Sunday, May 18, 2008

Like your chilly…hot or sweet?

‘The problem with you, is that you are just like a chilly,’ Joe grumbles after a lengthy argument, ‘one moment you blow hot and then cold, one never know where one stands with you.’

Was this a common refrain from husbands? I wonder as we sat in the restaurant called the ‘sweet chilly.’ Do they look at their wives in contradictory terms? I hear Siraj Sheikh explain the origin of the name of the restaurant, he and his partner Funkit Martins started. ‘I was thinking of my wife,’ he laughs reminiscing, ‘she is very much like a ‘sweet chilly.’

Sweet Chilly…I look at the big chilly atop the decorative entrance. When one imagines a chilly one thinks of the adjectives….hot, spicy, eye watering, ulcers…. They even have a scale called the scoville scale to measure the ‘spice’. The Dorset Naga pepper is measured at 9,23,000 Scoville units, just below the US police pepper spray, while the Bell pepper is rated at zero…..but sweet? An interesting concept. But like the name, the whole package at the Sweet Chilly is interesting. Situated at Sinquerim, it provides entertainment, food, space, …. ’spacefotainment’. Does such a word exist in the dictionary…no siree. But how does one explain the feeling of euphoria that one experiences, when you get spaced out either in the Bar…or in the open gardens as you gaze up in space at the twinkling canopy of stars, fill your belly with the delicacies offered in the multi cuisine menu, and get entertained by Goa’s best artists every night of the week.

I look around at the three tiered restaurant, the greenery still retained around the table seating. And the bar…the same wood used from the trees around, have wooden cutouts of women with their arms raised. Are they in protest or supplication…I never had a chance to find out as Siraj was explaining his dream….one that became a reality. ‘For eighteen years I had been on a lookout for an area which would be away from crowds and yet close by,’ he explains. Away and close…again it seems a man of opposites. ‘Moreover, I wanted it to be a place where families and middle aged people would feel like dancing.’ Middle aged and dancing? I supertiously look down at my expanding midriff, and my mind flies to the younger generations grooving to techno and gyrating music.

However listening to the warm foot tapping Latin tones of Belinda and the Tropicano’s, I know what he means…the cha-cha-ha, foxtrot, twist…..the synchronized dancing of the days gone by…a la Fred Astaire.

I glance at the menu…multi-cuisine is the right word. From ten soups listed there, to twenty one starters, nineteen preparations of sea food, one has a lot of choice.

‘How do you manage to serve all these cuisines?’ I ask Siraj curiously. ‘Well we have a big kitchen, with four separate sections to take care of the different preparations,’ he states proudly. I nod absently. Far thinking…the sort of set up one sees in the starred properties. It’s no wonder that during IFFI, Sweet Chilly was the only non starred venue to host a function.

Nibbling at the popular starters recommended by Siraj, I can well understand his pride. Crispy chicken, the deep fired cornflakes coating the well marinated chicken, crunched and crackled with every bite, while the masala fried Prawns, the tangy flavour could keep one begging for more. I wonder what chilies are used here. I should have thought of a doggy bag, I am given to understand that the pepper chicken is another hot favorite.

I look at the list of seafood mentioned on the menu. ‘are these available throughout the year?’ I ask curiously. Come rain or sunshine…I was told, off season, fish is sourced from Belgaum.

I am informed that the Indian and Goan food is good, but it is the steaks that are highly recommended. Well one has a choice of either Pepper, mushroom, surf-n-turf…but a definite must is the Vercak steak, chicken breasts marinated in wine butter and herbs topped with capsicum spinach sauce.

There is no need to travel to Mumbai my friends, Bade Mia’s troupe is camping here..the hot griddle rolls have you begging for more. Uum…

Belinda’s rich throaty voice, intrudes onto my reverie. A cha-cha-cha. I have no idea whether it was the food or the atmosphere which raised the daredevil spirit in me.
‘C’mon Joe,’ I beseeched, ‘lets try the cha-cha-cha.’ I was in the mood for anything, even the Rumbha. ‘Its been ages since we tried the steps,’ Joe protested, ‘lets fox trot.’
‘Well that seems distinctly middle aged,’ I taunt, ‘don’t be a drip.’

And so there we were on the dance floor, grooving away, I wonder what made us feel so Definitely not the spice…the whole experience was sweet. So if you want to have a whale of a time with your better half…remember that there are 400 chillies available on our planet Earth, you might even have one at home, if you take Joe’s word…but I for one, would definitely recommend ‘the sweet chilly.’

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