Located literally next door to Flurrys on Park Street, Peter Cat is as much a Calcutta culinary landmark as its famous neighbour. But it doesn’t, as many believe, date back to the Swinging Sixties. Peter Cat originally opened in the middle of the Super Seventies, before which it was known as Omar Khayyam. Is that where the Persian connection came from? I can only wonder. Because there certainly is a connection; how else could Peter Cat’s famous Chelow Kabab be so close to the Persian original?
Chelow Kabab has for a long time been the national dish of Iran, Persia of yesterday. The dish is simply steamed rice (Chelow) and (any number of) kabab. Most typically however, Chelow Kabab is served with either Kabab Koobideh (pounded or kneeled meat) or Kabab Barg (thin “as a leaf”, symmetrical cuts of lamb tenderloin), or both. Joojeh (chicken) Kabab, as Peter Cat serves, isn’t typically served with rice. That said, Peter Cat’s Chelow Kabab resembles the original in that it comes with two skewers of Koobideh, Joojeh, a blob of butter, Saffron rice and…a fried egg – unbelievable. Up until the early 80’s most Chelow Kababi restaurants in Iran would also offer an egg (or two) to add to the Chelow Kabab they served BUT the egg was not fried. In fact it wasn’t even a full egg, it was an egg yolk and it was raw; the idea being that the raw egg would cook while you mixed it in with your steaming rice – yum. Hats off to Peter Cat for keeping with this age old tradition.
The restaurant is surprisingly popular for a 40+ year old eatery; it was packed at 15:30 on a week day. I felt the dark, slightly run down interior could do with a touch up…and a bit more light. I also felt the service could do with a swift kick! Pompous and arrogant to the point of being rude, if it weren’t for the speed and the wonderful food I would have called out the manager. The truth is, the idiot I am describing was the manager…or assistant manager. Anyway, service isn’t one of their strong points.
That aside, lovely Chelow Kabab made even more nostalgic with the discovery of the egg (and a giant bottle of Kingfisher beer) and some wonderful company turned the meal a thoroughly enjoyable affair. Worth a detour.