This is the same city which gave birth to Paneer Manchurian which is unheard of throughout China. That dish has practically got nothing to do with the Manchura of Eastern Asia. Furthermore it is believed, this type of cooking originated when large numbers of people of Hakka Community settled down as workers in the leather factories of Tangra, of erstwhile Calcutta. From there this cuisine has spread throughout South East Asia, & even among Indian & Chinese communities living in America. History aside, it won’t be wrong to concludez that Kolkata gave birth to its own type of oriental cuisine that’s not authentic Chinese yet very much enjoyed by millions throughout the world. Numerous outlets, from fancy fine dining restaurants to road side eateries serve this cuisine. Yet some have left an impact in the mind & tastebuds of foodies like me. Buddha Bites is one such name.
Started as a stand alone restaurant on Panditia Road near Triangular Park, Gariahat, the brand has spread its wings & opened up two more fine dining outlets & two take away outlets since. I had been to their Casual dining outlet, the first to open near Gariahat & really loved the experience. Though a bit small in size, & with a bit of waiting time the great tasting food was worth every penny. Recently our group PanchPhoron was invited over to their Bhawanipur Outlet on the occasion of launch of ‘meals in a bowl’. We got to taste same amazing dishes the chef cooked up. Below is a short review of the entire experience.
Locationwise the outlet is quite easy to find. One can either take the lane beside Ashutosh College, arrive at the Harish Mukherjee crossing, the outlet will be on the left. Or one can walk up Harish Mukherjee Road from Kalighat Fire Station, the outlet will be on the right. If not the red signboard with Buddha Bites written on it, the two big prayer wheels on both sides of door will surely lead you to it.
As we entered the restaurant, we found not only the prayer wheels outside, the interiors too are done in a way so as to give you a Buddhist feel. Though not a theme restaurant, yet a Buddha statuette, printed tankhas adorning the walls, & some Buddhist hymns played over the music system surely gives you the chills & thrills of being inside the calmness of a monastery. The seating is divided into two parts. The outer section is much more illuminated with natural lights flooding in from the glass door. The inside room is a bit overly dark, & could surely do with a little bit more lights. As I said this is not quite a theme restaurant, hence the furnitures & cutleries are of regular fare, however seating is spacious & comfortable. Note that , you can always ask for chopsticks, although they are not served normally.
Now coming to the food, as I mentioned earlier, we were to taste the newly introduced ‘meal in a bowl’ menu. The concept is simple, instead of ordering a rice/noodle & a veg/non-veg side dish you just order one ‘meal’ which will have a portion of the rice/noodles along with a portion of side dish. Though seemingly simple & may be not ‘fine dining’ish, this is like a boon for those times when you are eating out alone or with someone whose taste doesn’t quite match yours. During those times you either end up ordering two side dishes, & waste most of the dish, or just order one & reluctantly munch on the chicken although you wanted to order pork maybe :D.
The meals we tried were as follows:
Veg Combo Meals:
Seven Jewel Rice with Buddha Feast:
The first to arrive at the table was the veg combo meal. Buddha Feast is the name of the gravy side of the dish which consists of fresh exotic veggies like broccoli, babycorn, bell peppers & mushrooms tossed in a mild sauce of minced garlic & other spices. The seven Jewel Rice is yet another mildly prepared rice with finely chopped vegetables. Overall, although both the rice & the side were mild, they were equally tasty & for a veg dish was quite impressive.
Veg Fried Rice with Chilli Paneer:
Two of the very simple dishes brought together, nothing too special about it. In fact I believe it is the simplest any chinese dish can be. However the cubes of Paneer were really soft inside out, & the gravy had that usual tangy feel to it. Prepared with the usual diced onions & bell peppers this gravy I liked more than the Buddha Feast. The rice itself prepared with finely diced veggies was a treat to have.
Veg Hakka Noodles with Veg Manchurian Balls:
I being a hardcore non vegetarian generally steer clear of veg/Gobi Manchurian when ordering at any restaurant. Manchurian to me is not worth having if it doesn’t have chicken in it. However it’s definitely a boon for the vegetarians. The outer crust is a bit crispy which hides the inner juicy content which was imbibed when being tossed in the flavourful gravy. The noodles themselves were prepared quite well sans any extra oil.
Veg Garlic Hakka Noodles with Kung Pao Potato:
Okay, this had to be the tastiest among the veg meals we tried. The noodles were more or less the same from the previous dish, except from the fact that it was garnished with an extra dose of fried garlic shreds. The gravy however was something else altogether. Potatoes cut in a fashion of French fries tossed along with red & green chillies, this one was mouth wateringly delicious to the last morsel. The dish was literally licked clean. A must try if you are willing to try some veg dish.
Veg Schezwan Fried Rice with Four Treasure Vegetables:
The Schezwan Fried Rice had that familiar orangish colour due to the spices which also imparts a unique smell & taste to it. The four treasure vegetable gets its name from the various exotic veggies used like mushrooms, broccoli & babycorn. The dish was okayish for me. May be vegetarian foodies will find it better.
Non Veg Combo Meals:
Chicken Fried Rice with Hakka Chicken:
Hakka Chicken was like Chilli Chicken with a much darker gravy. The coatings on the chicken weren’t excessive. Tossed along with bell pepper & diced onions the Hakka Chicken was a great accompaniment to the lightly tossed chicken fried rice which was garnished with spring onions apart from the finely diced veggies it was prepared along with.
Egg Fried Rice with Schezwan Prawn:
From what it seemed these were fresh water prawns tossed in a spicy schezwan sauce which had the usual strong flavour. Also the aroma of the side was very much complementing the a bit duller egg fried rice. The rice had generous amount of fried eggs in it. Overall the whole dish was highly enjoyable.
Egg Hakka Noodles with Chili Plum Fish:
Chili plum sauce has its inherent hot & sweet taste which was nicely infused into the chunks of soft fish. Also the cubed bell peppers had been nicely cooked in the sauce along with dry chillies which again gave it the unique kick to it. The Hakka noodles on the other hand prepared with bell pepper slices & generous amount of scrambled eggs were perfect to go with the chili plum sauce.
Chicken Hakka Noodles with Roasted Pork:
This dish was something I was waiting for quite some time. Having tried pork ribs from their other outlet, I knew they prepare the pork really well. However the meat in this particular dish was a bit bland in comparison. Maybe over expectations are the root cause of disappointments, so can’t really blame it on the dish. Prepared with ample amount shredded meat along with bell peppers & onions this was one spicy gravy to go with the noodles which again had shredded chicken meat in it. Meaty affair it was, and disappeared from the dish in a matter of seconds. Blame it on the love for pork meat!
Chicken Schezwan Fried Rice with Steam Garlic Fish:
The same dish has three variants I.e. Steamed fish in Garlic/Oyster/Black bean sauce. We opted for the garlic sauce variation. The steamed fish itself was pretty soft & juicy, the addition of fried garlic shreds elevated it’s appeal much more. The schezwan fried rice had the usual distinct colour, aroma & taste. The spicier rice complemented the less complicated fish pretty well.
With that, this great experience came to an end. Seriously it was a surprise in disguise. As I have already said ‘combo meals’ are a boon to the single diner. Most of the dishes had 4 pieces of chicken/fish/paneer as the side (compared to 8 pieces generally found in a side dish) which is ample for the general diner. However the portion of rice / noodles was a bit on the lower side. Although the meal as a whole will be sufficient to satiate one’s appetite, if you are really too hungry you may need to get another half meal.
Overall I found the concept innovative for a fine dining restaurant, food delicious, service prompt & courteous. Surely will be going back for the mouth watering dishes.