If you have ever attempted to make an authentic curry from scratch you’ll know how hard it is to get it looking, and tasting right. Last week I tried and I ended up with something not only resembling tomato broth, but also tasting like tomato broth. As I learnt today, I would have saved much time, energy and poor herbs that died in vain if I went straight to “Oh Calcutta” in Parnell. It’s been renowned as the best Indian cuisine fine dining in Auckland, ONLY for the last 20 years that it has graced Parnell Road.
As I pushed through the door I felt like I stepped into Aladdin’s world; surrounded by walls of ancient Indian paintings, guarded by dozens of Goddess statues and with cushioned ceilings just to complete the look. But then again Aladdin’s cave probably didn’t have a modern bar, a modern see through kitchen and come lined by white cloth table settings typical of traditional fine dining restaurants. This is the exact philosophy that Oh Calcutta tries to embody; hearty traditional Indian cuisine presented in a 21st century setting.
As a waitress in a beautiful sari handed me a menu to ponder over, I could already guess what I wanted by the alluring, almost seductive smokiness wafting from the Tandoori ovens. With that in mind, I ordered a fish tikka from the Tandoori, a prawn masala curry and a Punjabi Saag Ghosht (the signature lamb curry.) I wouldn’t say there is an impressive range of drinks available from the bar, but it has all the usual reds, whites and bottled beers to suit your preferences.
Oh Calcutta does petite portions, on the bright side you don’t leave feeling queasy, like that spice is trying to claw its way out your stomach (exactly what puts me off typical Indian takeaways.) It’s definitely a quality over quantity type of place, but well worth it. Even the basic staples were well executed. The fragrant basmati rice was lightly adorned with cumin; the naan bread was light and crispy, not leaving you with a mouth full of chewy dough as seen in many food court Indian meals. The tikka tasted as wonderful as it smelt, the Blue Nose fillets not losing its succulence on the grill! However if you don’t have a palate for sour, the tikka dishes may not be for you, as it leaves a tangy mint chutney aftertaste. The curries from Oh Calcutta are packed with fresh ingredients, you not only taste all the herbs and spices but also see them dancing around the dish. The lamb melts in your mouth and the coco-nuttiness of the masala drives you to crave for more. Perhaps for the sweet tooth that Aucklanders tend to have, I must warn you that most dishes at Oh Calcutta have a generally sweet tinge, which you may love or hate.
So the next time before you attempt making your own curry (not out of a jar) please at least pay Oh Calcutta a visit before you ruin your impression of how good Indian cuisine can be. But please, I beg you to refrain from heading to the local mall’s food court Indian outlet. $10 butter chicken slop that sits in a glass cabinet for days is not Indian cuisine, let alone curry. Oh Calcutta is.
Title Image Cred // parnell.net.nz