This was my first visit to Sofitel after a long hiatus; ever since Executive Chef Inderjit Saha had moved out; the hotel has been struggling to get its F&B offerings back to the same levels that it had enjoyed under the tutelage of the chef Saha.
Regional food festivals at the Sofitel are a regular fixture, but many of them have had their fair share of hits and misses ever since, so when I got the invite to try out their currently on going Bangladeshi Food Festival Manned by the very talented Chef Sirajul Who has had the distinction of being the personal chef of President Pronab Mukherjee and also having cooked for the Indian, American and the Russian Presidents, I had to give it a try.
Walking into Pondicherry Café, I was greeted by the welcoming Bengali décor and the not-so-welcoming staff who after some confusion lead me to my seat. Thankfully, to my relief, my gracious hostess and the Chef were quick to join and went on to explain the thought behind the Bangadeshi food instead of West Bengal Food. For the uninitiated, East Bengal or Bangladeshi food and West Bengali food are very similar to each other, however since the West Bengali cuisine has, over the years, been influenced by the resident Marwari, Mughlai, Anglo Indian, Punjabi, Assamese and other communities, the East Indian cuisine stays true to its Bengali roots and uses fish and meats liberally in almost all its preparations. The usage of base spices, oil and tomato is also quite high viz a viz West Bengal food which also uses Cream and nuts quite rampantly in its preparations.
Right in the centre of the buffet display, they have created a classic Bengali roadside snack corner of Jhal Muri. The Jhal muri is the Bengali version of bhel poori made with Mustard oil, lemon and different namkeens. Here the Sofitel version of Jhal muri was quite basic and a far cry from what one would get on the road sides in Bengal but a decent snack to start the afternoon with.
The Salad and starter lineup was basic with a very nice and hearty Mashed aloo pitika (which we Bengalis call as Aloo Bhaatey) and a Prawn salad (which weirdly enough, had a fly struggling to stay alive and which was promptly replaced by the kitchen staff – accidents that can happen anywhere and everywhere). The Vegetable Chop and Chicken Cutlet were also decent enough and till here, barring the mashed potatoes, there was hardly anything that could woo me away.
Moving on to the mains, the fine array of Bengali dishes donned the buffet area and I was very happy to see a few dishes that one seldom finds as part of the menu of a commercial kitchen. Amongst them was Doi Potol (Parwal in curd based gravy), Palok Borir torkari (Spinach and daal wadis cooked in mild spices) and Aam Daal…..all of which surprisingly (and happily too, for some) were vegetarian. The sides included and mutton biryani and Ghee Bhaat, which is quite a staple dish to start meals with in most Bengali households.
There were three dishes which made me exclaim wow the moment I dug into them..Kosha
chicken was surely one of them and the other two were the Doi Potol and the Palok borir torkari. The other dishes were also quite decent but these three dishes stood out and I lapped them up in no time. What stood out in the entire meal was the fact that none of the spices over powered the produce complementing them rather than take over them, as is usually the case with many commercial dishes. They definitely showcased the chef’s prowess to create a Bengali dish with subtle spices and loads of panache. As the menu keeps changing, I am sure; the chef will surely come up with more treasures such as these from his kitchen.
The dessert array was, considering the Bengali affinity to sweets, surprisingly weak. Only three Bengali sweets were on display and looked and tasted store bought, though I was assured that they were made in house. For such a food fest, I was hoping to see some classics like paathi shapta, lovongo lotika, narikel naadu, pithey and other very regional sweet dishes (including nolen gurer payesh or a komola lebur payesh).
All in all, the food festival does display passion, showcases Bengali food at its basic avatar and in a very positive way. I hope Sofitel keeps up the quality of its fests as high and higher in the days to come and devotes a bit more of its time to teach a thing or two to its wait staff which I found to be uninterested and lacking the spirit of hospitality that one expects from a hotel of this calibre.
Buffet for Two : Rs. 3500 (approx) with taxes | Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes|
Timing: 7 am – 10 am; 12 pm – 3 pm ; 7 pm – 11.30 pm | Wheelchair Access : Yes
Address Sofitel Hotel, C 57, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai
Telephone :022 6117 5000
Disclaimer : This review was done on an invitation from the restaurant. Due judgment and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review; however readers may exercise their own discretion.