It may differ for many, but for me having authentic South Indian food in Kolkata means heading straight to Banana Leaf! It’s the no-frill holy institution of South Indian food lovers serving amazing food and nothing else. Its Lake Market outlet is the oldest and that outlet earned immense goodwill over the years and people used to travel the distance to dine at this place. Then recently few years ago Rajesh Bala decided to open several more outlets of Banana Leaf across the city to bring the brand closer to people. A passionate marathon runner and mountaineer, Rajesh is extremely humble and sincere about his work. He had opened up this Saltlake sector-5 outlet couple of years back in the Globsyn Building (near Webel crossing) and till today it is the only place in the area serving authentic fresh South Indian food.
Few days ago I was invited for a food tasting session at this place. I had been to this sector-5 joint several times, in fact I was one of the few early customers when this joint had opened up couple of years back. Since then, I know where to go for South Indian food if I am near Saltlake area. The Aloo masala or the filling which Banana Leaf serves inside a Masala Dosa is amazing and I can keep coming back for that hundred times. The food at this outlet is similar to other outlets, but the main concern with this outlet is the confined interiors. It’s like a large hall with tables and chairs and having no windows to contact with the natural sunlight, also there is lots of sound reflection which the owner is well aware of and is working on. There is not much that can be done with the location of this outlet in this building, so it’s futile to worry about that part I believe.
Now coming to the food which I had tasted during this tasting session:
Rice Idly – We started off with simple rice idlis. These are very fresh and fluffy and made of boiled rice and Urad dal giving it a mild taste. It is served with Sambar dal and white chutney.
Sada Vada – This was a plate of two traditional urad dal vada with sambar dal and white chutey. The vadas were hot and crisp outside and steamy, fresh and super soft inside. If you love Vadas, you should try them here.
Dhania Butter Masala Dosa – It had potato filling and was served in a triangular. But here the color of the dosa was greenish. The Dhania dosa had an inner coating of fresh dhania and pudina paste with some necessary dash of spices. Sadly the coating layer was tad thicker here and would have been better if the coating was comparatively less.
Cheese Onion Rava Masala Dosa – This one looked so different and much more interesting than a plain rava dosa. Rava dosas are easy to prepare as they do not require the basic fermentation. And as the name indicates, the rava or the semolina dosa was generously covered with layers of cheese and onions here. It was stuffed with aloo masala inside. The stuff tasted very good though you should definitely try it hot since it has cheese in there.
Uttapam Platter – This was a plate of five mini Uttapams having drastically different five flavors. There were different touches of flavors like tomato, potato, onion, cashew, gun powder, etc. The one with cashew was very new to me since I never tasted a cashew uttapam, the real cashew nuts in there gave that extra rich flavor to that mini uttapam. Others were also flavorful and well accepted by all.
Paper Dosa – I had never tried this Dosa at Banana Leaf. Rajesh insisted me to try this one, and yes I really liked it. It is actually huge and two person can munch on it easily. It has a nice crisp to it which stays for a long time. It has got no aloo masala inside it. A small bowl of masala is served separately though along with sambar and white chutey. If you are here with your family of friends you can surely order for this paper dosa.
Rava Kesari – This is the yellowish orange colored sweet dish or the dessert which we absolutely loved to the last nibble! This is basically sooji halwa which was freshly prepared for us and was hot when served; it was oozing with rich aroma of ghee and loads of dry fruits! It was not overtly sweet which I really liked. An absolute marvel to end the meal with.
Also I was served aerated drinks along with the food which helped me wash down the food. Overall, the food items tried were very good. Though the wonderful quality of Banana Leaf doesn’t amaze me any more, I expect such top notch quality from them, what I really like is their consistency and warm hospitality. So, as always, big thumbs up from my side for this amazing authentic joint serving fresh South Indian food everyday to its patrons. Hope they will keep growing and keep reaching to more and more people in near future.
[P.S. Thanks to Oendrila De for the lovely pictures!]