Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Maestro’s Awesome Magic (MAM)…lives on

We raise a toast on the fiftieth restaurant covered in this gastronomic column. And what would be a better one, than a tribute paid to Minguel Arcanjo Mascarenhas, India’s first Executive Chef…and a Goan Maestro…who enthralled the world with his food. Royalty, celebrities, politicians, businessmen, MAM or Masci as he was affectionately called enthralled everyone.…placing India on the map (way back from 1939) with regards to his culinary delights.

So here we were seated in the restaurant called Miguel Arcanjo, the second and third generations of Masci’s, Joe and Nolan, visibly moved.… as they awaited the tempting fare. It is always difficult to talk about food, especially when it is cooked at home…believe me that is what Minguel Arcanjo is to joining us on this sojourn were two well renowned ‘foodies’ Arun and Zeenat Harnal with their lovely daughter Natanya all the way from London and the affable General Manager Allwyn Drego to help us in this regards.

Chef Melroy decided the menu. For starters…Shrimp glazed with honey and garlic, accompanied by crisp designer bread rolls served with chicken liver butter spread. The tangy pink delectable morsels had one begging for more. ‘Uumm,’ murmurs Arun Harnal. This dapper soft spoken gentleman is the General Manager of the Bombay Brasserie…London’s most famous restaurant. The world’s biggest Hollywood stars flock there to eat at ‘Britain’s most glitzy curry house’.

Silence reigned as the starters were finished. Now for the main course. Double lamb chops with rosemary butter, white bean and mushroom ragout, Snapper oven baked with Tomato and onion confit, Pomfret Portuguese with Basil salad, Duck roasted with garlic chip potatoes and red cherry sauce, crab cake with pepper brunoise and white wine sauce, Potato Gnocchi with roasted garlic and sun dried tomato. I can see you feeling stuffed just reading the names…can you imagine what we felt just looking at those designer meals being placed in front of us?

‘This lamb is heavenly,’ says Zeenat breaking the silence, ‘the best lamb chops I have eaten in a long while’. We all look up. Zeenat Harnal nee Noon, after all knows food. A Director on the board of Noon Products Limited since 1988, a business started by her father Sir Ghulam Noon…knighted by the Queen and also known as the chicken tikka tycoon by Forbes Magazine. And so it was. Soft, succulent and melting in one’s mouth….the gravy of rosemary butter complimenting the flavor.

But that was not all. The roasted duck…..I was always under the misconception that duck meat was tough and stringy. The cherry sauce with the garlic chip potatoes was divine. And the Red snapper….you could have me snapping for more. But in the presence of such dignified people one had to behave. The fish just flaked in the mouth…cooked just right…in fact the whole meal was one that would have made the Goan Maestro proud. I had seen an article of food writer and critic Rashmi Uday Singh on the restaurant, she had enjoyed her experience there…. Chef Melroy seemed to be replicating Minguel Arcanjo’s magic.

The two generations of Mascarenhas’s visibly preened at this lavish praise. But the meal
was still not over. We had reached the Sweet Finale. Tiramisu, made of Mascarpone cheese, coffee and kahlua liqueur, on a biscuit flavoured with Marsala wine…are we drunk already? Go slow….because it was followed by a warm hazelnut fudge cake with cappuccino ice cream. Hot and cold. Yes siree. What a delicious combo. The layers of rich chocolate….I looked across the table at Allwyn, Arun and Zeenat…Gosh what would I do for such a constitution. They were able to spoon in that rich dessert without even thinking of tomorrow. Well in my case tomorrow never comes, so I joined in the spooning of those excellent desserts into the ever obliging cavity of my mouth.

Did we feel great after the experience? Oh yes! It was good to see the legacy of Miguel Arcanjo being laid out for all to see. I am given to understand that many dignitaries, who visit our State, dine there. The story of his life…..MAM….The Maestro’s Awesome Magic or Minguel Arcanjo Mascarenhas, the pride that a Goan youth fostered for his State and Country in the day’s gone by, in terms of quality and taste still lives on.

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