Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mahi-mahi re…….The chant of the sea

Goa is known for its seafood, and every restaurant whether a shack or in a five star hotel promises its diners an unforgettable experience. So when we decided to ‘experience’ the delicacies at the ‘Morisco’, the sea food restaurant at the Fort Aguada we requested Parag and Vaishali Joshi to accompany us.

Vaishali Joshi is one of the few Goan women who has featured in the Femina magazine…the nimble dexterity in the kitchen and her love for good food would earn her the tern ‘foodie’ while Parag as Vaishali puts it….’ he just loves fish.’

So here we were seated in the restaurant leafing through the concise menu (which we were given to understand is changed frequently depending on the catch), the cool breeze blowing through our hair and the swish-swish of the waves as they beat on the sands. Vaishali’s bright red fresh strawberry Margaritha stood out against the soothing blue of the background, as the men sipped their wine…..Est,Est,Est.

Now here was a very innovative young chef who planned the meal for us right from the day’s menu…FrankCastleton. ‘So why do you have such a limited menu?’ I ask him. ‘We like to try out different cuisines based on our day’s catch,’ he vouches, ‘on some days it could be Moroccan, Italian, a Burmese Prawn Kow Suey and definitely Goan.’

The accompaniments…different styled breads with their spreads….no this is no poetry….arrive. I love these little tit bits which one only gets in these resorts….they pamper your taste buds. Miniature goan poie, crusty butter layered rolls that resemble mille fueille with pineapple salsa, roasted garlic yoghurt and papaya salsa. A tanatlising munch with small talk and drinks.

And so the starters arrive. Frank has explained to us that compared to poached and steamed fish, a little hot oil when in contact with the fish surface brings out the flavours of the sulphide compounds….water does not do the trick. So I left the choice to him.

Tempura fried tiger prawns which was wrapped around with spicy mayo with seaweed dust and Moroccan styled king prawns Karwari. look across the table at Vaishali and Joe as they take their first bite of the crispy prawn which is coated with the mayo…what a lovely idea….you don’t have to dip into the sauce…the sauce covers the preparation and still does not take away the crisp bite of the dish. The Karwari masala was another bonanza…’it’s the curry leaves that give the flavour,’ murmurs Vaishali. Parag nods, while Joe as usual stood firm to his motto…’I live to eat’, there was not a single crumb or gravy spot left…I guess the dishwashing will not have much to do.

The rich baritone of a serenader cut through my musing. A quartet was serenading on the next table. Our sorbets arrive. Flavoured ice water. Coconut, Blueberry, Melon and chilli and Pink Champagne. To clean the palate one would definitely recommend the melon or the blueberry…divine. And then to our table comes the Cotta family…... Minguel Cotta….what a voice…he sang a ‘fado’ solo…..even the waves stilled their swish, as his voice rose to encompass us all in the story…a young girl…a church……and as the last note died down, there was pin drop silence. I made a note to pick up his CD at the first opportunity I got. His notes were still chanting in my years…..what a performance in the true Goan spirit.

By now Frank had got the main course ready, and like any designer he was ready to exhibit his materials. Sea Bass, Red snapper and Mahi-mahi. We all know that the oean has a zillion living things…a literal treaure trove. And here were the preparations: Sea Bass with crusted Parmesan cheese, Moroccan red snapper with Khous Khous of millet and Mahi-mahi with Goan sausages. Did you know that the red snapper has short needle like teeth and has cousins called the mutton snapper and dog snapper which have upper canine teeth? No I did not see the teeth of this fish…the only reason that I mentioned this was that our upper and lower canines were moving with unerring precision…no small talk as we feasted on the fare. The sea bass was out of this world. The flavor was fantastic. Deep down in the dark recesses of my mind a thought popped…I heard that this fish feasted on Lobster, shrimps, squid…could this add to the flavor?

But what stumped all of us was the Mahi-mahi…This fish is a rarity, normally found only in Hawaii.The meaning of the word in Hawaai is ‘strong-strong’, in Persian ‘fish-fish’. I is also called a Dorado maverick…no I am not strating a zoology lesson. By luck this dolphin headed fish which is gold on the side and bright green and blue in colour (only in the water), finds its way to our coastline. The fleah is meaty…some varieties even have the flavor of chicken…and here Frank had given it a Goan touch…a combo with Goan sausages. ‘It’s good,’ Parag remarks, ‘I would never think of a combination of fish and Goan sausages.’ Full marks to Frank.

And now for the Sweet Finale. Hot chocolate pudding and the Morisco Dessert platter was the order for the end. Now let me tell you about that dessert platter. Enough for two.…and the variety? A coconut dome…soft and creamy, a wild berry cake….now I really going wild, a lichee torte, chocolate cake, Alphonso ice cream, Blueberry sorbet and kiwi and fresh strawberries adding colour to the plate. If you want more after a meal you can register for the Guiness world record.

Sitting back replete…it was quiet late…we did not even realize how time had passed, I asked the Joshi’s to give their viewpoint on the meal. ‘There is certainly nothing fishy about this gastronomical extravaganza’ Vaishali says above my discreet bellyful burp of the chant of the sea.

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