With food stalls lining the streets, devotees queuing up outside eateries and plates full of food passed among families and friends, the whole of Kolkata turns into a giant food court during Durga Puja. While the five-day festivities get over in the wink of an eye, the city now has its maiden Durga Puja-themed restaurant ready to serve gastronomes round the year.
Dashabhuja, near the city police headquarters at Lalbazar, connects Bengal's most delightful celebration with its inhabitants' most delightful indulgence -- Durga Puja and the festive Bengali cuisine.
The elegantly-lit eatery, decorated with colourful overhead canopies and various forms of the goddess Durga, simulates the feeling of sitting in a marquee while pampering the taste buds. The sound track of rhythmic dhak beats, an inseparable part of the Puja rituals, and several Puja-themed hangings and artefacts add to the festive ambience.
The menu comprising authentic Bengali platters, gives prominence to Puja dishes starting from bhog (community feast of food items offered to the Goddess first) of khichdi, bhuni khichdi and labda (mixed vegetables) to the lavish spread of mutton curry, luchis (a type of puri), chanar paturi, rice, and payesh or the Bengali version of kheer.
Along with the Puja-specific main course, the mouth watering variety of "Pujor Misti" or the sweets offered to the goddess Durga, such as chandrapuli, narkel naru, balushai, etc., are also served in the eatery round the year.
According to the restaurant owner, an artist associated with designing prominent community puja pandals or marquees for the last three years, the eatery is a perfect amalgamation of his dream and the family business.
"My dream is to design the themes for Durga Pujas while we have been running restaurants as part of our family business. So in my new project, I thought of connecting the two. This is the first of its kind project that would let you soak in the carnival spirit of the puja in Bengal -- throughout the year," said Sayak Raj, the owner, who also designed three prominent community pujas last year.
Raj also revealed he was in conversation with a number of city artisans and sculptors, who would be making the Durga idols for some of the most popular pujas this year, and plans to install artefacts designed by them in his eatery.
"I wish this restaurant to be an archive of the Durga Puja celebrations in Bengal so that visitors from other states and countries can get a glimpse of our heritage and culture surrounding this festival. We are planning to decorate the interior with the miniatures of Durga idols to be installed in some of the prominent pujas in the city this year," he said.
The restaurant, inaugurated by veteran Bengali actor Barun Chanda and legendary Indian classical dancer Uday Shankar's daughter and actress Mamata Shankar barely a month ago, has created a buzz among food enthusiasts in the city and received significant celebrity presence.
"We have also requested some popular committees to provide us with their Puja theme songs so that we can play them in our restaurant all year long -- along with our signature theme music," the owner added.
* Where: Dashabhuja, 3rd Floor, Old Court House Corner building
* Timings: 12. p.m. to 10 p.m. (lunch), 7.30 p.m. to 11 p.m. (dinner)
* Price: Meal for two at Rs 800-1000 plus taxes