48 hours in Kolkata
Where to eat? The hotel is out by the airport, but I plan to go into town.
Ha ha, hello again!
I have a few questions:
Are you Indian? If not, will this be your first time in India? Have you ever eaten Indian food (not restaurant food outside of India, but real Indian food in a person's home) and did you like it? Are you adventurous with food or are you a picky eater? I ask because I'm trying to work out what sort of recs will be good for you.
I've only been to Kolkata twice, but I managed to eat a lot of amazing Bengali food there. If you are interested I can tell you a few restaurants that are worth it. Also I would recommend certain street food and also sweets. However, if you would prefer to eat Western food, I will be at a bit of a loss.
Then you must definitely eat some Bengali food. A few suggestions:
Kewpies (Elgin Road) is a popularly talked about Bengali place. The first time I went (a few years ago) it was very good indeed. On my return visit this December just gone, the food was good but service had gone down a little. For some reason they had a loud, brash American waiter who had some strange idea about the dishes! Definitely have a thali. I don't know if you are veg or non-veg, but if you are non-veg, then concentrate on fish and seafood as these are very much loved in Bengal. It's a very nice looking place and the price tag is above average but not as high as some of the really posh places in town.
Bhojohori Manna (more than one location - we went to the original on Ekdalia Road) is a must try. I think this was my fav place in Kolkata. Don't bother about ambience here, it is all about the food. The menu is on the board but you can also just ask for a selection of dishes for either a veg or non-veg meal and they can talk you through some choices. Since you will not know what dishes are, this will be a good option for you to get their advice. Prices are low, except for some expensive sea food items like giant prawns, but this is in line with the quality of the food being served.
Kasturi (near Park Street) is a Bangladeshi restaurant that a friend recommended. Mostly had non-veg but there was plenty for me too (I am vegetarian). There is no menu, just a range of dishes in the display case downstairs which I guess changes each day. Do you speak Hindi? If you do, you will be fine here. Otherwise I guess you may have to just point lots! Very cheap place, again allowing for perhaps an expensive fish dish. Very casual place and not posh at all.
6 Ballygunge Place (no prizes for guessing the address!) is a place I visited a few years back. I remember the food was good, not as good as Kewpies though. Price range is quite high, nice looking place with a "proper" restaurant vibe.
Oh! Calcutta (in Forum Mall) is a raved about place. Our meal there was a tad disappointing and very very expensive. Mind you, I think some of their dishes are just much better than others, as I know friends who rave about some of the stuff. Sadly, I couldn't get my (non-veg) bro to order the dish I have heard most raves about! Even though it is in a mall so you may think it will be rubbish looking, it is a very posh looking restaurant - decor and waiting style match the high price.
I would also recommend you try out some of the street food. And that's a misleading term, because I don't just mean little snacks. You can get whole proper meals on the pavement in Kolkata! Chowringhee Road has lots of places, if you are interested. Look for crowded places, as this means it is good food and most likely hygenic as otherwise people would not go there. Also means quicker turnover. You must eat jhal moori for definite! This is snack made from puffed rice mixed with bits and pieces that may include potato, onion, peanuts, various crunchy bits, masala and seasoned with a good glug of mustard oil, chillies and fresh coriander. A perfect snack for when you are enjoying the afternoon in a park or something!
There's much more that could be said, but I am not expert enough to give more recs. So my final note is to say you must must must eat Bengali sweets! Definitely go to KC Dass and have ras malai and ras gulla there. Sandesh is also a must, and so is misthi doi. I don't know when you are going, but if you go in Winter you can sandesh and misthi doi made with gur and it is amazing, even though the sugar versions are great too!
Btw, you should also read up about Bengali food. It's good to know about how a traditional meal is served and a little bit about some popular dishes. You see, traditionally a Bengali meal is eaten in a specific order, and many people feel that it increases the pleasure derived from the meal if you follow this. There are plenty of websites online and also books available that can help you with this. It will increase your enjoyment of the meal if you know the shukto is supposed to be eaten first, can identify what bhaja you have, expect the chutney at the end to be sweet, etc. Plus you will know what to order!
Mainland china is awesome, they are everywhere, the taj hotel for the ultimate experience, park street has a lot of good restaurants, at Peter Cat on park street they have a great shami kabob that has a fried egg on top, flurrys for amazing beef patties and pastries is an absolute must, also street food is excellent just make sure you get it sizzling hot and you won't get sick, if you can eat new York street food you will be fine in India, just steer away from not made right in front of you street food, Bengalis are known for their sweets, you must try "Mihidana" and rasagulla for authentic Bengali sweets... I love eating there!!! Enjoy my parents homeland!!
I'm going to share with you the recs given by the Times of India's Food Guide to Kolkata 2010. I'd not tried the restaurants myself but, hey, how far can Times of India (with its large team of local food criticss) go wrong? So far, their recs from my Bangalore eating experiences had been spot-on.
The top 3 recs from each category:
Best North Indian - Dum Pukht, Sonargaon, Kwality
Best South Indian - Banana Leaf, Tamarind, Homely Raj
Best Bengali - Oh! Calcutta, Bhojohari manna, Kewpie's
Best Vegetarian - Rajdhani Restaurant, Haveli, Little Italy
Best European/Continental - West View Bar & Grill, The Hub, The Bridge
I'm assuming you won't be doing Chinese, Thai, etc., so won't be including them here.
You should definitely try Goldbrick at Mukti World in Kolkata. Its a multi cuisine restaurant and their food tastes awesome. They have great variety of food and a very good atmosphere.