Yes, beef has been banned in Maharashtra. Well, whatever was passing for beef. I’m not very certain now if I have ever really tasted cow meat. I will not comment on the silliness of humans letting politics (disguised as religious sentiments) dictate their food choices. I will not try to illustrate how beef is an excellent and cheap source of protein, and thereby good for human health. Nor will I point out how banning the meat will adversely affect the status of the economy, lead to a loss of jobs or deprive the poor animals themselves of fodder. I will not even judge or look down upon these developments from my lofty alien perspective. I will simply eat beef. And enjoy it.
Juicy and lightly crisped tenderloin with potato fondant and mushroom ragoo. Swimming in a sea of herbed butter. Absolutely delicious. From Cyrus Todiwala’s The River Restaurant at Acron Waterfront Resort, Baga, Goa.
I must admit, I enjoy this strange festival that the humans celebrate every year. I am yet to fully comprehend the exact purpose it serves, although it does appear to pose as an excuse for humans to gorge on goodies excessively- something that I obviously approve of. The various decorations and ornaments are quite delightful. And when a restaurant is able to truly embrace the festive spirit, it surely deserves to be commended. One such restaurant is Nostalgia. This quaint little restaurant is located in a fairly remote corner of the globe- Raia, Goa. It is known for its spectacular Goan food, but its charming, homely ambience deserves merit as well. Set in a traditional Goan house, the restaurant is filled with various knick-knacks, which lend it a quaint, whimsical air. The food of course, is more than satisfactory, but given its fascinating decor and its splendid Christmas theme, I felt it best to capture the essence of Nostalgia through photographs.
Extremely fresh crumb-fried ‘Bombil’
‘Chicken Cafreal’- one of the best dishes that Goa has to offer
An adorable saxophone-playing human
‘Alle Belle’- a pancake stuffed with a delicious mixture of jaggery and coconut
Goan sausage chilly fry (L) and masala fried prawns (R)
The legendary Tato’s thali
Some restaurants are more than just restaurants. They withstand the trials of time. They witness history as it is being made. They are survivors. They are landmarks. And most importantly, they have been serving the same dishes for so long that they have managed to achieve utter perfection. Practice makes a meal perfect- this is the first thing that Gastronomicans are taught in Culinary Creativity (which was my favourite subject in school. Well, maybe after Gluttony 101). And it appears that ‘Tato’- a rather unassuming yet wildly popular café in Panjim is an example of this. Certainly, the quality of its food can be gauged from the fact that it has been appreciated across generations. As you can imagine, I was quite curious. So I attempted the ‘thali’- a rather fascinating concept which is apparently distinctly Indian. This ‘thali’ contains a variety of dishes-usually three I think- in small quantities, and is served with both the Indian food staples- roti and rice. This means that the diner has the ability to mix and match the various dishes and accompaniments- a brilliant example of culinary creativity I would say. What makes Tato’s thali different from the typical Indian thali? Well, firstly, you can choose to have ‘puris’ instead of rotis. Puris are crispy, light, and fried. And as we all know, fried is a synonym for delicious. Secondly, one of the dishes in the thali is Tato’s signature potato ‘bhajji’- a sinfully oily mixture of soft, gooey potatoes and fiery chillis, absolutely packed with stunning, full-bodied flavours. It was so good that for a moment I actually considered turning vegetarian (but then I remembered what meat tastes like). And lastly, what sets this thali apart is that it comes with two different kinds of daal- one savoury and one slightly sweet. The second bhajji in the thali (the potato bhajji being the first) was made of ‘gavar’ which is a kind of vegetable I’m told. The only thing I know for certain about this ‘gavar’ is that it tasted delicious. The thali also contained a delightful banana custard dessert, a side of yogurt, and kokum (for after the meal). I must say, Cafe Tato really knows how to spoil their customer- this was a thali fit for a king. For anyone interested in food so good that it’s managed to stick around for…well I didn’t bother to actually do the research, but… a significant amount of human years, this is the place.
Chicken stuffed with Goan Chorizo
Fusion cuisine is always risky. One tiny hint of the wrong flavour and the whole dish is a disaster. On the other hand, if you get it right, it can be simply magical. The chefs at The Black Sheep Bistro in Panjim are certifiable magicians. I tried the Chicken stuffed with Goan Chorizo. Unlike the previous samples of Goan sausage that I have tasted, the stuffing here was not overwhelmingly spicy, but retained its delightful zesty essence. The juicy, succulent chicken and the grainy minced sausage made for an interesting combination of textures while the savoury and spicy flavours balanced each other out beautifully. The accompanying sweet potato mash complemented the whole thing perfectly and was delicious in itself. I also sampled the veg risotto, which was equally scrumptious. The tangy taste of the mushrooms interacted with the delicately flavoured herbs and the starchy rice to create something which was both complex and delicious. My favourite dish of the night however, was dessert. The deconstructed mango cheesecake was absolutely marvellous. The base was syrupy and slightly crunchy, while the mousse was airy and light yet rich and creamy at the same time. The mint flavour provided a delightful freshness, while a subtle hint of lemon added just the right zing. A truly classy dessert, if I ever encountered one. It was, all in all, a satisfying meal to say the very least. If you’re looking for something to eat that is not just tasty, but a work of art (experimental art), this is definitely the place to go.
