Durga Puja is surely the occasion that brings in a muddled emotion among Bengalis living all across the globe, it’s mostly happiness and excitement that prevails but for someone living away from home it’s often more of a depressing time. It’s an occasion for which people living abroad come back home, people cancel all their appointments to spend some quality time with their family and friends for pandal hopping and for eating out. It is a larger than life festival that is really hard to believe if not experienced by one. This occasion spins out abundance of excuses to spend nights on streets of the city with your friends hopping pandals, and to break your mundane routine, or to over-eat with your foodie friends or loved ones. So, this is surely one occasion when we visit loads of eateries across the city to satiate our craving for something delicious. Also on the other hand, this is the time when we visit our very well known eating joints and expect them to serve something which is very different and out of their standard menu. And here comes the importance of Puja Special Menu at our favorite restaurants. Hakuna Matata at Park Street is surely one such place which is very close to our hearts, but still they have amused us yet again with their awesome Durga Puja menu this time, which is very well curated, very well presented and yes of course, tastes insanely good!
The place is located opposite Park Hotel and Oxford book store at Park street, and hence it’s quite easy to spot, and hard to miss that yellow funky name board. You can of course park your car right on the street in front of the restaurant if, of course, there is a vacant spot. The ambiance (of this place) is surely a major plus for this joint serving vegetarian global fusion cuisine along with booze! This place is basically very vibrant, colorful, tad quirky and very lively. The décor is top class stressing on a theme of fun, adventure, travel and food that is far from ordinary! It somewhat captures the bohemian nature that is there somewhere hidden in every human being. The place has sitting arrangements in the ground as well as in the mezzanine floor and both are pretty well spaced out and relaxing. We were seated at the Mezzanine floor and that is even more lovely if you seat closest to the wooden stairs, near the balcony. Talking about the stairs, you are bound to be impressed by the massive Wish Tree here on the wall alongside the stairs. This carries the best wishes, and feedbacks from all its clients and well wishers. The colorful papers create a lovely maze which truly looks like a tree, maybe one during the cherry blossom (which is very common in US, Japan and in several other countries). Also glued to the ceiling you will find couple of explorers’ models who are all set to explore new places, all ready with their headgear and backpacks on. In the Mezzanine floor, the walls are covered with wallpapers depicting stories that the mascot called Koko has to say, who lives in ancient times with the cave dwellers but strikingly uses all modern technologies. Koko is one avid traveler and this time with Durga Puja round the corner, he has come to Bengal and he will be here from 5th October till 16th October, the period when you will be getting the Puja Special menu at Hakuna Matata.
Now coming straight to the Puja Special menu and those lip smacking dishes which were served in the best possible way that were overtly appetizing. Here are those special dishes along with their prices and short descriptions for you to get familiarized with them, and maybe to decide your preferences –
Avocado Pani Puri – This was one star item that has got an interesting name, presentation and taste. These are simple crunchy Panipuris or rather Phuchkas which had generous amount of guacamole stuffing and were served with sweet yoghurt, typical khattapani and some Mex salsa. A dish that you would rarely share with anyone. In short, a perfect appetizer to start with. Pocket pinch: INR 190.
Jeera Aloo and Posto Bhaja Chaat – This was another appetizer which tasted insanely good! It was furiously tangy all the way and would urge you to keep on trying till you finish it. It had diced potato tossed with milk corn, loads of imli and hara chutney. The potato pieces ultimately had enough spices sipped inside them and overall it tasted real good. Pocket pinch: INR 190.
Bengali Bhaja Platter – This was very Bengali from every inch of it. It had all those bhaja bhujis that you would find in most Bengali meals. This platter had a wide spectrum of fried items, that you’ll get in you mom’s kitchen. The platter here had – mochar chop, Samosa, deep fried Achari lanka, and narkel posto bhaja which again looked and tasted pretty amazing. This entire plate will have a pocket pinch of INR 450.
Karaishutir Parotha with Chholar Dal – This was again very Bengali in itself and had almost no twists or gimmicks hidden in it. Only thing is, here you don’t get karaishtor kochri, but you are getting parothas which are cut into several pieces. The stuffing in these parothas really impressed me and these breads were really soft which I absolutely loved. The Chholar dal had a nice and subtle taste, perfect dish if you wanna keep things simple yet filling. Price is bit on the higher side though for this one. Pocket pinch: INR 390.
Aloo Chhanar Dalna – This was one filling main course dish that had some lovely presentation. The aloo chhanar dalna was served in a dhunuchi (yes, you read it right!) and the Shukto in another earthern pot. All these along with the rice were then placed on an earthen thali. The jeera tempered rice which was served along with this had amazing subtle flavors which I simple loved. The badhakopi-r ghonto and the chhanar dalna was good enough, whereas the Shukto was again amazing. Pocket pinch: INR 390.
Bengali Polao – Bengali polao was served in generous quantity along with potoler dorma and aloor dum. Nice filling meal. The entire thali was placed inside a tin school box and presented! Pocket pinch: INR 390.
Kiki’s Payesh (pudding) – Then comes the inevitable Bengali dessert – the payesh. But here the payesh had a twist to it which I loved. It was again served in an earthen pot placed on a dhunuchi. The payesh was topped with caramel baked rosogolla and yes, it was thick and creamy and super yum! Not at all overtly sweet. Pocket pinch: INR 190.
Paan Thandai – Oh boy! This was the star mocktail and in fact the best non-alcoholic drink that I had in a long while. It was served in small earthen cylindrical containers and had the thandai in it with muddled pan. The stuff was very refreshing, flavorful and had an awesome cooling effect. Pocket pinch: INR 120.
Vodka Aam Panna – The name says it all, you need not explain this cocktail any further. I can only say it tasted great. The kick was bit too strong though since I feel the proportion of vodka was 60 ml or higher in that small portion of mango panna drink, but anyway the drink was still enjoyable, nice and perfect in the end. Pocket pinch: INR 180.
So, that was the amazing Puja Special menu which is truly Bengali to its core, there isn’t a dish which can be termed as loosely linked with Bengal. All of these are very common in our Bengali kitchen but then again there is one twist in every dish that is making it stand out. The menu is not too long, it is nice and crisp with culinary excellence in every dish. The service was again amazing, there were servers waiting for or table all the time and they were very soft spoken and courteous, were very patient and well trained even to handle several unforeseen situation, one of which was already tested while we were still around.
Special thanks to the awesome owners Pallavi and Prabhas for inviting the Panchphoron food bloggers group to this menu launch session. I wish this place with the lively spirit of adventure and fun keeps on serving such great food and beverages for years to come!
It was more than a simple tasting session for us; it was a culinary roller coaster in itself. I would love to be back to this place for all the positive energy, good vibes, enveloping of colorful wishes, warm service and the awesome food and beverages! Hope Koko goes to more such places and brings back more prosperity, abundance and happiness to its homeland. Kolkata is proud to have you, Hakuna Matata!