There are two kinds of people in this world: Day scholars and hostelites (imagine Sharukh Khan saying the above in Hindi for the feel of the sentence! :P) ! And all through my life I have been a Day scholar with the luxury of having my staple bhat-dal-macher jhol home-cooked. But I recently landed myself a seat at PGI, Chandigarh and would be leaving the city soon. Though I have Aloo paranthas and butter chickens to look forward to in Chandigarh but I, like all probasi-bangalis all over, would miss my macher jhol bhat (fish curry and rice for the uninitiated). So at this juncture of my life I thought about writing this piece about Mahal. A tiny place in college street which has been curing homesickness of many a hostelite with its postor bora, bhapa pona and sukto for many a year.
Like most other bhater hotels in the city, Mahal is a no-frills affair with around 20 odd seating capacity with an option to sit inside if the 20 seats fill up. I prefer seating inside which is a courtyard of a crumbling old kolkata house and oozes nostalgia. There is new POS machine though and you can pay by credit/debit cards which I found to be really cool. So wash your hands at the basin in the corner and order your rice and accompaniments from the ever changing and varied menu recited in breakneck speed by server and you are all set.
No bengali meal starts right without your parents forcing you to have your bitters (neem-begun bhaja, korola seddho, palta pata jhol and sukto are a few favourites) and the sukto here is good and is bound to bring back memories of dinner with your parents. They make excellent dal here. Ask for the special dal which is thick, tasty and comes with cauliflower (fulkopi) and potato bits. For people who eat yellow water passed off as dal everyday, this is nothing short of manna from heaven! Pair it with postor bora (which comes for Rs. 15 and is an extremely fast seller here) and enjoy.
You also get a wide variety of fish and mutton in Mahal. The most famous of them being bhapa pona which is just the right amount of spicy (read Jhaanj) and is pleasing for any bengali. We also sampled a huge chitol macher peti which came in a sweetish jhol but very tasty nonetheless. But the mutton here isn’t spicy enough and I prefer the Swadhin Bharat Hindu Hotel for that. If you are still homesick after all this food, you may have chatni.
P.S. Really sorry about the pictures as the table was extremely crowded from everything we had ordered. Also, Ankurda was brooding all throughout the meal as his “Boss” is giving him a hard time!