The food at Neerob rises to the level of home cooking; their samosas ($1.50) and phakuras ($1) are some of the best you'll find in the city. We started our meal on the right foot, with a few rounds of these fritters and a couple squeeze bottles of hot sauce.
So savory one guest was convinced it had to have meat, this banana kofta was one of the better things I have ever eaten. Green banana is boiled, mashed, rolled into balls with onion, garlic, and cilantro, and deep fried. It's then simmered in a thick curry sauce that packed an unbelievable amount of flavor.
On most days, rhui mas be found at Neerob in simpler guises. Before this night, I would've brushed off the notion that the fish could be so thoroughly infused with such deep and bold flavors. Khokon sautéed garlic and onion, whipping up a thickened gravy, and added the fish only when the gravy came to a boil.
This disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. An exceptionally flavorful dish of remarkably straightforward sautéed pumpkin.
Channa and Daal
Daal (front) is an essential component of the Bangladeshi meal, used to flavor the otherwise bland white rice. At Neerob, they temper the lentils with spices, cilantro, onions, and tomato. The channa (back) was praised by guest Anne Noyes Saini, who went on to say, "So many restaurant daals are slicked with oil as a way to compensate for a lack of flavor from slowly simmering it with onions or spices or other seasonings. The daal was perfectly soft but the individual grains were still intact - not mushy. That's the sign of a cook who knows how to make chana daal well."
The second kofta of the evening, these cakes of fried, ground fish were served in a rich, vibrant creamy sauce. The encasing crust was light, without a hint of cumbersome oil. When asked to describe the sauce, Rhaman cracked, "I'll tell you, it's like quatro formaggio!" (Perhaps hinting at the presence of paneer.)
While rice is the traditional staple of Bangladesh (and the standard bearer here), Neerob offers surprisingly good flatbreads. Serious Eater Chichi described the naan as having a "soft, almost alkaline" quality, which she correctly attributed to the presence of baking soda.
Eminently popular in the Indian subcontent, ilish (hilsa) is the national fish of Bangladesh. In some regions it holds special significance; there are as many preparations for it as their are exuberant fans. Khokon fried ours and served it with a salty, cilantro-garnished gravy. You can occasionally find this dish on the regular menu as well.
How To Eat
Proper decorum at a Bangladeshi table dictates the use of hands, not silverware. Natives are skilled eaters, using their fingers to mash and mix components for a complete bite.
How To Eat
A demonstration, with fish and banana kofte in the foreground.
Neerob produces a tantalizing selection of bhartas, the fish and vegetable mashes similar to chutneys. This version featured green banana mixed with fresh onion, garlic, and plenty of mustard oil for that wasabi-like kick.
Dried Shrimp and Chili Bharta
A little bit funky and seriously spicy, this is one of Neerob's most delicious bhartas ($1-3). Despite its everyday availability, we couldn't resist getting in on the action.
After the entrées were carried off the table, Khokon scooted off to the kitchen to concoct his own version of the popular South Asian digestif, salty lassi. In the States, good lassi is hard to come by—all the more so for fantastic lassi. Made moments before service, it was both cooling and calming, and it tasted of the ocean under the hot sun. Talking after the meal, Khokon revealed that he limited his flavorings to salt and lemon juice, for a thin, tangy beverage.
While Khokon produces a line of sweets on a daily basis, I requested that he make something special for our meal. Running with my suggestion, he held the identity of his dessert a secret until service. Like a South Asian crepe, patisapth is made of ground rice and water that's fried, then rolled and stuffed with a filling of rice flakes, sugar, cream, and milk. If rice desserts aren’t your calling, prepared to be swayed: the wrapper was wonderfully spongy, the filling fresh, fluffy, and downright delicious. It was leagues ahead of the limp renditions I’d had before, and something I’ve been craving daily since.