Monday, June 1, 2015

Review: Amar Gaon

Authentic Bangladeshi Food in Brick Lane

King prawns with spinach, sprinkled with coriander

Finding a good Bangladeshi food joint in the UK has been a long-elusive personal goal. There was Grameen Khana during my time in Birmingham, and then Kolapata when I moved to London. The former was more a curry house serving a limited selection of Bangladeshi dishes, while the latter leaned towards being a proper Bangladeshi restaurant. However, neither was very good, and so I'm glad I finally made it to Amar Gaon in East London. 

An unassuming storefront

Given its Brick Lane location, it may be hard to believe Amar Gaon serves anything other than generic curry house fare. But the store sits within a cluster of typically Bangladeshi shops on the road, away from gentrified Shoreditch. And yes, I did write store: Amar Gaon is actually something like a general store combined with a canteen style eatery, where food is pre-prepared and served from a counter. There's quite a variety on offer, with everything from simple chicken curries to dishes with more obscure regional ingredients on display.

How the food is displayed. Zoom into the far right for
a better look at the boal

I honed into a few simple favourites such as prawns with spinach and kachki, but I also noticed huge pieces of boal, varieties of spinach, jackfruit, curried fish roe and so on. I'm not sure how much the menu changes day to day. I suspect it's driven by the availability of imported ingredients – but it’s likely there will always be something for everyone. Not every dish was obvious - with the contents of several were hidden away by layers of sauce, so I asked the man behind the counter (in Bengali!) to point out a few things. I translated for my partner, though everyone in the store did speak English. There is no written menu, however, so expect to engage with the staff for descriptions and recommendations. The manager (I assume) was happy to talk us through everything, and also pointed out safer, lightly spiced dishes for my partner. 

Left to right: mixed veg, free onion based salad, chicken, king
prawns and spinach, kachki

We opted for a number of dishes we could share: mixed vegetables, kachki, king prawns with spinach, two varieties of chicken and rice. We asked for mango lassis to drink, which were freshly whizzed up in front of us at the counter - no melted mango kulfi here. They were brought over shortly after we sat down at our self-appointed table, and were followed by food in bowls meant to be shared among the table in the traditional Bengali way. Our order was generous to the point of being greedy, and driven completely by me I admit. But I still wished I could have tried more - the food was just that good. Sadly there are no half-portions (I did ask), and ordering just two dishes may be too much for a single person. In essence, this means the bigger your group the more variety you can try. 

A partially consumed meal.
Notice no cutlery!

Every dish we ate was distinctly authentic, with the expected mix of spices and flavours. But, and in my opinion more importantly, each dish was excellently prepared, and obviously fresh - something that can be a worry at a venue serving food on display. Both servings of chicken were better versions of the classic spicy chicken I've previously blogged about here and gave me something to aspire to. The spinach was lightly spiced, cooked to be nice and soft without turning into the usual curry house mush. The number of king prawns in the dish was notably generous given the price. There was an unnecessarily heavy use of oil in most the dishes though, a common theme in Bangladeshi restaurants, but a sparing use of salt which was a pleasant surprise. The mixed vegetables didn't reach as high a standard as everything else, and I wish the kachki had been more lightly spiced as is traditional for fish in Bangladeshi home-cooking. 

The seating area

We paid £30 for our unnaturally large meal, and factoring in the lassis and rice means we were charged under £5 per portion of food. That's cheap for the great food on offer, easily making Amar Gaon the best value establishment I've reviewed on the blog so far. The shop is small so it may be harder to get a space during peak times, but the seating area and environment is nice enough to make this a destination to sit, eat and socialise. They offer a small private room for hire, but do bear in mind this is not a restaurant, and rather a casual eatery aimed at clientele looking for specific regional cuisine. Fans of British curry may not find the food here to be what they're used to, but they may want to step out of their comfort zones for Amar Gaon nonetheless. The food they serve is definitely worth it.

Food: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Value: 8/10

Final Score: 8/10

Contact Information
A: 50 Brick Lane, London E1 6RF
T: +4420 7377 6688
W: N/A 

NB. The final score, while influenced by the sub-scores, is a qualitative reflection of my overall impression the establishment.

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