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Bengali Cuisine today has attained great popularity and a number of popular local restaurant chains have branches literally all over the country. However a quarter of a century back there was a very different picture. Bengali food was restricted to homes and except for the local Pice Hotels they were largely unavailable. Gradually a couple like Suruchi and Kewpie’s did come up and while the food was delicious the ambience and experience was at best quaint and homely. That was until one man’s vision created a trend which has grown and keeps growing. On 18th May 1993 Mr. S. K. Roy who is now the Chairman of The Peerless Group took the plunge and created Aaheli, India’s first Bengali Fine Dining Restaurant and the rest as they say is history.

I was absolutely delighted to receive a personal invitation from Debasree Roy, Sr. Vice-President of the Peerless Group to attend a preview of 24 e 24” to celebrate the twenty fourth birthday of the iconic Aaheli with a special thali consisting of 24 items. Each one was a gem and yes I was lucky enough to taste them all but more on that later!

Photo Credits: Suneha Saha

We were given a warm welcome by Debasree and her Team, it would not do justice to this fabulous culinary experience to simply call it a meal so I would rather call it a Feast! We began with a delightful Aam Pora Shorbot which was one of the best I have sampled and a perfect drink after a hot and muggy day. Thereafter we were served one of their signature dishes the “Rui Machher Patishapta” which was outstanding. It is a pancake stuffed with minced fish and spices and served with kashundi (mustard). Depending on availability it is made with either Rui, Bhekti or Hilsa fish I fell in love with it after eating it and I can completely understand why it’s so popular.

Photo Credits: Suneha Saha

Then it was time for the “24 e 24” Thali to make a grand entrance and it floored us. The spread seemed endless and smelt delicious and it took oodles of self-control to click the photographs to share with all of you before we dived into this exquisite meal.

A nice Gandhoraj Ghol was served up and being a huge fan of the Gandhoraj Lemon I enjoyed it. We were served those gorgeous golden luchi’s that I was eyeing from the moment the Thali was laid out before me and the Panch Bhajar Bahar (5 kind of fries) where I really loved the Begun (Brinjal) and the Bori’s. Gobindhobog Rice and Ghee and a superb Goynaborir (sundried lentil savories shaped like ornaments) followed.  Shuktoni (mixed vegetable curry), Piyaz Postor Bora (onion and poppy fritters), Mohini Mochar Ghonto (banana flower curry), Dumr-er Dalna (lentil dumplings), Enchor-er Kalia (jackfruit curry), Purbora Potol (Pointed gourd stuffed with cottage cheese) rounded off the vegetarian offerings which were all excellent. We were also served up a really good Macher Matha Diea Moong Dal (fishhead cooked in lentils) which was really delicious and one of the nicest I have had in a long time.

Photo Credits: Suneha Saha

Now followed the stars of the meal for me – Bhalo Laga Bhekti Paturi … lovely balance of spices, fish cooked to perfection … Bhalo Laga means something you like very much and this dish was so very aptly named because I could wax lyrical about it. Chamatkari Chingri Malai Curry was next … picture a plump, juicy golden prawn swimming in a bowl of delicious Malai Curry and you will want to dive in and join it. The Queen of Fish Hilsa or “Aahamori Aam Tel Eelish” followed and I promise I went straight to Cloud 9. Hilsa is my absolute favorite fish and this one was a winner all the way. By now though we just had a bite of everything we were super stuffed but the lure of the Kochi Panthar Jhol (mutton curry) paired with Pulao Rajnandini (slightly sweetish rice pulao) was impossible to resist and we dived in to this lovely combination and it surpassed expectations. Beautiful tender mutton in a bold rustic curry pleased us all and we wiped our plates clean.

Photo Credits: Suneha Saha

The feast concluded with Kancha Aam-er Chutney and Papad followed by three sweet jewels. Paramanno, Aam Doi and Rajat Rajbhog with Pan and a very sweetly packed mouth freshener (roasted fennel seeds). Please note that all the sweets are made in-house by their halwai and were superb. Most of the ingredients are prepared from scratch in their kitchens.

Asheem Da the Manager has been there since the inception of Aaheli as have most of the Kitchen Staff and they treat every patron like a guest in their own home and take such good care of you that you look forward to your next visit before you even leave. The exquisite “24 e 24” Thali is available for Lunch and Dinner from 18th- 24th May, 2017 at both their outlets (Peerless Inn and Axis Mall). It was priced at Rs. 2,400 plus taxesIf the finest Bengali Cuisine in the city is what you’re looking for then Aaheli is the place you should head out to. Wishing the entire Aaheli Team a very Happy 24th Birthday and looking forward to many more delicious meals and happy memories there.

Aaheli and all the restaurants at The Peerless Inn are fully accessible to people with limited mobility as they have a ramp and an elevator.

Rukshana Kapadia is the Founder of https://theculinarycommentator.com/ and for the unabridged version of the above visit her website.