It’s not a difficult recipe: a kabob and thinly sliced purple onion, wrapped in a paratha. Why, then, are excellent kathi rolls so tough to come by? Why isn’t every kathi roll joint in Kolkata – and they are nearly as ubiquitous as sweet shops – as good as Nizam’s?
We cannot lay any special claim to having “discovered” Nizam’s, in the way travelers take special pride in unearthing little-known, neighborhood eateries. Nizam’s was a Kolkata institution long before we first wandered in, and will no-doubt be around long after we have succumbed to our Nizam’s-induced heart attacks.
In the five-plus years we’ve been making hajj to Nizam’s, the food hasn’t changed one iota. The parathas are simultaneously flakey and chewy, tasty without being greasy. The non-veg kabobs are perfectly marinated and perfectly roasted, and made from the best quality meat. The kathi rolls are served with nothing more than a small bowl of fiery green chilis.
The only thing that has changed is the restaurant’s interior, which was ostentatiously painted two years ago, rendering it more colorful, yet somehow habitually dingy and cheerless, as if by tradition.
When in Kolkata, I would have absolutely no problem eating at least one meal per day at Nizam’s, even if I were not permitted to explore the menu beyond the ambrosial kathi rolls. It turns out I am not alone in this devotion.
My friends and I found ourselves in Kolkata last week, after concluding a week’s vacation in Orissa. On our next to last day in Kolkata, we had dined at Nizam’s before catching the magnificent Madhuri Dixit in her comeback film, Aaja Nachle. On our last morning, as we made plans for departure, Linda Joseph insisted that we make Nizam’s our final meal.
And so it was.