classics like hilsa in mustard paste and prawns in coconut gravy, or go for experimental offerings like bacon-wrapped chicken and hilsa in pineapple gravy -- plush eateries in this eastern metropolis have lined up a spread with a touch of "Bangaliana" to draw revellers during Bengal's biggest carnival, the Durga Puja.
With eating out now becoming almost a ritual for the middle, upper-middle and upper classes as they soak in the festival spirit, the city's fine dining hubs have spruced up their menus and included surprise items to bowl over their guests.
The Taj Bengal, a landmark hotel in downtown Kolkata, is welcoming the gastronomes at "Sonargaon" that has the flavour of Bengal written all over it. Its elaborate preparations include chingri malai curry (prawn curry cooked in onion and coconut gravy), sorshe bata ilish (hilsa cooked in mustard gravy) and kosha mangsho (lamb cooked in rich silken gravy) -- straight from the recipes of Bengali households.
At Hub, the hotel's multi-cuisine restaurant, one can indulge in a vast array of continental and Indian dishes like paneer lalmirch, bhetkti macher tel jhal, chicken biriyani, gosht (mutton) rezala, kalakand and rajbhog that comes for Rs 2,450 per head.
Souk, the Mediterranean restaurant, presents a lavish Middle Eastern buffet with hummus, falafel, samak chermoula (fish marinated in traditional Moroccan pesto), baklava (traditional Lebanese filo and mixed nut pastry) that costs Rs 4,000 for two.
Fondly known as the Grand Dame of Chowringhee, The Oberoi Grand has laid out for its guests lavish lunches and sumptuous dinners on all five days of the Puja. Here, too, Bengali cuisine rules.
"From fish lovers to vegetarians, meat-eaters to those with a sweet tooth, I and my team have surprises galore for all," Executive Chef Saurav Banerjee said.
The lavish menu has the ubiquitous chops, fritters and fries for starters; only to make way for classics like golda chingri malai kari (jumbo prawns in coconut gravy) and tel koi (climbing perch in mustard oil).
If that is not enough, one can relish a range of home-made sweets and non-alcoholic beverages as part of the daily buffet, all at Rs 2,250 per head.
People looking for a different flavour can try out the Hormok festival at the Oberoi's famous Baan Thai restaurant. Celebratory dishes like sea food with red curry paste and pork with chilli and bamboo shoots will be served all through the month at Rs 3,500 for two.
Situated at the heart of Kolkata's IT hub in Rajarhat, Novotel Kolkata Hotels and Residences is enticing its diverse customer base with an exciting range of Puja special cocktails and snack combos at the Sante lounge bar.
The hotel has also arranged a Bengali food festival in keeping with the celebratory mood. The Puja special buffet starts here at Rs 1,400 for lunch and Rs 1,800 for dinner.
While illish paturi (hilsa cooked in a banana leaf with marinade), pabda maacher jhol (Indian butter fish curry) and narkel chingri fills up the plates of Bengali fish lovers, its vegetarian counterpart includes a host of appetisers, sukto (vegetables cooked with poppy seeds and mustard), jhinge posto (ridge gourd in poppy seed paste), potoler dalna (pointed gourd curry) and sweet dishes.
The Park in Kolkata's iconic Park Street has laid out several wining, dining and partying selections comprising Indian and world cuisine. The Bridge, a world cuisine restaurant, offers a special buffet lunch and dinner that includes chilli fish, jerked spice roast chicken, prawns in mustard paste and guava custard at Rs 1,795 and Rs 1,495, respectively.
Zen, the pan-Asian eatery, has prepared a special menu called 'Classic Zen: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow' that offers delicacies like steam tofu in chilli basil sauce, lat mei kai (dry fried chicken with onion chilli and red pepper), lamb with spicy devil sauce and the Zen signature porcupine custard bao at Rs 1,500 for two.
"Durga Puja is all about reunions, merriment and, of course, a lot of good food," said Sangeeta Basu, an IT employee.
"Dear stomach...gear up," her companion grinned.
# Milinda Ghosh Roy can be contacted at email@example.com