Invitation to the Hilsa Festival at Aaheli, Axis Mall

What: Aaheli-te Eilshe Guri (Hilsa Festival).
Where: Aaheli (at The Peerless Inn and in Axis Mall).
When: Till August 31, 2016. Lunch and dinner.
Meal for two: About INR 3,000 (plus taxes).
Festival Review:

Like every year, this year also the Aaheli, the authentic Bengali restaurant from the house of Bengal Peerless has brought all the amazing Hilsa delicacies from Bangladesh and West Bengal under one roof at their much awaited festival called ‘Aaheli te Eilshe Guri’.

The unmatched fusion of gloomy sky, rain and Hilsa is something that each and every Bengali treasures. It’s one of those few things for which a Bengali can spend thousands to get that perfect Hilsa fix while it’s drizzling outside! And at Aaheli you are sure to get a taste of that traditional Bengali cooking which is sure to tickle your taste buds and memories, of course!

On receipt of the invitation to taste these lip smacking Hilsa dishes, I reached the Aaheli Restaurant at Axis Mall on a gloomy, dark and rainy day, at least to celebrate this moment in style with the queen of fishes. And after I reached the place, I discovered that it is an absolute treat for all Hilsa lovers! You can savor all these lovely dishes like Pui saag-e Ilish matha, Assamese style Ilish-er Tenga, Anarash Ilish, Ilish Patishapta and much more! This Festival will be on till end of this month i.e. 31st August. So there is enough time for you to go and devour these remarkable dishes, as much as you can!

As already said, you will get numerous avatars of Hilsa on this specially crafted menu (for the Festival) and believe me, the spread is just awesome. These are some dishes that every Kolkatan should try. We hardly get a chance (or rather a change) to indulge our taste buds in not-so-common Bengali preparations of Ilish, like the kacha Ilish-er Jhaal, Doodh Ilish, Aam tel Ilish or the Narkel Ilish. There are so many dishes which our grandmothers used to cook maybe, which have vanished from our kitchens now. In fact I was really amazed to see so many forgotten Bengali recipes (mostly Bangladeshi) of Ilish all coming alive and sitting on the table in front of me! Not to forget, regular Hilsa preparations like – Fried Hilsa with Khichuri, Ilish Begun er jhol, Ilish dim-er bora, etc are also there on the menu so that you can try out some common dishes as well in between tasting the special atypical Hilsa dishes.

So, before jumping into the list of dishes let us discuss a bit about the location and ambiance. Well, as we all know this branch of Aaheli is housed in the Axis mall at the 4th Floor and Axis Mall is located beside Novotel, Kolkata at Newtown Action Area 1. So when you are coming from Saltlake Sector-5 you will get Axis mall on your right hand side opposite Hometown mall. Inside the Axis mall you will get ample car parking space, so that’s one part you need not worry about. The ambiance of Aaheli is pretty soothing, well-lit with a well spaced out seating arrangement.

The walls adorn lovely neatly framed paintings depicting rural scenes from different parts from Bengal, also there are framed paintings in white on dark background which are close to motifs and wall arts that you will find in rural Bengal. What I like about this place most, is the open space that is pretty rare to find in most of the eateries. So you can enjoy the authentic Bengali dishes in this relaxing ambiance that tries to capture the essence of rural Bengal. In the middle of the restaurant, you will find a raised platform with giant model of two pigeons and few parrots. There are abundant seating arrangements and you need not worry even if you are visiting the place in a large group, although prior reservation is always recommended.

Now, here I am listing all the major dishes that you will find here (this year) in the limited time annual Hilsa Festival –
Eilish Dim er bora – It is one of the most common preparations, but not of the actual Hilsa fish but it’s related to its eggs. It’s the roe of Hilsa deep fried with a bit of chopped onions. Simple and tasty!

Eilish Patishapta – As most Bengalis know, patishapta is one of the sweet dishes that we have that has some sweet filling inside a thin crepe kind of a covering which in itself is also a bit sweet. But here, to our disappointment Eilish Patishapta was not sweet. It was a bland filling of mashed boneless Hilsa fish meat stuffing with a bit of spices inside the thin crepe covering. Very innovative since we do not get this dish today in any restaurant, but we expected something else from this dish; though it was soft and well cooked nonetheless.

Bhaja Eilish-er moja – Here I am quoting all the item names as they are shown in the menu. This is a simple conventional Eilish preparation. These are sizable chucks of Hilsa pieces deep fried and then served along with the aromatic oil obtained after frying the fish. The fish was of course fresh and tender.

Pui Saag-e Eilish matha – This is again quite a common dish where leafy veggies like Pui Saag is cooked for a long time with broken Eilish head pieces. This is an absolute delicacy and is savored with some warm steamed rice.

Eilish Matha diye Dal – This was an amazing dish, the dal just tasted awesome.  It was served repeatedly and we devoured nearly one plate of rice only with the dal, yes it was that good, aromatic and flavorful with bits of broken Eilish head bone pieces.
Eilish Thali-r Sanjog – This was a complete Hilsa Thali which was served to us, it had five Hilsa side dishes apart from steamed rice and dessert – like Eilish Dim er bora, Fried Eilish, Eilish matha diye dal, Eilish Pui Saag, Shorshe Eilish, papad and Mishti Doi. Most of the dishes have already been discussed above in this review. The Shorshe Eilish could have been much better, authentic ground mustard seeds were not used in this preparation instead some mustard powder or paste was used which rendered almost no flavor or aroma and the mustard gravy was too watery. The Eilish piece was big and fresh but it should have been bit more cooked. The Mishti Doi was simply awesome on the other hand. I was tasting such great sweet curd after a long long while! In the end we had to order it again to satisfy our Mishti Doi cravings 🙂

There are several other Hilsa dishes on the menu which are there in this Hilsa Festival, but we didn’t taste all those. So I will just mention their names here for your reference –

Kancha Eilish er Jhhal (Poached Eilish cooked with black Cumin), Eilish er Ullash (Hilsa cooked in onion gravy), Eilish maach er Tenga (Hilsa cooked in tamarind gravy), Aanarasi Eilish (Hilsa cooked with pineapple), Eilish begun er talmil (Hilsa cooked with brinjal and black cumin), Doodh Eilish (Hilsa cooked in milk and yogurt), Aam Tel Eilish, Narkel Eilish (Grated coconut Eilish), Eilish Khichuri-r Talmil (Fried Hilsa served with Bengali Khichuri and ghee).

Also please note – Each portion of this Eilish dish has got two pieces of Hilsa in it. And coming to the price, it is bit on the higher side and taxes are charged on top of prices mentioned in the menu.

The service is pretty prompt and courteous. The servers are dressed in traditional Bengali Punjabi and dhoti which always look great! So, what are you waiting for, come and experience this Hilsa fest that surely uplifts the forgotten Hilsa recipes from various parts of undivided Bengal. As already mentioned, the festival will run till end of this month i.e. till 31-Aug, so don’t forget to indulge your taste buds in this awesome fest of queen of fishes before it’s too late and while it’s still drizzling outside! Hope you have a great time here!

Aaheli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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