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Southern surprise

Branching off Southern Avenue, right at the Lake Stadium junction, Sarat Bose Road is the perfect residential area ó accessibly located yet green and airy, with the picturesque Dhakuria Lake a stoneís throw away and the buildings and high-rises not too close for comfort. Renamed Sarat Bose Road after the elder brother of Subhas Chandra Bose, the former Lansdowne area has been growing by leaps and bounds with a host of new restaurants and retail shops having changed its face irrevocably.

A walk down the stretch of Sarat Bose Road from where it begins opposite the Stadium to the point it dissects Rashbehari Avenue, proves to be a gastronomic trip par excellence for the discerning foodie, what with a plethora of restaurants and eateries that cater to every class, palate and pocket. What follows is a rundown on the best and the most famous culinary joints in the area to help you decide for yourself where you want to head.

Marco Polo

If itís a leisurely and lavish dining experience you crave, youíd do well to head for Marco Polo, the upmarket restaurant at 205, Sarat Bose Road that will be celebrating its second anniversary in less than a fortnight. This multi-cuisine restaurant, with its muted lighting, sophisticated décor and hushed ambience is the perfect place for a quiet and relaxed meal with your family or friends.

The bill of fare at Marco Polo is extensive, taking in an array of popular Continental and Indian delicacies. Have your fill of appetisers such as Falafel, Prawn Cocktail, Shahi Jhinga Zafrani and Kakori Kebab before trying out baked items such as Potato Provencale, Roast Chicken and Prawn Thermidor.

If Indian fare is more up your street, take your pick from lip-smacking classics including Paneer Amir Khusroo, Murg Kali Mirch, Rogan-e-Nishat, Jhinga Tawa Masala and the ubiquitous Dal Makhani. Even if you are a true-blue Bengali on the lookout for some authentic Bangla ranna, Marco Polo does not fail to satisfy with a spread of Postor Bora, Kosha Mangsho, Chingri Malai Curry and more.

Silver Oak

The newest kid on the block, Silver Oak, with its imposing facade and spanking-new wood-panelled interiors provides great food at prices that sit easy on your pocket, taking off at a modest Rs 20 and going up to a maximum of Rs 190 for a seafood item.

The Indian selection is extensive including shorbas, which you can savour with tandoori delights such as Mutton Seekh Kebab and Dahi Kebab. Vegetarians have it good here, with a variety of curries on offer ó Paneer Butter Masala, American Corn Palak, Chana Masala and more while hard-core meat lovers can choose from Mahi Tikka Masala, Murgh Do Pyaza and Mutton Handi.

Oriental temptations at Silver Oak are just as irresistible. Kick off your meal with soups such as Thai Soup and Rice Noodle Soup accompanied by yummy starters such as momos, Crispy Babycorn, Golden-fried Prawn or even Fish Fingers. Go on to the main course with favourites such as Lemon Chicken, Szechuan Chicken, Chilly Prawn and Hot Garlic Fish, or Chilly Paneer, Chilly Babycorn and Vegetable Manchurian.

Silver Oak also has on offer delicious Continental dishes such as Chicken Hawaiian Salad, Minestrone Soup, Chicken Stroganoff, Fish Mexican, Vegetable Indiano, Vegetarian Au Gratin and pasta including Vegetable Tetrazinne, Spaghetti Bolognaise and Pasta Alio-Olio.

Mandarin

Started by Lo Hong Chong way back in 1966, the popular Chinese restaurant Mandarin has become a virtual landmark on Sarat Bose Road. This 70-seater with its red-dominated décor of Oriental motifs and symbols carved in wood, offers regulation Chinese fare and is one of the most favoured family eating-out joints for locals.

