At some point during my stay in Madras (which is more Chennai than Madras nowadays if you know what I mean) I decided that I have had enough and decided to return to Calcutta. I was away for two years and had been hearing of the many restaurants that are starting to come up all over the city. Naturally, I had to find out for myself.
Now, Miss. Banerjee is my go-to person for everything food in Calcutta and upon my return to Calcutta I waste no time in meeting up with her. For no particular reason we decide to meet at Gariahat. After the customary exchange of celebratory exclamations and gulps of Diet Coke we are ready to eat. We decide to give Chawla’s 2 at Golpark a try. Chawla’s 2 is a popular restaurant chain serving Punjabi food all over Punjab and North India. It has branches in Chennai, Bombay, Patna, Hyderabad and some outside the country too.
It is a three minutes’ walk from Gariahat, at Golpark in the lane adjoining Mouchak (Fern Road), on the footpath opposite to Rally’s. The restaurant is on the first floor. The narrow staircase is made beautiful by old photographs of very fashionable men and women -very retro, although, it is not really retro because back then it was modern. Upstairs, the seating-area is done up in pleasant shades of beige, pink, brown, orange and red. Imagine the Flury’s colour-scheme with more reds and oranges thrown in. They also have rows of mason jars filled with coloured abir or rangoli powder. A very inexpensive way of adding colour to the otherwise minimalist set-up.
Miss. Banerjee has been here once before and reminds me that we must order the Cream Chicken. This is my first (no second, first was Mocambo) meal in Calcutta and I am still in the stage where I want to eat everything I see or hear of. So, we order two starters – Chicken Kalmi Kebab (which the waiter recommended) and Adrak ke Panje – half portions of each since the portions here are very large. The Chicken Kalmi kebab is nicely spiced drumsticks served with a yoghurt-pudina dip and a nice crunchy slaw of onions, cabbages, carrots, etc. Adrak ke Panje, as the name suggests, are ribs of goat marinated in a ginger-heavy marinade and kebabed. The taste is warm and gingery, the meat succulent soft, but both of us agree that the mutton is less than fresh. It is easy to tell specially because it is served on the bones. We did make a note of this in the feedback form they provided with the cheque.
For the main course we order Chawla’s speciality, the Cream Chicken (on the bones, of course), a Dal Makhani and two Plain Naans. The food arrives after some time but it was a good thing in retrospect considering the generous portions that we would soon have to devour. Not that I am complaining. The cutlery and plates are changed before the main course. Nice. Now, I have seen my share of giant Naans in my life as a devourer of gluten products but believe me, these were huge. We looked at the seemingly bottomless basket of Naan’s cut into pieces and wondered in what world would one call that two Naans? I had expected the Cream Chicken to be a sweet white cashew-laced gravy. Turns out I was wrong. It is a light brown creamy gravy, its mellowness cut through by the heat of black peppers. Lots. Unusual and delicious. There are roughly 5-6 pieces of chicken and this is just half a plate. Good Lord. But the real revelation turns out to be the Dal Makhani. Very, very mellow and wonderful. After considerable effort we manage to finish most of the food. I believe the real test of deliciousness is when you are completely full and can eat no more but you can still look at the cause of your present state of discomfort and feel nothing but love for it. For me the Dal Makhani was that dish at Chawla’s 2.
The bill comes to a reasonable 750-ish with taxes.
Lets face it. Chawla’s 2 will never have the charm and character of Russel Dhaba. But if you are looking for good Punjabi food served in a clinically clean modern environment it is definitely recommended. You could go a little further to Ballygunj Dhaba. I would. But on a day you are hungry after roaming around in Gariahat haggling with hawkers you can go to Chawla’s 2 and have a quiet lunch of stereotypical North Indian meal from a land whose national bird is the Butter Chicken.