Venue: Park Street, Kolkata
Biryani is a cult. Aficionados do not mind travelling cities to have the perfect biryani. This complete dish mostly comprising rice – meat – rose water – spices has evolved in various styles all over India.
Kolkata style Biryani is distinct from other varieties of biryanis. This style has emanated from the Awadhi style brought to Kolkata by Wajed Ali Shah during his exile. The biryani is subtly flavored with saffron, rose water and other fragrant spices. Plus it always comes with a huge boiled potato and is sometimes garnished with a boiled egg. It is far less spicy / strong in taste than the North or South Indian Biryanis.
Shiraz is synonymous to Biryani for any Calcuttan. It had humble beginnings God knows when. However, about twenty years ago, it used to be a spartan eatery at the prominent Park Street – Mullick Bazar Crossing. People would not mind sharing tables with complete strangers, such was the leveling experience.
On a recent visit, we saw things have changed. This is now a fully air-conditioned restaurant with multi level seating and an annexe in an adjacent building. We ordered chicken biriyani, rezala, raita and firni.
Thankfully, the taste was intact over the years. The rice melted in the mouth while the flavours took over our senses. The mutton / chicken pieces were tender and could be easily separated with a fork (although fans would swear that fingers are the best option). The rezala was mild and helped in moistening the biryani.
The rice pudding – firni set in earthen pots was also mildly flavoured and sweetened. In fact, subtlety seemed to be their trademark, every dish was mild. This allowed diners to eat more without feeling uncomfortable.
We were told that Shiraz was not what it used to be. However, this experience belied all our apprehensions. Even if we are in Kolkata for half a day, we will surely try to have a meal at Shiraz.