Calcutta classic - Royal | The Daily Star
12:04 AM, October 29, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:42 PM, October 28, 2013

FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD

Calcutta classic - Royal

Calcutta classicOn a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair. That is the lasting image of a motorcycle ride. I did get to ride behind my colleague. The dark desert highway was the crowded Central Avenue of Calcutta. Instead of cool wind in my hair, I was wearing a borrowed, sweaty helmet.
I was riding with Anirban, my colleague -- a remarkable man. Armed with a wicked sense of humour, a scowl and a close-shaved goatee, he is formidable as well. His sense of humour is so wicked that it often encroaches into sarcasm country, crossing over the irony border. I fondly call him Mad Max. Mad Max does not smile easily. He carries a visor-less white helmet under his arms. When he marches into office, girls drop things.
He also seems to possess a near encyclopaedic knowledge of most things Calcutta. Specifically food. And we got into a discussion of biriyani in Calcutta. We seem to disagree on many biriyani places, but one thing united us.
Both of us think Arsalan is very average and not worth the hype. Naturally, the discussion veered toward the best biriyani. For my nomination of Aaliyah and Afza, he voted for Royal. Now Royal, on Chitpur Road near Nakhoda Mosque, is an institution. Haven't been there in ages.
We set out on his motorcycle and after many twists and turns, reached a super crowded Chitpur Road, or Rabindra Sarani as it is known today.
Royal has its own parking attendant for two-wheelers, hence parking wasn't a hassle. We went up a narrow flight of steep stairs. Anirban wanted me to try their mutton chaap along with mutton biriyani.
That seems to be the classic Calcutta order, a biriyani and a chaap. But Anirban ordered a rumali roti with the chaap. The chaap was a revelation. Glistening pieces of goat meat, each succulent in its own way.
Some pieces had bones to chew on. Some had chunks of fat lending an incredible richness. Others were sheer meat. Redolent of many spices, dark from the hours of simmering, this was no ordinary chaap.
This chaap is worth fighting for. This chaap is worth lying for. Rumali roti pieces wrapped themselves around the pieces of meat to create an utterly heavenly packet that titillated the taste buds to do an impromptu jig.
Though Anirban rates the biriyani highly, I was just about happy with it. This is Awadhi style and that means no potato. As a good Calcuttan, I cannot imagine biriyani without the customary chunk of potato.
Call me what you will. On the way down, I noticed the flat pan on which the chaap simmers. If there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, this is it.

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