Nabnno doesn’t pitch itself as just a restaurant. It’s meant to be an exploration of Bengali Food culture, and this is evident from the moment you walk in. The waiting area of the restaurant has been painstakingly designed to imitate a Bengali Boithok-khana (drawing room). If you’re a bong, you can easily lose yourself in the books, which include everything from Narayan Debnath’s Handa Bhonda comics to novels by Sunil Gangopadhyay and poems by Rabindranath Tagore. Even the door of the restaurant features a replica of Tagore’s manuscript on the glass. Once you walk into the dining area, you’ll walk past the exhibition area, which showcases photography and artwork. The décor is understated but elegant. There are little marks of brilliance spread across Nabanno, including even the restroom, which features a pun that only Bongs will be able to decipher. If you’re not a Bengali, if possible, try to come along with one of your Bengali friends who can help you understand the many facades of Bengali culture that Nabanno is trying to showcase.
The delightful attention to detail also extends to the menu, which is worth a read or two. The Nabanno menu is on the smaller side, and the number of dishes available is a bit less than some of the other Bengali restaurants in town. However, from time to time, Nabanno replaces its regular menu with a special menu. Keep an eye on their Facebook page, if you don’t want to miss out on some of the more creative and off-beat creations from Nabanno’s kitchen.
Bengali cuisine is a delicate balance of spices, sugar, and salt. It’s never too hot, sometimes a bit sweet, and sometimes a bit salty. It’s also a cuisine with a lot of focus on non-vegeterian food. However, contrary to popular belief, it also has some unique and delicious vegetarian dishes. In fact, one of the most popular and complex Bengali dishes is Shukto, which is a fantastic amalgamation of various vegetables. Nabanno invariably nails the nuances of Bengali food. I’ve dined at Nabanno an innumerable number of times over the past year, and I am yet to be disappointed with the quality of their food.
If it’s your first visit to Nabanno, I’d recommend checking out the Jamai Ador thali, which covers all the courses, and is a great way to dive into Bengali cuisine. My other favourites include Haridasher Bulbul Bhaja (assorted veg starters), Bhetki Fry, Dhakar Marich Bata, Alu Poshto, Dhokar Dalna, Muri Ghonto, Pathar Mangsho, and Sorshe Murgi (not in menu). They also have a decent selection of Bengali desserts, including homely faire like Patishapta and Gokul Pithe.
Nabanno might not be as expensive as Oh! Calcutta, but it is still pretty expensive. Some dishes like Keema Tarka (Rs. 220), Fish Kobiraji (Rs. 270), and Morich Bata (Rs. 50) especially seem to be steeply priced.
There are numerous Bengali restaurants in the twin cities. But, Nabanno is in a class of its own. The combination of consistency and taste makes it an experiment worth experiencing.