The annual Hilsa festivals are on in full swing at the city hotels and till date, I have attended two. One was at Sonargaon, Taj Bengal and the other at The Gateway Hotel. Both these festivals are on throughout August so if you can’t find good ‘ilish’ in the fish markets, these are the places where you should go.
Hilsa Festival At Taj Bengal
At Sonargaon, Chef Sonu has rustled up a variety of traditional Hilsa dishes, also throwing in one fusion dish in the midst. Our meal started off with ‘Ilish Machh er Deemer Bora’ which is basically fried hilsa fish roe. This goes best with some kasundi on the side. The showstopper of the menu was definitely ‘Ilish Machher Paturi’. This is boneless Hilsa, wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf. Rarely do restaurants get the balance of mustard and other spices in a ‘paturi’ right. It either gets over marinated or under but this one was just perfect.
A biryani in any form is excellent (well, maybe not a veg biryani but that’s my personal choice) and the Ilish Biryani at Sonargaon did not fail to deliver. Cooked with caramelized onions and garlic, this dish has ‘Opar Bangla’ flavours and I liked that very much. Many puritans turn up their nose when it comes to Ilish and fusion food but I have a very simple philosophy. I will like it if it tastes good. And I did like the Smoked Hilsa but the barbecue sauce could have been used in moderation. It kinda overwhelmed the flavor and taste of the Hilsa.
Hilsa festival at Sonargaon, Taj Bengal
Throughout August from 12.30 p.m – 2.45 p.m and 7.30 p.m – 11.45 p.m
You can opt for a la carte or the Hilsa Head to Tail meal experience at Rs 2550++
Hilsa Festival At The Gateway Hotel
Chef Ashish does a stellar job with the festival every year. My favorite out of everything was the Baked and Boneless Hilsa , served with herbed rice, greens and bread. Mildly smoked Hilsa with the parmesan cheese made for a very good combination.
At The Gateway Hotel, there are Hilsa dishes from both ‘Epar’ and ‘Opar Bengal’. From ‘Dhakai Shorshe Bata’ to ‘Ilisher Korma’, ‘Doi Ilish’, ‘Ilish Bhaja’, ‘Ilish Chop’, the options are endless.
Everyone’s favorite apart from the Baked Hilsa was ‘Kancha Aam Kasundi Ilish’. This is a great jugalbandi of Ilish, green mango and mustard and has to be relished with a plate of steamed rice. Time-tested winner!
Hilsa Festival at Buzz, The Gateway Hotel
Throughout August from 12:30 – 3:30 pm and 7.30 p.m – 11.30 p.m
Average cost of a dish – Rs 750++