Deconstructed mango Cheesecake
Chonak rava masala fry
My fabulous fish fiesta continues. Final stop: Goa. A most fascinating and endearing concept unique to Goa is the odd constructions found littering virtually every beach. These ubiquitous constructions, known as ‘shacks,’ tend to contain a distinct lack of walls, making them relatively useless as modes of shelter. I suppose they do provide some shade from the sweltering heat so they’re not completely useless. What they definitely do provide, however, is some surprisingly delicious food. The ‘Sand and Sea’ shack at Bambolim is a particularly charming example of such a place. They serve an excellent Chonak fry (a dish which is quickly becoming one of my favourites) – you have the choice between rava fry or masala fry. I of course, chose the rava masala fry.
Pork chilly fry
The fish was absolutely fresh and delightfully crispy, the masala piquant, tangy and zesty, with a hint of sweetness. Also phenomenal is their pork chilly fry. It consists of pieces of Goan sausage or Choris, fried with onions, chillies and other assorted ingredients. Simply spectacular. Almost as pleasing as the food is the tranquil view of the beach afforded by the shack’s lack of walls. I suppose the openness has its advantages after all. I have a particular fondness for quaint, out of the way restaurants which serve exquisite food. Sand and Sea is certainly one of those. When it comes to local cuisine, they definitely know what they’re doing. This place, for me, is the perfect representation of Earth’s most fleeting season, Summer.
Potato and Scallion Latke
If I had to choose a favourite meal, it would definitely be breakfast. Something about it being the first meal of the day makes it thrilling somehow. I would say it has the power to determine what sort of day you’ll have. Well perhaps I tend to expect rather much from food, but either ways, when breakfast is done correctly, it can make your day. And Sinq Tavern definitely knows how to do it right. Considering that it is run by Bodega- the humans that brought to you the legendary red velvet cupcake, it’s not surprising. Amusingly named after the area in which it is situated- Sinquerim, Goa (I assume), Sinq Tavern by Bodega offers an exciting range of breakfast items. This includes a divine grated potato and scallion pancake called a ‘latke’. Perfectly browned, delicately crisped and mouth-wateringly savoury, this fascinating concoction left me wanting more. It was served with 3 dips which differed in taste and texture, but were equally delicious. As scrumptious as the ‘latke’ was, however, what I ordered next was marvelous enough to make me almost forget about it. The waffles- which I greedily chose to divide based on toppings (one side bacon, one side nutella and bananas) were simply heavenly. They were soft, light and fluffy enough to make me seriously question whether one
Waffles with Spiced Honey, Nutella and fruit, and Apple Smoked Bacon
of the ingredients was cloud essence (Although I was informed it’s very difficult to find that here). The banana and nutella combination was delicious, as expected, but the bacon. Sigh. The bacon. I believe it was the Applewood Smoked variety, which is apparently not only packed full of flavour but phenomenally crispy as well; perhaps the best I have sampled so far. And that’s saying a lot. The waffles were served with a lightly spiced honey topping, which complimented all the flavours beautifully. This place truly takes breakfast to the next level. And apparently they plan to extend the menu to include lunch and dinner soon, so fingers crossed.
Creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes wrapped in a crunchy fried spring roll shell
This tendency of the humans to try and appropriate cuisines from countries that they’ve probably never been to is most endearing. I was told that the Chinese food available in India is in fact, nothing like the food available in China. I perhaps would be disappointed if I was promised authentic Gastronomican food and then discovered that it is merely some human’s interpretation of it. However, as far as I’m concerned, the fusion (even if unintentional) of two entirely different types of cuisines often results in a unique brand of deliciousness. And so it was that I came across a restaurant in Goa which primarily serves a Spanish dish known as ‘tapas’. ‘Maracas’, as the place is called, has a lovely setting and a very relaxing air about it. The combined effect of the quirky decorative items, luxurious greenery, and pleasant background music makes it the perfect Sunday brunch destination. I very much liked the concept of ‘tapas’- what could be better than eating a series of tiny meals, enabling you to taste as many things as possible? I sampled the mashed potato and cheese filled spring rolls. An extremely innovative dish, it consisted of soft cheesy mashed potatoes in a crispy shell, drizzled with a tart white sauce. The unusual blend of soft creaminess and crisp crunchiness really enlivened the eating experience of eating it, making it rather exciting. It was a dish that was inventive as well as delicious- my favourite kind. I also tried the bacon wrapped steak in green peppercorn sauce, which was part of the main course menu. Although the bacon was quite scrumptious, and the steak juicy and succulent, I found the dish a tad bland. It did not live up to the expectations set by the previous dish. The best part about Maracas however, is that an ’add bacon’ option is available next to practically all the vegetarian dishes on the menu. Now that’s a good philosophy.
Bacon wrapped steak with green peppercorn sauce