Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Balcao Beckons

‘Lazy days are here again,’ I thought to myself as we sat in the verandah of this cozy restaurant overlooking the pool. Definitely classy, I thought looking around the restaurant. Wrought iron chandeliers hung on the wall highlighting the painted Goan caricatures, checked placemats on the table, crisp white napkins gleaming shining cultlery…definitely a place to entertain your outside clients. But leafing through the menu….oh so many pages of it….another thought struck me…hey this has all the old family favorites…..Indian, Goan, Continental, Oriental. This multi cuisine restaurant is a family restaurant too.

Balcao the restaurant at the Lazylagoon at Arpora…yes this is the place I am talking about. Trendy, classy and….I am going to give you the third adjective at the end of this column. Even the waiters uniforms are designed to suit the ambience. But we had come to sample the food. Chef Sanjoy Saha…his quiet shy smile is like an appetizer- is at the helm.


I look at the caricatures painted on the wall. Pedro and Caetan the ambling waiters, their slight paunches emphasizing a fact that guest left overs never reached the dustbins, were walking around their guests bearing glasses of wine on their salvers. Some heavily endowed women with their skinny husbands were seated at their tables…I look across the table at Joe. He caught my look and his quiet voice cut through my musings…we have a serious job on hand the tone implied.

Did I use the word lazy….wrong word, I thought as I came back to the present. The waiters here in the restaurant are warm, attentive and professional…after all the resort comes under the Sarovar chain.

The accompaniments arrive. Designer white bowls containing batons of vegetables, Sprouted moong and the old spicy favourites chilly, lime and Piyazzz. The tandoori items were due any moment. Out comes the Kebab platter-garnished to the ‘T’. The whole dish looked good enough to eat….Chicken Tikka, Malai kebabs, Seekh kebabs and Khaas Kebabs with the tangy mint chutney. An Indian bread basket of rolled Naans came with the dish. If one is vegetarian one could sample the stuffed paneer-paneer sandwiched between onions, tomato and capsicum.

But the chef was determined to prove that his smile was not the only appetizing thing around the restaurant. One must try the Masala fried prawns. That dish is to die for. The masla coats the prawns like a rubber glove to a hand…peeling off gently when in contact with the saliva, hence enriching the flavour of the prawns. I masticate gently-keeping a wary eye on that woman depicted on the wall….but when I was asked if I would like to have more…I defiantly decided to add two more of that crustacean delicacy on to my plate.

The plates were cleared and larger designer plates were placed in front. By golly…I had stuffed myself silly on those smaller plates…now what did the chef have in store for me? I did not have long to wait….a mini buffet of Goan and Indian specialties. Chicken cafreal, Pomfret Raechado followed by Dum Methi Murg, Mutton Roganjosh and Dal Sarovar. If one has to order the chef’s speciality I would definitely recommend his Dum Methi Murg…it really had a lot of Dum. And those sizzling hot butter Naans and onion kulchas…. What a combo. I licked up every gravy molecule of that preparation, no need for cutlery at this moment-the naan works wonders in sopping up that gravy like a sponge. And that onion kulcha… you can nibble at it…just by itself,it needs no accompaniment to complement its taste.

We sit back replete. By now Joe had passed out….now don’t get worried. It was not the heat or too much to drink....he felt just like that stuffed kulcha. He actually did not want to have any dessert. Now luckily for me the amiable smiling General Manager Shekhar Diwadkar understood my desires. ‘Have some of our Gulab jamun,’ he says, ‘we make it here.’

Gulab Jamun? I think but a dessert for me is like water in a dessert. And this parched individual was jubilant that she had said yes. Those sinful sweet roundels with shaved pistachio as a garnish is just out of this world, as the firecrackers exploded in my mind. And it was not even Diwali. ‘Yummy,’ I comment my mouth full. ‘Then you must also taste our Moneybags with icecream,’ Shekhar says. Did they hand out moneybags here? But in this dessert the wantons are filled with exotic dry fruits and coupled with ice cream……’The children would just like this,’ I say, optimistically putting myself in that category making sure to avoid eye contact with that voluptuous lady on the wall.

‘This is a perfect place for a family outing,’ says Shekhar pointing to the pool and the tables and chairs along the promenade which overlooks the water body. I could’nt agree more.

Yes that was the third word I was looking for Beckoning. As we got up from those comfortable cushions of the cane chairs we were encased in…I take a quick look at Pedro and Caetan on the wall. I could have sworn that they winked at me……..what was that word again? Beckoning…..yes, they were urging me to visit the Balcao again.

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