The Thali. A Bengali Thali. Where fish is considered vegetarian. The chef laughed and nodded. My friend, a hard core non vegetarian, was vegetarian for the day. The chef, consoled him. "When you go to somebody's home, most of the food is vegetarian, no?" he asked. "So here also, there is lots for any guest who is vegetarian," he said. He wasn't wrong. My friend was happy.
He presented the Thali and all the stuff that comes along the Thali on the table. Spread was pretty huge! Some interesting stuff. A mustard colour fish is not very uncommon in Bengali cuisine, but a savoury Rasagolla? I've never heard of it before. Looking at all this, my already-lunch-skipped-and-hungry stomach wasn't too happy to wait.
Out came the thali from that table to our table. The chef was quick to acknowledge that the starters were not really Bengali, but just mildly inspired to have them on the menu for commercial reasons. Then he said that he has prepared the rest of the food in this festival without commercial interests because, obviously it was close to his heart. Out came a poori! Apparently, made fully with maida, this is the Bengali version and was called Loochi. No real difference except that it was super soft. The difference was trying to eat it without our potato gravy. One bite with the fantastic savoury rasagolla, one bite with what they called the Posto Murgi and one bite each with each of the gravies and we were suddenly starting to savour a melange of flavours in our mouth. Add two un-tasted before pickles and the melange was complete!
My star of the day was the savoury rasagolla, officially called the Rosogollar Dalna. The same slightly sweetish rosogolla but dunked in the perfectly balanced tomato gravy was a surprise to the taste buds. While apparently it is eaten with the Dhal, called Narkeli Cholar Dhal, we loved it with everything else. Another star was the sweet gourd dunked in a similar tomato gravy as the rosogollar. My vegetarian-for-the-day friend went gaga over it and this was another dish that can be on so many menus. It keeps reinforcing the fact that vegetarian dishes are not done enough justice in Chennai and there is so much more to it. Now that I have been exposed to so many varieties of biriyani and wanted to try the Bengali version, I quite loved that too! We finished with a platter of Mishti Doi, Malpua and the regular Rosogolla!!!!
But besides the thali, we also got to taste the Bengal lemon and the Five Spices and a little lesson on Bengali cuisine. Available for dinner at Spice Haat in Hyatt Regency till the end of the week, the Thali is priced around Rs. 1500 while the dishes are also available as part of the buffet. But my choice would be to go and have it the thali way!