What food does Wendell Rodricks, Goa’s famous dress designer love to eat? That question was playing in my mind, as I contemplated the restaurant we should dine in. A quick call later, made the decision, ‘I am a true Goan, we used to have the traditional ‘xit kodi’ when we were small, Mum’s traditional recipe, I love the food,’ he said.
Sitting over lunch in Mum’s Kitchen, ‘I saw the ad,’ he said, ‘Goa is crying for her lost cuisine.’ He flipped through the menu, ‘they have the Tavlele tal le Vel’lim, crispy fried, its my childhood favorite,’ he added.
I looked across the table at him, the celebrity seen on Page 3, who is applauded all over India, when he takes the call with his models, what type of food does he really like? I wonder.
I tentatively pose this question to him. He smiles. ‘Wherever I go, I eat the ‘city’s’ local food,’ he confesses, ‘but what I was really brought up on was the fish curry rice on weekdays, and the chicken curry with pulao on Sundays,’ he reminisces. A nostalgic smile as he continues, ‘my grandmother used to love bathing in the sea, and she would pick up ‘taales’ from the water. But that would go to the trees for manure.’
Ramps in Mumbai, Delhi you name it, and here he sits across, leafing through the menu with gusto, as he tries to make up his mind. The choice is enormous.
‘What would you like to have sir,’ the waiter asks discreetly. ‘I have given up meats a long time ago,’ he says, ‘so you may consider me a ‘fishaterian.’ ‘No meats at all?’ I ask incredulously. ‘Right. I gave up eating meat in ’86, when I was in America. It was the size of the steaks,’ he states. ‘And chicken in ’02. This was in France. I saw them killing ducks to make the foie gras. That put me off poultry. You may now consider me a true ‘fish eater.’ He laughs.
We are now devouring the prawn peri-peri, Rissois de camarao, and the Vellim. I am informed that they are milk fish. We order another plate of it, it is crispy and tasty.
‘I remember the days when we would get 100 Bangda’s for Rs 1/-‘ he says, ‘we used to buy 4 annas worth of fish.’ ‘This is good,’ he comments, ‘it’s a pity that we do not get this type of food in the metros. Their food is a mixture of Goan and Konkan…except maybe City Kitchen, at the Fort in Mumbai.’
‘We Goans should take more risks,’ he adds, ‘even when it comes to food, a lot of my friends like to play it safe with the traditional fish curry rice, fried fish, any variety will do, as long as it is fried, and of course the favorite choris pao.’ he adds. ‘We Goans should also learn to study what the clients would like to have. You know,’ he confided, ‘I was not brought up the way my clients live. I had to learn about it the hard way. But that is how success is measured.’
‘This menu has a lot of variations, something different,’ he adds. ‘Meet Rony and Susie Martins, they are the ones behind this venture.’
‘I like your table,’ he states without preamble, ‘I would like to have one like this for my garden.’ Susie beams. It was her design. We were now joined by Mr Ronnie Lobo, Head Honcho Radisson’s Delhi, his wife Fatima and their daughter Lara. ‘Now you have a table of people who are well versed in food,’ he tells Susie. The order is placed. ‘Add another one of those fried fish, if possible,’ he requests.
To balance the culinary preferences of the people seated, the meal was a varied assortment . There was Keel Khatkhatem (bamboo shoots), Melgor (black eyed beans), Bimbli Udamethi…..all vegetarian preparations for Wendell, then there were two varieties of prawn preparations, the prawn Hooman with raddish (a brown thick gravy), and a prawn curry with bimbli (a bright orange red colour). Talk about satisfying a variety of tastebuds.
Waiting for the food, we learned that he had a packed schedule in the coming week. He was going to open his shop in Mumbai, at Altamount road…it is a ‘shop in shop’ concept, where I still have my exclusive label and style. Then onto Chennai, another opening, and to Delhi to have a show which will be inaugurated by Mrs Manmohan Singh, at the Taj. ‘They are going to showcase the ‘Weavers of Assam..Assamese silk,’ he explained.
By now the food had arrived, the huge white designer plates were placed in front of us.. Pin drop silence as we tasted the rich and colorful fare laid before us. ‘Every gravy has its own unique flavor, unlike some places where the gravy tastes the same. Moreover the Kingfish fried in rice flour, is so soft and delicious. The other restaurants coat the fish in flour which makes it hard,’ he stated. Full marks to Ronnie and Susie.
The desserts too, were one of a kind. ‘Like what mother used to give at 4.00 pm when we were young,’ he commented. Manganem, Sweet potatoes, Moira banana Fritters.
We sat for a long time after that , digesting the meal. Wendell’s comments at the start were of his Mum’s cooking… his comments of rating the food as ‘very good,’ could not come from a better place…named ‘Mum’s Kitchen’