Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Da Luigi Code

Many have tried to crack the Da Vinci Code, but it was a Harvard professor Robert Langdon with the gifted French cryptologist Sophie Neveu who finally succeeded. Now we were ready to break the Da Luigi Code this Sunday afternoon, not at the Louvre in Paris but at the Park Hyatt Goa resort and Spa, the time allotted from 12.30pm to 3.00pm.

We were led to the Da Luigi restaurant…..unlike Robert Langdon you have a choice of places to choose to encrypt this code…the Masala, Casa Sarita or the CafĂ© and presented with the Mona Lisa.

Only in this case it was not a painting but fawn hard backed encypted folio, in which lay the two page code….Counter selection, Cooked to order and on the Sweet side. Well that looked like a normal menu, but 70 dishes? Did we have to choose? Were all available? Can a normal human being eat so much? And if so where were the chaffing dishes with the hot food…and the desserts? Questions galore .


Fredrick the affable and polite maitre d’ offered us a variety of thirst quenchers … sparkling wine, fresh juices, soft beverages…one can take their pick. Well it was a hot afternoon, so we picked up those refreshers as we sat down to unravel the code.

To start with there is a counter selection…anti pasti laid down on the da luigi counter. If one counted on the paper 13 items listed…but looking at the spread there could easily work out to an additional 10-20. Well there were approx 30 dishes to start with…and that is considered to be the starter. Was there a mystery to unravel this culinary riddle?

Taking my hard backed folio I approach the House made country breads and pastries...5 preparations in all…and then to accompany that we could add on the Organic salads and dressings…..or the antipasti section which had sundried tomatoes, artichokes, asparagus and cherry tomatoes, olives. Cauliflower and mustard, parmesan crumb boiled eggs and crispy parsley, whole red onions with balsamic, cured shaved meats, eggplant wrapped in mozzarella and roasted tomatoes. Jokes apart, I have mentioned only four of the items listed there.

But let me not mention all these items…you see the code changes every Sunday. Right from the selection from the European cheese board….Gouda, Edam, Brie, Cheddar with baked crispy breads and dried fruit and nuts..I did take more than a few of those exotic ones when no one was looking...the Panazella which is an Italian style bread with shredded chicken, capers etc or the Japanese sushi….chef de cuisine Birender Barthwal has arranged every conceivable delicacy from the world on that little counter.

Now let me give you a brief about the chef affectionately know as ‘Papa’. He will kill you with his delicacies…as we later found out. He even has a Papas pasta section in the ‘Cooked to Order’ selection.

‘Do we have to order any one of these dishes,’ I asked looking at the second page. There was a choice of seven cuisines…Continental, Indian, pizza’s, Italian, Goan and Tandoori. And of course the eggs if one had missed breakfast. Out came his beaming smile. ‘You can have everything,’ he says. ‘Everything ? ’ I echo…there must be at least 25 items listed there. ‘Well each portion is just 70-80 gms a portion,’ he confides, ‘and moreover it is made just as you order…a la minute.’

I was flabbergasted, I had the pre -conceieved notion where brunches were buffets in hot chaffing dishes…and here the chef was asking me to order from a menu, and that too unlimited. ‘Many of our guests would like to sample food from all our outlets,’ he says, ‘so we give them a choice of all our restaurants in the Brunch.’

And so started the influx of delicacies. If I had known this I would have starved for a week. The Tuscan thin crust pizza…Papa’s own creation…mama mia, the flaky fish with wok tossed tomato rice…coriander butter oozing on top and the char grilled lemon crusted chicken with tomato feta salad…….to die for. And it did not stop there…the Indian platter with mughlai malai…that boneless chicken marinated in cream…they must have definitely used excess cream…it was so succulent, and the Phuldhari malai tikki. Words cannot express this extravaganza emerging piping hot from the kitchen. One must experience it. I will not dwell right now on the Goan or the other items, I would need another column for it…..all I can say was that Joe was enjoying his pork vindaloo….he felt it was finger licking good…and suited the action to his word.

I looked away…one does not behave like that in a 5 star environment…but the staff took it matter of factly…maybe this was the normal behavior of their guests I consoled myself. Talking to a few well known locals who were patronizing the place gave credit to my assumption.

The riddle that now presented itself was….did I have space for any more goodies? On The sweet side lay listed tantalizingly in front of me. My waterloo. Sixteen plus preparations listed…and my pouch could perhaps expand just a few centimeters. So with great regret, I took a nibble at the Traditional style sticky date cashew nut pudding with butterscotch sauce. And that nibble became a meal…truly scrumptious. I left behind the baby chocolate doughnuts, the choclate panna cotta, the strawberry pavlovas with true regret.

I am sure that the adventurers of the Da Vinci Code did not feel the way we felt. We had cracked the Da Luigi code to perfection. Do not eat a day before you go visiting there, take time to unravel the intricacies of each dish listed there so that you can plan your intake, talking to Papa is a must…his enthusiasm adds to the experience….and don’t criticize the author if you do not find this ‘sumptuous grayle’. A culinary adventure beckons you at the Southern end of Goa.

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