The end of summer is traditionally Hilsa feasting time in Bengal, but things are much more muddled in Mumbai. In any case, O Calcutta announced the Hilsa Festival in August, and we promptly started salivating. There’s nothing like a bit of independence to inspire the Bengali bhadralok to a feast, so we headed into Tardeo’s innards on the very next day – Sunday, August 16 2009.
This OnlyFish-turned-OCalcutta tucked away in a shady-sounding Hotel Rosewood in the bylanes of Tardeo is my favourite in the now humungous chain that Anjan Chatterjee has built, but it turned out to be firmly in the middle of a renovation. The restaurant was still open, though now it was tucked away in what must have been a conference room at the same shadily named hotel. There were, however, plenty of displays announcing that the hilsa we were after was definitely on the menu.
Basically, the festival was six different preparations of hilsa; what the Frenchophiles among us call entrees. Of course fried hilsa was there but off all menus altogether – obviously the Bengali did not have be told of its existence. The four of us decided the most convenient would be fried hilsa, smoked hilsa (from the regular menu) and four of the special prepares – Posto, Aam Sorshe, Midnapuri and Tetulpata. Each plate had one peti piece.
Smoked boneless Ilish used to be a wow on the old Only Fish menu; its still good but the drool factor is less – I think the chef has changed. Fried hilsa, along with generous quantities of fish eggs was good too, not the world’s best hilsa but quite recognisably from Bengal (as opposed to the insipid Narmada varities). Posto Ilish turned out to be very posto, the others though it ok though I liked the silky texture it imparted to the fish itself. Tetulpata (cooked with tetul leaves) was slightly sour – nice but not that dramatic. Aam Shorshe was loaded with raw mango and mustard in a wonderful gravy but the hit of the day was Midnapuri – hilsa with bhindi in a khatta gravy that was unusual but quite droolworthy.
The Hilsa Festival is on till the end of the month, so go fish…