‘What suits one’s palate might not suit another’s,’ my friend Melanie’s loud voice cut across the chatter of the group. She was referring to one of the beachside restaurants that she had visited after reading the column. ‘Their Goan food is terrible,”…she cries, ‘not at all authentic.’
Was the problem with the restaurant? Or the customer? We are well aware that in Goa, the restaurateurs gamble in terms of profitability often listing a variety of cuisines on their menu….even dishes they are not good at, citing the palatable reason…… Grandmother like Goan, granddaughter likes Chinese, while we specialize in Continental which the rest of the family likes which is our U.S.P. So we have a variety for everyone, even if that is not our forte.
Did Melanie fall into the trap of ordering her favorite Goan food when that specific shack only specializes in Continental sea food . How unlike our Metros . In an up market Indian restaurant in Mumbai or Delhi, you will get Indian cuisine and not French, Greek or Japanese. Unique and customer specific.
Do we have restaurants like that? Enter Chef’s Soumyen’s Kitchen. Yes that is the name of the place, right opposite the Candolim temple. This quiet unassuming chef had a dream. So after a stint with the Taj’s Menage a trois, the luxury cruise liner, After Eight and After Seven.…his restaurant is open after six…please call to check the time, if you wish to feast in his Dream Kitchen.
The pleasant outdoor restaurant....the seating however is under cover, is delightfully warm with colors of orange and electric blue. Unlike the other restaurants which are situated on the main thoroughfare, the quiet and peace envelopes us completely. We give our order. There is a saying that some like it hot, while others like it cold. Well Joe was in a hot zany mood that evening so it was Camembert soufflé for him and crabmeat with apple napped with extra virgin olive oil for me. Don’t get misled by the dressing. It’s just a name given to the olive oil. The starters arrive on the table. The tables by our side are filled with British tourists sipping wine and some dressed to kill. A young couple by our side, were toasting each other with Mateus Rose…that smooth Rose wine. They were apparently celebrating their first anniversary... they had met each other on this very belt. The romantic in me took over, I looked over my plate misty eyed at my better half, but he was immersed in the joys of that warm creamy mixture placed in front of him. ‘Try it,’ he offers. They say that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but when you are married for more than five years, his heart vanishes into his stomach. Most probably lost in the churning motion of 1825 days.
The Camembert cheese soufflé and the cold crab meat were divine. If one wants to have soup, I am given to understand that the Chicken and leek soup and the wild mushroom soup are worth a try. These recipes are apparently concocted by Chef Soumyen after his sojourn at the Taj.
The kitchen is well known for its sea food preparations. The Crab Thermidor in a crispy fried pancake with cheese sauce is excellent and so is the Char grilled fillet steak. One has a choice of sauces depending on ones mood. They have a choice of mushroom sauce, béarnaise, blue cheese or even a liver pate sauce. In his own inimitable style Soumyen has an ace for the vegetarians. Crepe filled with corn, mushroom and cheese and served with a Bengali mustard sauce. ‘Bengali mustard in continental food?’ I ask incredulously. He gives me a half smile. ‘Why not,’ he counters, ‘it is a Kasundi local product.’ Well that is the Bengali stamp from the kitchen. Call a rose by any other name…it is still a rose.
By now the desserts were approaching. All you people on a diet, for heaven sake enjoy life during the season…I hope hubby Joe takes note of this too. The Hot Irish coffee soufflé and the Butterscotch Brulee…melting, captivating moments. But there is another ace up Chef Soumyen’s sleeves. His homemade icecreams…cinnamon, vanilla and especially the chocolate. You just need a scoop to catch you into the loop. With restaurants opening a dime a dozen, there are very few chef’s worth their salt. Well, if Continental food is your menu for the evening, then this chef is worth his salt as well as the pepper and the sugar too.