Amazing food tasting session at 18 James Long, Kolkata

This Urban Asian Kitchen is located at the postal address 18, James Long Sarani (Behala) and that too at a place like Sakherbazar, that’s more than astonishing to me; well I will discuss about the reasons later 🙂 I have been raised in this area and the place where ‘18 James Long’ restaurant is situated today used to be our school bus stand! I know very well how this place used to be couple of decades back. But today when I return back to this place the transformation of this piece of land quite rightly amazes me. People in this part of the city were never really that fond of experimenting with their meals or cuisines and stuff. Seven-eight years ago the best restaurant in Behala used to be the infamous Panna Kitchen or the overcrowded Haji Saheb. Since childhood I was particularly upset with the culinary scenarios at Behala. The place had several amazing sweet shops but nothing more than that. There was no joint serving authentic continental dishes or any place serving amazing South East Asian cuisine. This urban Asian kitchen at 18, James long Sarani is therefore like of a pleasant surprise to me more than anything else. Now I am sure very soon we can have something like a gastropub or a microbrewery here at Behala. Am I dreaming too big, eh?

But on a serious note, you can mark my words that this place is one of the best eateries in this part of the city, and they have got huge potential for sure. Their momos are so damn good that you can travel all the way from Dum Dum or maybe from further Northern fringes of the city just to get a bite into those juicy delicacies. Food is definitely a huge plus point here, and yes the prices are very reasonable as well. Only I would like the seating arrangements to be increased and maybe some more work is still pending from the ambiance perspective to make this place one of the finest joints to dine at. The food exudes the class which is somewhat missing in the ambiance, which can surely be achieved. The place has got simple wooden tables with similar chairs or black moderately comfy couches. The couches are basically placed there upstairs. On an average 30-35 people can sit and dine here at max which is quite alarming since the food artists demand more audience here, for sure.

On the ground floor there are only few small tables which are placed nicely without making the place look cramped up. The beautiful shelf with Buddha head statue and other Buddhist decorative elements will surely catch your attention at the ground floor. The shelf has got a staircase quite close to it that will take you upstairs where there are only about 4 tables very comfortably placed. The decors are minimal, though it’s true such simple décor is good when you want to concentrate only on the food.

Anyway, now let’s come straight to the food. I was invited to this amazing place along with my Panchphoron blogger friends. Suman, the owner was more than polite and friendly. We kept no stones unturned in understanding our taste buds and offered us a plethora of dishes to get them tasted by us for the feedback on them. The session was quite interactive and he asked for live feedbacks in the end which we happily shared. So when I to document them, I have to pen them down bit more in a organized way. So here you go, these are the items that we tried:
BEVERAGES
a) Pineapple Julep – It had the right balance of Pineapple, Orange, Mint and Lime. Clearly the best drink of the evening. It was refreshing and served in huge quantity in than big fat glass.

b) Basil and litchee Mojito – This could have been tad better. It comprised of Litchee, Cranberry, Basil and Lime and truly speaking it had all the ingredients to make things great. Maybe the aroma of basil and flavor of lime needs to be suppressed a bit, somehow the litchee and lime was not going too well.

c) Cucumber and Pomegranate Blossom – This mocktail comprised of Orange |Pomegranate, Cucumber, Coriander roots and Lime. You won’t find drinks usually served with real coriander roots in them, as most of us know coriander roots have some benefits and are used to prepare several Thai dishes. This drink also could have been much better. Actually the punch of all these ingredients didn’t go very well in the first place, though it was pretty refreshing in the beginning but things didn’t go well when we kept on sipping. The flavor had nothing more to offer and was flat and tad unpleasant in the end. Needs some work on this, maybe the ingredients need to be altered and re-added in correct proportion.
SOUPS

a) Tofu with mushroom and tomato – To start with this was a soothing, mild flavored clear soup with Shitake mushrooms, peeled tomatoes, soft tofu and coriander in them. The proportions of ingredients were right and the stuff was warm enough to be appreciated.

b) Birds nest soup – This was an awesome mildly spiced, very thick soup with loads of chilies, ginger, garlic in it and was topped with crispy noodles. This didn’t look so promising but it really tasted out of the world. You should try it if you are at this place. Must try!

c) Wanton Soup – Wanton soup always attracts me, I am a fan of pork wanton soup available at Tung Nam in the city and everywhere in the world I try Wanton soup if that’s there in the menu. Here the soup was very good and it’s surely worth a try, you won’t get see weeds though like it’s there provided elsewhere in the world, but it tasted really good. It was a soothing sesame oil flavored clear soup with stuffed chicken wantons. The wantons had a perfect silky skin and full marks for that. Must try!

d) Thai Tom Yum soup – This was the regular Thai TomYum soup that you get to taste everywhere. It was a simple Tom Yum flavored clear soup with dash of lemongrass, kafir lime leaves and galangal. The proportions were correct though I felt the soup was tad too watery which can easily be rectified.
SALADS

a) Sweet and sour cucumber with mint – We had two salads here to be tasted, and this one was the veg salad. It was pretty simple and very refreshing indeed. Cucumber was the basic ingredient and I was pretty pleased since the dish was kept simple which was crucial, apart from Cucumber, it had the mix of palm sugar, rice vinegar, dash of lime, topped with Thai birds eye chilies, coriander and mint. The end result was quite appreciable. Worth a try!

b) Chicken and shredded cabbage – And this was the non-veg salad that was offered. It looked good and tasted great! I will surely go back and order this salad, it was so soul satisfying. You call these to be comfort foods. It had the mix of shredded chicken, Chinese cabbage, roasted onions, dash of mint, coriander, palm sugar, ginger and Thai red chilies in it. It was mild in the end, not at all spicy and in fact it tasted a bit sweet which was a pleasant surprise. It was an awesome mix in the end. Must try!

