My relationship with Vegetarian Food
I am a Bengali raised in Kolkata by parents who are enlightened food enthusiasts. My mother would often say, “Anybody can cook meat, but making delectable vegetarian dishes is a fine art.” Vegetarian food at our kitchen is always sattvik, i.e. without any onion, ginger and garlic. Mom is very firm about that. She also makes sure that a separate set of utensils and even knives (earlier we had a traditional torkari bnoti) are used for making vegetarian food. “Otherwise, you won’t achieve the pure taste.” – she says. I grew up savouring immensely delightful and delicate vegetarian dishes as my mother has superior cooking skills and pure ‘opaar bangla’ blood in her veins. As a result, I am a very balanced individual regarding food habits, with deep appreciation for the offerings of vegetarian food world. However, I seldom come across North Indian food in a stand -alone restaurant that follows the Jain Philosophy. The recently introduced Jain Food menu at Sanjha Chulha had me very curious.
Let’s Start with the Best of the Best
I took half-a-spoonful of methi malai paneer into my mouth and instantly it demanded my attention. Methi is always a tricky ingredient that requires TLC while cooking. The dish in front of me was a perfect blend of ingredients and was further elevated by outstanding quality of paneer. One of the reasons may be, that every paneer dish flattered the taste buds. Paneer butter masala was another dish which was very well balanced. It had tomato based gravy, tomatoes giving an interesting twist to the flavours without overpowering the dish (which they often do due to their acidic components). Both the dishes tasted really nice. Once again, I could not help but admire the quality of ingredients used. Definitely, a lot of care was given to procure the very best.
Paneer shaslik, chatni paneer tikka and makai sheek kebabs comprised starters and each dish stood out. Paneer shaslik had the fine smoky aroma and was grilled to the perfect degree. I like my capsicums a little crunchy and I was very satisfied the way these were cooked here. Chatni paneer tikka was something new to me. Large paneer cubes were sandwiched with a green pudina (mint) paste filling. Paneer retained its whiteness showing that minimal spices had been used. This was delicate art on display and called for refined taste to appreciate. Much like artisanal cheese. Very sensory pleasing. Paneer cubes were soft, supple and moist. This was one dish that would remain with me for a long long time and probably the dish I would come back for. Makai sheek kebabs were good no doubt, but the taste of corn was slightly lost in the kebab story which could be attributed to the need for mashing it thoroughly. Enjoyable nonetheless. The starters were served with a subdued mint chutney which was logical because distraction was not needed at all given the excellent taste of food.
What is Good can always be Better
Dal makhani is my weakness. I have often been shameless and finished even my friends’ katoris after finishing my own while eating out. No trip to Delhi had ever been complete without filling my quota of this quintessential north Indian delicacy. The dal makhani at Sanjha Chulha was of superior quality no doubt. If I am asked to be critical I would say that the creaminess had a tad lowered the punch of the flavourful pulses. Just a minor issue that can be easily worked upon. Other dishes I tasted were navratan korma, mixed vegetables and pindi chhole. All bordering greatness needing a tiny step to cross the border. Feedback was shared of course, which was the primary purpose of review.
Plenty of options were available to choose from- both in breads and rice. I tasted lachcha paratha and tandoori roti and both were good. Kabuli naan and pudina paratha were the other breads that would be perfect accompaniments.
Ambience and Location
The restaurant is on the ground floor in Southern Avenue neighbourhood, which is now referred as the new Park Street. It is easily accessible from Southern Avenue, Purna Das Road, Jatin Das Road, Gariahat and some more adjoining roads. The décor is elegant and use of wood exudes warmth. Respect has been given to space which one often misses in restaurants these days. The seating was very comfortable.
I had been here before about a year back and I was anonymous at that time. I was rather impressed with the very helpful and pleasant behaviour of the staff. I was also very taken with the hygiene maintained in the kitchen earning brownie points in my book.
For the newly introduced vegetarian menu, separate section is being used in kitchen equipped with trained staff and separate set of utensils and kitchen accessories, free of any non-Jain influences. The dishes are available throughout the day.
The Ending Note
I end with what I had started. The art of preparing delectable vegetarian food without any help from onion, garlic and other ingredients that involve the slightest of violence is a higher form of art. I am immensely pleased with Sanjha Chulha’s delivery of its promises. Of course it a very reputable brand and no less was desired. The southern avenue outlet is definitely a great value-addition to the pure vegetarian food scene of Kolkata and a reason to rejoice for many living in this city who appreciate good vegetarian food.
Disclosure: I had been invited to review the vegetarian menu and hence this is not an anonymous review. However, as always, I reserved my right to be unbiased and critical. The article above carries my true opinions.
558/2, Panditya extension Road, Kolkata-700029
Hours: 12-11 pm, Monday-Sunday
Prices: Rs 600-1000/- for two