The bill of fare throws up every possible Chinese favourite, starting from soups including Chicken Asparagus, Chicken Sweet Corn and Vegetable Clear Soup. The non-vegetarian section takes in chicken, prawn and fish served in a variety of sauces and gravies ó chilli, garlic, lemon, ginger, sweet and sour, Manchurian, vegetable, mushroom ó name it and the menu has it. Besides the usual vegetarian versions of Manchurian, Szechuan and sweet and sour dishes, Mandarin also offers items such as Pepper Chilli Garlic Babycorn, Chilli Button Mushroom, Chilli Tofu, Pak Choi and Szechuan Paneer.

The items mentioned above are best teamed with the variety of hakka and gravy noodles, rice noodles, soup-chows, chopsueys and fried rice on offer.

Kurry Klub

Kurry Klub is the only restaurant in south Calcutta, and perhaps the whole of the city churning out lip-smacking Mexican, Italian, Indian and fusion cuisine, all at one go. The décor at Kurry Klub is upbeat and colourful ó chequered upholstery, terracotta tiles, funky showpieces et al and the bill of fare here is a spice-loverís dream come true.

The Mexican menu incorporates popular appetisers such as nachos, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and fajitas with vegetarian, chicken and paneer options. The main course items include such specialities as Stir-Fried Prawn with Chilli Coriander Cheese Sauce and Mexican Potatoes with Vegetables in Chilli Bean Sauce. Extras come by way of Mexican Rice, Tortillas and Tomato Salsa.

The Italian selection too, will leave you spoilt for choice with its line-up of soups, appetisers and pastas with a choice of sauces ó Bolognese, Spagnola, Carbonara, Christia, Pizzaiola and more. Donít miss out on the fusion cuisine, however, which takes in delicious Fondue and fusion kebabs besides innovative items such as Shrimp Satay with Chutney, Barbecue Sauce and Peas Pulao, Tuscan Grilled Chicken with Curry Sauce and Sun-dried Tomato Masala Kulcha and Stuffed Pasta with Chicken Tikka in Oriental Sauce. And for sweet endings, indulge in sinful desserts such as Tiramisu, Crepes Fantasia, Cassata, Apple Pie and Banana Fritters.

Maharani

Donít be put off by Maharaniís unassuming and dingy facade, for the huge kadhai of bubbling oil visible from the sidewalk throws up lip-smacking fare that is sure to leave you wanting for more. A 15-year-old venture by brothers Shankar Prasad and Nav Ratan Gupta, Maharani has created an unbelievably strong fan following simply by dint of its quality snacks at rock-bottom prices.

Maharaniís repertoire includes just a handful of no-fuss items but going by the crowd taking in everyone from rickshaw-pullers and students to executives that throng the outlet, its patrons obviously have no reason to complain. And why would they, when they can gorge themselves silly on piping-hot kachoris with yummy aloo subzi and spicy samosas at a mere Rs 1.50 a piece, go on to indulge their sweet tooth with crispy golden jalebis and syrupy gulab jamuns and malpuas priced less than Rs 2 and wash it all down with chai, masala or plain at Rs 5 and Rs 3 respectively.

Vien

A branch of the original Vien at Shakespeare Sarani, the Vien outlet at 5, Maharaja Nanda Kumar Road, just off Sarat Bose Road, opened just six months ago, is a house of traditional Bengali sweets ó just what residents in this area had been waiting for. Run by three generations of the Ghosh family, Vien, the word itself meaning Ďhalwaií in Hindi, offers a range of pure milk-based sweetmeats that one just canít get enough of.

Besides the regulation rosogolla, pantua, langcha, chamcham and khir kodom, Vien also has on offer exotic sweetmeats such as Kumkum, Malai Chop, Toast, Khirmohan and Chanar Goja. The melt-in-the-mouth sandesh in the shape of a sankha or padma, which comes with lemon and kesar flavourings is extremely popular as is the kachagolla and karapak. And winter with its bounty of jaggery is boom-time for Vien as it serves the most amazing gur rosogollas, gur kachagollas, bhapa sandesh and jolbhoras that are its speciality. Savouries such as singara, khasta kachori, nimki and luchi-dal also do well here. And the icing on the cake is the prices that hover between Rs 3 and Rs 10.

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