There is some connection between my taste buds and authentic South Indian cuisine that I am yet to decrypt. Bengalis when they travel down South, they look for homely food but that’s not the case for me. I always try to explore places that serve the authentic local food. Actually that’s true for any place I visit, in the country or abroad, I truly love the fresh flavors of authentic local food that a place has to offer, that’s kind of a weird stress buster for me! So anyway, when I am in my home town (Kolkata) I try to explore every nook and corner of the city to find out joints that dish out truly authentic flavors that come close to what I have tasted back in that particular place, for example when I tasted Nasi Goreng in my city I was continuously comparing it with the dish I had tasted back in Indonesia couple of years back and often I am utterly disappointed (like in this case of Nasi Goreng). So, coming back to the South Indian food I was talking about, if you really want to have fresh and authentic South Indian food in Kolkata or want to treat your South Indian friend then you have to try out places like Banana Leaf.
The place is mostly run by Tamilians in the kitchen and the owner is also a Tamilian (though brought up in Kolkata) and a dear friend of mine. But he was not a friend first and then Banana Leaf happened, in fact it was the other way ‘round. I kinda had to befriend him because I am madly in love with the food this place has to offer! 🙂 But anyway jokes apart, if I really recommend a product or a place it surely means that object or that place has some spark in it, something which is not mediocre. And so when I learnt that Rajesh is opening up another branch of Banana Leaf I naturally got very elated because that means more flowers are blossoming in this otherwise thorny cityscape, especially from the point of view of a South Indian food lover, and there is no exaggeration in this statement.
Few days back Rajesh informed me that he is opening up a new branch of Banana Leaf at Southern Avenue near Vivekananda Park, in the same building that houses the Zucca Lounge and he wants me to come over for a food tasting session. I am meager slave of my taste buds, so I readily accepted his warm invitation! 🙂 On the day, I had no problems whatsoever in reaching the place as I had keyed in Zucca Lounge in Google Maps and it showed the location perfectly. The Banana Leaf restaurant is housed in the first floor of the building and there are loads of typical huge green name boards outside the building, so you really can’t miss this place. The restaurant is quite spacious and extremely neat. The huge glass windows or rather walls on two sides really open up this place and make it look even more large, airy and well lit (by the diffused natural sunlight coming in). And I absolutely love these naturally well-lit roomy restaurants. The no-frill urbane wooden furniture has arrived from Bangalore and they also fit in perfectly in this setting, also the place has got few sofa sets for a better relaxed dining experience with your family. Rajesh – you will get some brownie points from my side for this amazing blissful ambiance!
Now coming straight to the food this place has to offer. The menu is same as what you will get at other branches of Banana Leaf, that includes Dosa, Idly, Vada, Uthappam, Rawa Kesari, Rasam, Rice, and much more. But we wanted this tasting session to be special so Rajesh suggested the special South Indian Meal that Banana Leaf offers during meal hours. So here are the details of this Thali that you will simply adore –
Availability: The South Indian Meal is available every day from 12 noon to 3 pm and again from 7 pm to 9:30 pm.
Quantity: The South Indian meal is UNLIMITED. There are several items in this meal (which I will elaborate later) that you can refill as many times you like, so eat to your heart’s content!
Price: All these unlimited authentic South Indian dishes come at a price of INR 180/- only plus taxes (per person).
Items in the meal: Now let me come to the twelve items that you will get in this South Indian meal. Here you go:
Puri – Go for the freshly fried puris (luchi for Bengalis) to start off your meal with. They were soft yet crisp outside when I had them. Savor them with the cabbage porial or kuttu while they are still warm.
Rice – Perfectly steamed rice to go with all the lovely dals, sides and curd! You can go for unlimited amount of it and enjoy the lovely, freshly prepared South Indian meal.
Sambar – It is made with Thoor Dal, tamarind, spices, curry patta and other lentils. Obviously one of the most common South Indian dals that we consume, that goes well with steamed rice. It is slow cooked over a period of time with freshly chopped veggies in it, which makes it tad heavy.
Rasam – Again rasam is one of the South Indian dals which I adore. It is a mixture of lentils, lime, tamarind and several homemade fresh spices. It really goes well with steamed rice or you can consume it even as a soup.
Karakuzambu – This is a Banana Leaf special dish. We absolutely loved this item here at Banana Leaf. Though I have had it in Southern fringes of our country. There it was spicier. It is orangish in color. It is actually a spicy sambar. It contains loads of freshly ground spices cooked in tamarind water and then loaded with coconut milk. You will find mustard seeds, bitter gourd and curry leaves in it. No lentils are added in this preparation.
Kuttu – I had heard about a South Indian dish called Kootu, but not sure maybe this is something new which I hadn’t tried before. This was made with fresh gourds and moong dal. It had a fresh paste of coconut infused in it and freshly grounded spices were added on top. The dish is not very sour as no tamarind is used here.
Porial – This is a lovely dry side dish for all coconut lovers, like me! It generally has the fresh vegetable of the day along with loads of grounded coconut. When I was there, the dish was prepared with finely chopped cabbage and grounded coconut. It was dry, aromatic and flavorful.
Sweet dish (dessert) – For the dessert, you get either Rava Kesari or Payasam. Payasam is typically like the Bengali payas. But I absolutely love the Rava Kesari of Banana Leaf, so went for that only. This is basically sooji halwa which was freshly prepared 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. Absolutely a marvelous dish to end the meal with.
Also you will get huge nearly white colored crispy Papad, tangy and tad spicy Pickle along with this. And though I am not a big fan of curd, but this meal includes fresh sour Curd and Raita with chopped onion, green chilies, etc.
That’s it for the thali and I guess that is more than what you can ask for. I was totally stuffed when I left this place and my soul was satiated with the awesome flavors and freshness served in this meal. Also I got a glass of chilled Coke to wash things down. The service was warm, prompt and courteous. And surely I will be back with my friends to try this thali out again, and maybe next time I might order a typical Masala Dosa (which I so adore) and Iddyappam (which is surely a star item at this place). I would rate this place really high for the awesome ambiance and as usual amazing food that every branch of Banana Leaf dishes out.
So, visit this new branch and satiate your authentic South Indian food craving in the best possible manner! As I wrap this up, there is the address so that you can easily drop in:
Banana Leaf – P264C Hemanta Mukhopadhay Sarani, Near Vivekananda Park, Lake Girls School, Kolkata.
(P.S. – The last picture in this post and the cover picture has been clicked and shared by Oendrila De, thank you!!)