I'm at the Square, the all-day diner at Novotel Guwahati GS Road. This is my first stop in a packed schedule to explore the wonderful flavours of North Eastern and particularly Assamese cuisine. The conversation with my host eventually drifts to Guwahati's dining scene. My bias towards some of these cuisines has been built over time thanks to authentic meals in Delhi and Kolkata but digging deeper into Assamese cuisine in Guwahati made it worth the trip. Just like many of India's busy urban centres, Guwahati's dining scene has been transformed over the last decade. From luxury options like Novotel and the Taj Vivanta to fine standalone restaurants to compact restaurants that champion some of the region's micro cuisines, Guwahati's dining scene was a revelation during my frenetic food trail through the city:
Also Read: 5 Best North Eastern Restaurants In Delhi
1. Parampara Paradise
Ask any local and you're likely to be pointed in the direction of this family-style restaurant. Locals call it Paradise; this is one of Guwahati's oldest fine restaurants that showcases true blue Assamese cuisine in an elegant setting. I'd recommend digging into one of their thalis that round up some of the state's most emblematic dishes. There's a choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian thalis. Go the 'whole hog' and try their Parampara thali that includes the fish tenga (a tangy fish curry), their popular pigeon or duck curry that's flavoured with ground spices and the piquant khorisa - grated bamboo shoots fermented in water and finished with red chillies and mustard oil.
Where: Maniram Dewan Road, Silpukhuri
2. The Square, Novotel Guwahati GS Road
This all-day diner offers a choice of breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. While these buffets are essentially multi-cuisine spreads, this high-energy restaurant also offers authentic Assamese platters on request. Most Assamese meals feature a dal, the dals on this platter (I tried the Moong Massor Dal) truly stand out. I also enjoyed the popular Assamese sweet delicacy - Narikolor Pitha, made with rice, sugar and desiccated coconut.
Where: GS Road, Dispur
3. Seven, Vivanta, Guwahati
One of the first dining experiences in Guwahati that put the spotlight on local favourites. This all-day diner offers a wide selection of Assamese delicacies including an authentic Assamese Jolpan, a scrumptious breakfast plater that includes favourites like the ketli pitha (a steamed rice cake made of soaked rice powder stuffed with a delicious mix of cooked fresh grated coconut and jaggery). The restaurant's Assamese lunch thalis include dishes like the xaak aru bhaji (stir fried ferns with potato) and khar (unripe papayas cooked with chillies and the panch phoran spice mix).
Where: Mahapurush Sriamanta Sankradeva, Road, Khanapara,
4. Mising Kitchen
One of the highlights of my recent visit to Assam was a morning spent at the Mising Village in Baligaon not far from Tezpur. Pabitra Kamison Mili, the village elder who guides this village walked me through the village offering fascinating insights on the unique culture of the Mising (or Mishing) tribe. This village is a botanic garden of sorts with 700+ endemic species; some of the villagers still live in thatched houses raised on bamboo stilts. Two days later I found myself in Mishing Kitchen, a restaurant in Guwahati that offers many Mising specialties and a range of thalis including a popular Mising Pork and Duck thali. This is a must visit for pork lovers who will totally approve of dishes like the O'Tenga Pork cooked with wood apples and my favourite dish here - the Pork Norshing (Pork cooked in a gravy dominated by curry leaves or Narasingha in Assamese).
Where: Hengrabari Road, Ganeshguri.
Also Read: A Food Lover's Guide to Eating in Shillong
5. Naga Kitchen
Tucked away in a busy commercial building on GS Road is one of the city's finest North East cuisine restaurants. I got my Insta moment of fame - I turned red faced and broke into beads of sweat as I bit into the spicy Naga Chili chicken, a true test for your spice tolerance levels. The other dish that I'd recommend is the Axone (or akhuni), a theme for a Netflix film of the same name. This is usually a love or loathe dish with its strong flavours that come from the fermented soyabeans; I tried it with pork. The restaurant's chicken fried dumplings and steamed pork dumplings are popular too.
Where: GS Road, Rukminigaon
This casual Assamese diner takes its name from a traditional style of barbecuing that uses bamboo sticks as skewers. Aside from the barbequed pork and chicken, the restaurant also offers a delectable selection of dishes wrapped in banana leaves including the popular Hilsa fish. There's also a section of dishes cooked with pepper and medicinal herbs;the black rice pudding is probably the best way to end your meal here.
Where: GS Road, Ulubari
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About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.