Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bangladesch: Nachos und Mehr

I think Dayal Bhandar may be the world's only Bengali-Mexican restaurant. Alongside the traditional curries and fritters, you'll find many variations on nachos and fajitas (burgers, too). When asked, the jolly owner informed us that he had previously owned several Mexican restaurants and his regular customers asked him to keep their favorite dishes on the menu. While I get that from an economics perspective (we were the only customers at 7 on a Saturday evening), it doesn't quite jive with his professed desire to make Dayal Bhandar into a Bengali cultural center, serving authentic food that isn't dumbed down for the Germans (his sentiment, my words). While I was tempted to see if the Fajitas con Vaca came with a real cow, we stuck to the Bengali menu options. We shared Missron Kulipita, fried turnovers filled with beef or chicken served with a tamarind sauce and Bangla Labra, a sort of vegetable curry. I can't say that the food was amazing, but something about the place appealed to me. The fritters were fine; no better or worse than you would expect. The major flaw in the cooking was that the vegetable curry was made with frozen vegetables. I can't defend this (in July no less), but the sauce was good and it was spicy. In a city filled with odd cream-based curries that all taste exactly the same, this dish stood out despite the crinkle-cut carrots. My favorite part of the meal, though, was the beverages. Dayal Bhandar doesn't serve any alcohol, but they do have a few Bengali beverages. The owner's wife (co-owner?) had trouble explaining them to me, so I chose Burhani, which she could only describe as spicy. I liked it, but it was like drinking a glass of creamy, spicy (!) cilantro chutney. I do love me some cilantro chutney and while it might not become my new drink of choice, it's refreshing to be served something with real heat in this town. Spain and Germany have taken a real toll on my spiciness tolerance and between the curry and my drink, my ears were on fire. I was also intrigued by their traditional Bengali breakfast offerings - homemade flatbread with eggs, cilantro, onions, and chilies stood out in particular. Even though the food wasn't mind-blowing, it still seemed like they were cooking for us like they cook for themselves. I have a suspicion that with a little work and by showing some interest in Bengali cuisine, you might be able to eat really well there. Or maybe I'm just getting desperate to believe that about one of these places.

At the end of the day, Dayal Bhandar does have room for improvement. The restaurant's interior is fairly generic and sitting outside means you are essentially eating in a construction site (they can't be blamed for this, though, and in time it will be gone). Still, the food has real flavor and the jolly owner and his family (when we first walked in only the children were present) are charming. I hope that the fact that they only had one table on a Saturday night doesn't mean what I think it means. The off-the-path location will always be a challenge, but they do seem to get that cooking their food as they like to eat it is something special. And that counts for something in my book.

Dayal Bhandar
Goslarer Platz 5

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