Bong Bong (Bandra, Mumbai)

I enter Bong Bong on a Saturday Evening, no one is present. A few delivery boys recline on the hard wooden benches and the waiters stand blankly at the entrance with a forlorn hope that someone might enter. My presence seems to awaken the staff from this deep state of inertia.

The interior is beyond nightmarish in description; the walls are dirty, there is a temporary chipboard ceiling at the entrance and even the bright yellow chairs seem to have taken on that tired insalubrious air that Bong Bong’s decor exudes. There seem to be some random pictures of fish in one corner of the restaurant (as if sticking up pictures of fish will attest to the authenticity of this Bengali restaurant)

The staff, now awake, are impeccably courteous, prompt and accommodating. The Swiggy delivery boy smirks at my request for a veg mini thali with “less ghee & less oil”, perhaps he sees me as just another effete Bandra bourgeois shunning the gifts of the sacred cow. He’s probably right, but the kitchen and the waiter take my request seriously.

The mini thali arrives on a contemporary brushed brass thali which makes a change from the ubiquitously dull silver varieties. There is nothing “mini” about it; it’s a meal fit for the Gods. You should place such celestial food on a brass puja and serve it as an offering. The Cholar Daal is slightly sweet, almost nutty and infused with a gentle hint of coconut; all in all, a culinary evocation of the divine. The Aloo Posto (potato with poppy seeds) is another great dish and I imagine more addictive than the seeds’ opiatic derivative. The aloo sabji with nondescript greens is also tasty. It’s amazing how a humble potato can be one of earth’s most deeply satisfying and satiating dishes if cooked with love and honesty. The luchi is soft, fresh and most importantly, not at all greasy. The compliments of tomato chutney, papad, onions and lime are all more than welcome sights on the plate.

You may wonder if I have lost all critical faculties awarding Bong Bong 5 stars, given how repulsive the interior is. However, I wish it so, for it means you will never step foot in this place, and I have the privilege of keeping this an ethereal and exclusive eatery. To quote AA Gill, it really is the “lost ark of a perfect little restaurant”, yet paradoxically, it is right on many a doorstep.

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