that are my favourites,” said Sulagna Roy, a student of Our Lady Queen of the Missions who had come over with friends on Saraswati puja.

Chefspeak: “Mushroom on Toast was launched as a Valentine’s Day special item in 2009. On popular demand we had to include it in our regular menu. It is my own recipe,” says proprietor and chef Rahul Arora.

egg roll

Where: GG’s snack corner, outside CA Market

Why it’s a must-eat: The paratha used in these rolls are soft and they add just the right amount of sauces to give it a tangy taste that keeps you asking for more.

Pocket pinch: Rs 15

Also serves: Besides chicken and mutton rolls, the shop makes good momos and chowmein.

When available: 4pm to 10pm, Thursday closed

Customerspeak: For Marya Zabeen and Rupa Das, rolls at GG’s are much more than snacks. “It’s almost our daily dinner,” laugh the girls, who stay as paying guests in CB Block.

Chefspeak: “When we started this shop in 1989 rolls were just picking up in Calcutta. We introduced the item and are happy that people have liked it,” says Bhaskar Ghosh. Chef Dilip Purkayastha has been making rolls here since its inception.

Pictures by Saradindu Chaudhury