Restaurants & Bars 33

Gram Bangla: More than a replacement for Sabuj

JFores | Apr 22, 2008 04:27 PM

I randomly went into Gram Bangla (Village Bangla, Bangla Village, however you want to translate it) tonight. I can't remember if it was mentioned in the Time Out article or not, though I think that it was. Tonight was also my very first night back in London after an enormous Bengali weddng and a month in NYC.

Gram Bangla is very similar to Sabuj Bangla and the very Bengali places that line Bethnal Green Road. It's a long narrow restaurant which fills up as it gets later (I only know of its late night crowd) until you feel like you're in an East London imam's convention by 11:15pm. I walked into this meeting watching The Fifth Element quite attentatively before finding myself in front of a wonderful glass counter filled with just about every stereotypical Bengali specialty one needs for survival (and happiness, fish-ness, and uh... yeah....) My companion and I ordered keski mas, lamb with chana daal, and aloo bhorta as well as rice. The bill ended up coming to 14 quid which is reasonable enoguh as we were both full. Maybe a bit pricey and I suspect that prices (especially the 1.50 charge per rice) were magically invented for me. We'll see in the future. Ok I'm rambling.

The food was really excellent and world's better than what I've been having at Baburchi. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that Green St market makes me oddly happy and giddy or that I adore the Thrill of the Grill kebab place across from it then I wouldn't have to go back there (or move there at the end of this year.) The rice is well cooked and normal enough. No complaints, no burnt bits, and no hard bits. The rice portions were a bit skimpy though, especially for a Bengali place. The keski mas was delicious and also included the tiny dried baby shrimp that occasionally appear in Bengali dishes (nice borrowing from Chinese grocery stores.) Their keski mas contained more Thai chilis than usualy and had delicious kick. Overall it was a real winner and even after probably having sat for the whole day, it was not fishy. It was also WORLD'S less oily than Baburchi's btw. The aloo bhorta was delicious and VERY mustard oil and chili heavy. A great batch of aloo bhorta if a bit clumpy, though this is probably because it was sitting for a while. Finally, the last dish was the chana dal with lamb which was excellent. The lamb was incredibly tender, had very little fat, and was delicious. The sauce was yogurt based and you could easily notice whole cardamon pods and cloves. The portion was quite small for 4.50 though. Very small.

Overall I will definitely be back and I really like the whole atmosphere in there. Also, it's on Brick Lane which is convenient compared to places further east and it is a great option for this stretch of what is usually restaurant hell. I believe the owners are Sylheti and I suspect they may have some local specialties that I didn't notice. I usually judge Bengali places on fish and aloo bhorta so I had to get that out of the way first. Also, all meals come with optional paan at the end so you can chew your mildly stimulating and not so healthy beetlenut dumpling as you walk to the bus, tube, home. Oh yeah, you also have the added benefit of being stared at, commented on, and greeted by random people who want to know why you're eating with your hands, where you learned how to, and how the hell you know what paan is.

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