APPETIZERS

a) Chicken and Cilantro momos – Maybe I tasted the best momos in town! Yes, you have to taste to believe this. It was so juicy with such an awesome oily silky thin skin. It had the perfect amount of chicken, onion, garlic and cilantro stuffing in it that tasted great, and moreover with every bite you can feel the juicy core and the juices coming out from within. Order for it and savor it with your eyes closed, there is nothing more satisfying. I will rate it 6 out of 5 🙂 Must try!

b) Pork and Brandy momos – Momos at this place are awesome. Since I have explained it while writing the description for Chicken & Cilantro momos so I won’t repeat the same stuff again, but the pork filling promised a bit more punch which I felt was missing. Maybe the meat needs some more treatment to bring out the best porky flavor before it’s put in those silky skins.

c) Crispy chilli baby corn & mushroom – A run of the mill dish that had a bit of twist in it with the mushroom pieces in it. It had the crispy fried baby corns and mushrooms tossed with bell peppers and scallions on a sweet and chilli sauce, tasted nice in the end though I am not very fond of fried baby corns!

d) Asian sweet and sour chicken with spinach crackling –  This was a battered fried chicken strips dish that was tossed on a sweet & sour chilli sauce and served with spinach crackling, burnt garlic and toasted sesame seeds. Tasted really nice and the right mix of the ingredients brought out the true flavors. The spinach crackling was something new which you will not get in every eatery and I really loved trying it with the juicy chicken strips. Worth a try!

e) Thai chicken wings – Everyone loved fried chicken wings, but this dish here was not that great since it was bit too much fried and the covering was hard in the end. It was basically the well marinated Chicken wings which were deep fried. It was flavored with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal, but the tad too hard coating marred it somewhat. Hope it can be easily rectified.
f) Santung (Pork) – This was another awesome starter that we tried. It was crispy fried pork slices tossed with scallions, burnt garlic and chilies on Chinese cooking wine. It was simply a joy to have this stuff, and the dish was finished in a span of 3-4 minutes I guess. Must try!

g) Prawn fire crackers – Again an amazing starter, by now we were used to the awesomeness of the food at this place 🙂 This was a crispy fried marinated tiger prawns wrapped in wanton sheets; it had the right crunch of the crispy covering on the outside and was soft and bouncy inside for that fresh prawn. And yes, I loved that dip as well. Must try!

h) Thai fish cakes with chilly garlic mayo dip – This was the last starter that we tried at this place. It was again very nice though we were quite full by this time. This was the minced Basa fish with lime leaves in it, it had the right punch of lemongrass, chilies and Thai curry sauce. They were shaped into bite sized cakes and then they were pan-fried with a delicate coating of panko crumbs, quite an joy to savor in the end 🙂

MAIN COURSE

a) Butter garlic fried rice – To start with, I just loved this simple aromatic fried rice that seemed to be very fresh and honest to me! It was basically a wok tossed fried rice on butter and just topped with burnt garlic, things were kept simple and flavors and aroma was available in abundance. Worth a try!

b) Spinach pan fried noodles – This was a simple pan fried crispy noodles topped with green thick Spinach based gravy, the presentation was not good but it tasted really amazing. I would request the owner to work a bit on the presentation of this dish to make it look appetizing, but other than that the taste and preparation was just perfect. Must try!
SIDES

a) Baby corn & Mushroom hupak style – This was a veg dish served in a lovely red bown with a long handle making it look like a large cup. It was prepared with Baby corn and mushroom which was stir-fried with black bean sauce and pickled onion. Simple and awesome.

b) Sliced chicken with basil and oyster sauce – This was quite a common preparation, it had nicely diced chicken pieces with bash of basil and with an oyster sauce base. But to me the taste could have been tad better; maybe the proportion of oyster sauce was bit on the higher side.

c) Butter & garlic prawn – Again an amazing prawn dish, and yes this was the last one. It had awesome fresh tiger prawns in it tossed with white butter & garlic sauce, again a lovely side that one should order. Must try!
DESSERT

a) Banana fritters with soft vanilla ice cream – Though I tried it here but I am not a great fan of banana fritters in general. But the item here was really nice; the mashed banana in there was consistent in taste. And when you mix it with some soft vanilla ice cream it tastes great.

b) Darsaan with vanilla ice cream – This is quite a common dessert these days, the darsaan was just perfect with the right crunch and sweetness to them, tastes great with the dollop of vanilla ice cream scoop. Worth a try!

c) Fried ice cream – The fried ice cream looked great and the presentation was really nice, but we were pleased when we actually tried it. The corn flakes and cookie crumb coating was really nice and the vanilla ice cream within was perfect in the end. I guess it was very briefly fried since it was not very crispy like I have had in few other places. Worth a try!

So, in the end we were very pleased with all the items served, overall they were amazing and a sure food is prepared with utmost care at this place. The service is good and prompt as well, but the servers should be bit more careful since there were couple of plates slipping here and there that we noticed. Otherwise the owner was very courteous, helpful and informative and I hope all the servers are well informed as well about the dishes. Overall I will give this place 85% positive feedback and I wish them all the best for the coming days. Keep serving the great food that you have been doing and equations will be quite simple from there on.
Readers, if you haven’t been to this place, go give it a try! You won’t regret.
Cheers!
18 James Long Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 
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