Dhaka's culinary scene now has more exotic and authentic cuisines from across the world - from oriental to continental - than it ever had. This just shows that nowadays we crave (and are more open to trying out) different foods from different regions of the globe: our palate has become much more diversified.
It is not just about enjoying delicacies of other countries. Bangladeshi cuisine, too, has a wide variety of sub-genres. Chittagonian is one such segment that is enjoying a growing popularity in recent years, not just owing to those who have migrated to the capital city, but also for the people of Dhaka as well.
And one of the newest Chittagonian restaurants - which opened less than a month ago - is Nawab Chatga.
The family-run business is owned by Shahidul Islam, Wasiuddin, Iftekhar Hossain and Elita Karim - all Chittagonians. "We thought that it would be great if we could promote our distinct cuisine here in this city. And nowadays it is such a hot favourite in Dhaka anyway," Elita says. "Chittagonians have a reputation of being very hospitable and generous hosts who run the extra mile to serve their guests. Through this eatery, we perhaps wanted to satisfy that urge in us."
The restaurant is very simple and casual yet very imaginative and elegant at the same time. It essentially has four rooms. As you enter the building, you will be in Karnaphuli. And, true to its name, the room boasts a beautiful artwork done on one of its walls portraying Karnaphuli Bridge. Another wall features an intricate work of pottery tiles design.
Next to this room is Patenga. Due to an open brick wall on one side, this section has a very earthy feel and tone to it.
All the sections are named in memory of a place or landmark of Chittagong. Cheragi Pahar, for example, is a historic place in the port city. The restaurant has paid tribute to it in one of its rooms, where there is a majestic drawing of the structure located in Cheragi Pahar Circle. Meanwhile, the room adjacent to it, features artwork, of Chittagong's old railway station.
The eatery therefore provides a sense of nostalgia to those who have lived or at least travelled to this beautiful city.
The interior is illuminated with simple and sophisticated hanging lamps that have been bought from the shops near the port city's ship-breaking yard in Faujdarhat. The market is very popular in Chittagong, with fabulous items - from binoculars to furniture - that were once used in ships, being sold there.
Jyoti Ferdous and Nazmul Nayeem are the architects and interior designers of this restaurant.
The décor, needless to say, puts you in a mood to eat Chittagonian food.
Nawab Chatga's one-page menu is as plain as it can get, with no playing about with fonts or colours or names - it is conveniently straightforward.
One of the treasures of Chittagonian culture is 'mezban', which is a huge social gathering. This is an elaborate affair, with the number of guests invited going up to several hundreds. The main items served are beef curry and rice.
The distinctive beef curry, called 'mezbani gosht', is the monopoly of Chittagonian chefs. Cooking this curry is simultaneously a large-scale and an intricate process, calling for huge 'deghs' and fire-woods and years of experience and perfect skills.
In pursuit of providing Nawab Chatga's guests with authentic food, the restaurant has hired an experienced chef from Chittagong.
A must tryout is the Kaala Bhuna. Yet another signature dish of the port city, this beef recipe has seen a lot of replications and innovations in many places elsewhere. You can get the taste of the perfect Kaala Bhuna in Nawab Chatga.
The dishes are of course to be eaten with a plate full of steaming rice. 'Shaada bhaat', to put it simply, is a favourite of every Bengali. When you mix that with spicy, mouth-watering beef, you know you are in heaven.
Chittagong (like the rest of the world) is in love with beef. Chonar Daal is another delicacy, consisting of small pieces of beef and gourd and of course, 'chona'. And there is of course Nolar Jhol, which is a dish similar to of Nehari.
Dishes are accompanied by achaar, thus adding more spice to the taste. The delectable 'jolpai er achaar' that they are offering now, is a mouth-watering treat that bring the cherished tanginess to your table.
Red meat is not all that Nawab Chatga offers, though. There are chicken and fish items too. "Our 'Lotiya Fry' is a hot favourite," Elita informs.
After the scrumptious meal, treat yourself with some delicious firni.
"We are getting a good response so far, especially in the afternoons, when we see a huge number of office-going people coming over for lunch," Elita further informed. During dinner, on the other hand, families are the more dominant clientele.
Be it with your colleagues or your family and friends, Nawab Chatga won't fail to bring Chittagong to your platter.
Location: House # 29, Road # 19, Gulshan-1, Dhaka. Contact number: 01873667766. Facebook page: Nawab Chatga. Business hours: 12pm-4pm; 7pm-11pm.
By M H Haider
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed