A Smorgasbord of flavours at Milee Droog Cafe & Bistro

All the action is in Russia at the moment. But would that take me to, leave alone Moscow, a city eatery to catch the game on the big screen amongst cheering fans and clanking beer mugs? I don’t think so. Then, what found me dining at Milee Droof (literally meaning My Dear Friend in Russian) Café and Bistro last evening?

My brother used to frequent Gorky Sadan whilst in high school. He had expressed a desire to pursue his higher studies in Moscow and wanted to learn the nitty gritty about scholarships for courses at college and universities there. While he was at it, I accompanied him on several occasions and discovered a chess club and often caught a regional film or two at the Sadan. That was many, many moons ago. Soon, the brother realized maybe the harsh clime of the country would interfere with his grades and relinquished the pursuit of both the Russian language and the scholarships. I did go back to catch some more films but then the visits dwindled.
That is why when I heard about Milee Droog my interest was reignited. Kolkata is new to the bistro culture and this place sounded like worth a try. Also because I’ve never sampled Russian fare. An effort to get youngsters to visit the Sadan the café has really been getting a steady footfall. A lot of young boys and girls seem to throng the Chess Club here though. Aaah! Russia and chess! Now, I get it!

But, considering that chess is more of a hobby than a desired sport to excel in, a consolidated effort was needed to pull in the city’s youth to this institution, even if for hearty meal. Food binds all and Satyaki Manna, the owner of the eatery, tapped into that knowledge resource. A foodie who is married to a beautiful Russian called Irina and has an adorable two year old son named Adrian, he grabbed the opportunity to greet the city’s gourmands with a large spread of Russian as well as European, Japanese and Lebanese fare, with spurts of nouvelle fusion thrown in. Authentic Russian fare, he’s afraid, is too bland for the Kolkata palate (perennially in love with their spices). So, while the menu has retained a substantial number of Russian preparations (in their most authentic avatars), he’s brought in delicacies from other countries as well. The chef also tweaks. For instance, while the city in under the grip of the World Cup fever, the Russian blini is being served with a stuffing of chicken tikka rolled in the cream sauce. He vouches it’s flying faster than you can say GOAL!
The décor is cheerful with posters and paintings (done by Russian artists and collected from Lalit Kala Akademi) hinting on the Russian connect. While a bistro would have natural light streaming in through large glass windows, Satyaki has cleverly incorporated the colour lime green to brighten the basement restaurant’s interiors. It’s a small but immensely likeable ambience created.
Disputing my disapproving stance about coffee, Satyaki recommends a coffee and watermelon drink. While I courageously surrender to the experiment, my friend safely orders a Yuzu Tangy Twist. I am not fond of the bitter aftertaste that coffee leaves the drinker with. But if I have to have another coffee drink in my life, I guess I would have to come back here. The watermelon and coffee mocktail is an outright winner. It smells of coffee but is utterly refreshing. The sweetness is just perfect. In comparison I find the Yuzu cooler a tad insipid. My friend though is happy with her delicate drink.
We are served an arugula and pomegranate salad with a balsamic dressing topped with toasted walnuts and shavings of parmesan cheese. It’s a perfect way to curb the heat in summer. I could do with a little less tanginess though. But the crunch of the leaves, the juicy pomegranate pearls and the aromatic cheese makes it a good starter. We are recommended the Russian Borshch soup but then we decide to move on the Chicken Blini, another Russian delicacy.
The plating here is simple yet pleasant and they do not take away from what a good eatery should be doing---serving quality and tasty food. The blinis come looking rather effortless, topped with creamy herbed sauce. But, a bite bursts with flavours, signaling that the chef has mastered the art of balancing textures and temperings. The chicken is juicy and tasty and the pancakes are velvety. We are completely sold. We nod in quiet delight when Satyaki declares that Kolkatans have taken to these humble Russian pancakes in a big way.
Next up is an authentic dish from Lebanon called B’lahmeh. That is essentially minced lamb curry cooked with Middle-eastern spices and herbs and served on a bed of Hummus. It is accompanied by Pita bread. The restaurant serves it in an authentic fashion and it does look filling. The minced lamb is rich and delicious and the hummus is the perfect palate cleanser. And yes, as promised the dish does leave you rather full. We are unable to finish the whole thing…
Fact is we reserve some place for dessert, which makes its presence felt in the form of blinis once again. This time stuffed with the most aerated and fluffy whipped cream I’ve tasted in my life and topped with sliced mangoes. Absolutely delish my dear friends!

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