Sunday, May 18, 2008

A little bit of everything on the side

Holidays are here…and its time to put away the grindstone….literally. Proprietor Girish Desai has found a way of keeping the masala’s cooking….a wide variety of Goan and Indian cuisine at Alfresco’s NH 17, which could even compete with Mum’s cooking.

Take the case of the Goan Fish Thali served every day for lunch. When the bill finally arrives, it does not even reach the three figure mark for two. Amazing!!! With a variety of dishes….a home made rich yellow Goan prawn curry, a piece of fried fish, cocum curry, kishmur, a vegetable, rice and the accompaniments….what more could one ask for.

And beside that, the a la carte menu features a wide variety of Indian, Kebabs and Goan dishes. Looking at the unending list we ask Girish what he would recommend. ‘My seafood is the best,’ he states, ‘but please try the Goan and the Indian dishes too. You won’t regret it.’

So with the drinks firmly in front of us…by the way, I would recommend the NH 17 mocktail for those who are not diet conscious. Its superb !! Now comes the starters. The tandoori prawns, and the prawns pahadi..this is with the green masala. The Gul Mohur kebab… a whopper ….garlic flavoured tandoori chicken wrapped with mince and tandooried…is there such a word?...I do not think so. But when the kebab is cut, the different colours in the slice of meat on your plate…could get you worried. It’s too delectable to eat.

The vegetarians of course have no need to worry. Naram Dil Kebab…..boy did my heart go naram, when I saw those crispy fried hearts made of paneer, cheese and green peas. No pun intended.

Coming back to the main course. The meals are served on trendy square plates…but though it is light on the purse strings, the meal is definitely not square. The chicken kebabs with that tangy mint chutney…they melt in the mouth, the butter garlic squid served with crispy Garlic Naans.

But the piece de resistance was the Mutton Chops Bhale Bhale. I could forgive the other diners if they saw me doing a bhangra around the restaurant. What one has to discover in NH 17, is the hidden jewel…the Handi cooking. The meat was so soft and succulent, the gravy(the chef has used seven types of garam masala’s, Girish explains), forget about the cutlery, this dish has to be chewed literally off the bones.

‘This is awesome,’ I mutter, ‘this cuisine at this price is to die for.’ Apparently Girish does have a few dishes up his sleeve….and the weekends are the time for it.

It was just 9.00 pm…and that too a weekday and the restaurant was full. Families with children, families celebrating occasions, a few corporate businessmen enjoying their drinks with kebabs.

‘You have a varied clientele,’ Joe remarks. ‘Yes,’ said Girish, ‘our cuisine of Goan and Indian have a vast appeal to middle income families. In fact we have music every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday…and on Sunday both afternoon and evening,’ he smiles.

Sunday is apparently the Family Day.In the afternoon it is called the Sunday Funday Lunch. There is a magician, a face painter for children…even for adults who would like to be adventurous, and music to liven up the mood. There are also special dishes prepared during the weekend…some of the specialiities feature his ‘handi magic.’…like the Gul Bahar. And you won’t go disappointed…as his catch at times feature crabs, Tisreo’s you name it.

‘Or there is one more thing,’ he offers, as we pick the flaky meat off the tandoori Pomfret, ‘have you ever eaten fish that is not fried in oil?’

‘You must be talking about Tandoori cuisine,’ I remark, ‘there is very little oil used there.’ ‘No, No,’ he remarks, ‘no oil at all.’ ‘Then it must be steamed,’ I venture. ‘It’s my special recipe of water fried fish,’ he states, ‘its not steamed at all. It’s not on the menu…but once ordered it must be eaten hot, or else all the taste leaves it.’

So those of us with heart ailments or high cholesterol or maybe after a visit to the Goa Scan center which is just opposite on the Porvorim highway…..Girish has taken care of everything. It takes me back to the song…mambo No 5…..Girish has got a little bit of everything on the side…when it comes to food.

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