There is only a handful of times when you get the joy of tasting something completely new, something that you have never tasted before. You toy with it, roll it on your tongue, try to find the most exact, perfect word to describe what you are tasting. You take another bite, and you discover something new, and that word you thought of – the one which you were going to use to describe what you just ate to your friends – that word, suddenly does not do the food justice, and you start the process all over again.
I experienced something similar at The Bohemian, Kolkata, a day back, and it was glorious!
The Bohemian serves fusion food, Bengali-Continental fusion to be exact. Usually I stay away from fusion food. You see, fusion food is very novel, it’s very cool, it’s very interesting and its very attractive, but only for the first time you try it, only while it’s novelty still holds true. After that first time, you begin to realise, the dish itself wasn’t that tasty. In fact it was just your regular Bengali dish dressed in an Italian skin, or an overwhelming mish-mash of flavours which eventually devolve into being either hot or just bland.
This was my mindset when my mother dragged me over to the Bohemian and ordered their Lentil Soup and their Spinach and Corn Wrap.
Lentil Soup. Spinach and corn Wrap. Yes, I am aware they sound bland and doesn’t scream “fusion”, but trust me, these two dishes, are possibly amongst the most creative you will ever taste.
When most people think lentil, they think daal, and they wouldn’t be wrong here. The lentil soup that we were served defiantly was not traditional daal. It was not a traditional soup either. It was something in between.
The moment you take a sip, the first thing you will notice is the aroma. It is warm and inviting, incredibly full bodied, with hints of radhuni ( a typical Bengali spice) and mustard along with coriander and extremely intoxicating.
The next thing that will hit you is the creaminess. The lentil soup is most definitely not a consommé, at the same time the creaminess was most unlike that of, say, a cream of mustard soup. It was not heavy going down. The creaminess was delightfully light, and it should have been obvious how the body of the soup was constructed. We asked one of the waiters. The base of the soup was made of lentils and posto paste.
The Spinach and Corn Wrap was a different beast altogether. Glistening golden triangular packets filled with spinach were served to us. They did look appetizing, but that’s it – a good rendition of something that has been done many times over.
I bit into It. The crunch was satisfying. The spinach inside was soft, but not creamy or overbearing and there was a delightfully surprising crunch on the inside in the form of fried bori. It was the burst of a totally unexpected and frankly uncharacteristic sweet freshness in that first bite that grabbed me. A spinach and corn wrap with a sweet centre. Not an extreme sweetness, but a controlled, pleasantly surprising, very very natural– it was always meant to be there – the freshness of cooler achar (a sweet/sour Bengali berry pickle) which lay at the heart of this dish.
Spinach wrap with a cooler achar core. The idea is so outlandish, but it works so very well, perfectly bending continental cuisine with Bengali in a very understated yet extremely creative way, sparking the playful wonder of discovering something new and wonderful. This is the essence of fusion food