The mark of a great regional cuisine restaurant is this — that diners familiar with the region’s flavours leave with contented smiles and strangers to the cuisine depart with a pledge to explore it further. Unfortunately, Brown Sahib fails on both counts.
It is undoubtedly a unique and interesting concept in a city that lacks good regional cuisine restaurants. That is why news of Brown Sahib’s launch excited us — it promised traditional fare from the bhadralok kitchens along with Anglo-Indian dishes from the days of the Raj. The first impression of the restaurant piques your interest. An image emblematic of the pucca sahib — dhoti-kurta clad and smoking a pipe — graces the front. The spacious interiors are tastefully done up in cream and rust colours and straight, clean lines. The walls sport Jamini Roy and MF Husain prints.
Once seated, a server dressed in a kochaano dhoti served us a shot of cold Aam Porar Shorbot (roasted mango sherbet) — a delightful touch, we thought. What was not so delightful was the loud and inexplicable background music — a Madonna number, followed by an irritating Arabic song and even some 80s pop!
Moving on to the food. For starters, we settled on the quintessential Bengali dish of Mocchar Chops (Rs 245) — croquettes of banana flower seasoned with a touch of mustard and wrapped in a thin potato layer — and Cottage Cheese, Kasundi and Tomato Toast (Rs 195). Both turned out to be excellent options. The former was intensely flavourful without being overpowering; the latter consisted of bite-sized toasted pieces layered with a thin slab of seasoned cottage cheese and topped with tomatoes. For the main course, we decided upon the lavish non-vegetarian thali (Rs 475) and supplemented this with Pork Vindaloo (Rs 425) and Brown Sahib Bake (Rs 325).
Shokto (veggies, mustard and spices) was bitter to the point of being unpalatable. Begun Pora (thin slices of fried baby brinjal), Pui Saag and the rather bland Masoor Dal were nothing to write home about. The Posto Murgi was decent. The Brown Sahib bake, served in a hollowed-out pineapple, was the kind one could make at home with processed cheese.The only saving grace were the slightly sweet Kumro Narkel Diye (red pumpkin cooked with coconut) and vindaloo (the pork fat should’ve been trimmed more).
The dessert menu was the biggest disappointment. Whoever expects just five traditional sweets in a Bengali restaurant? Go with the Kamala Kheer (Rs 125), which is flavoured with tangerines. Overall, Brown Sahib was a letdown. The quick, courteous service and the interiors were the only highlights of our visit (which included a trip to an ATM, thanks to a non-functional credit card machine). And lest you argue that Bengali cuisine is an acquired taste, let me inform you that my companion was a well qualified and rather well-fed Bengali. At the end of the meal, our debate over the political correctness of the name of the restaurant was a lot more enjoyable than the food.