Have you ever been to a volcano country? Tasted the food cooked on its fiery stones? Well one does not have to book a ticket to Java, to eat hot food cooked on lava…..its here, in a small bye lane of Gauro waddo, Calangute. That is the ticket, and its called I 95.
Cosily nestled amongst the coconut palms, a few bamboo bushes thrown in for measure, it is a retreat for a treat. An open air ambience, cane chairs or sofas, you take your pick, it is just the right place for a nice relaxed evening, if you want to pamper your taste buds with fine dining.
The place is run by four entrepreneurs, James, Sumera, Tina and Sunil. Relaxed on the Cane sofa with elegant black cushioned seats, sipping a pre dinner aperitif and nibbling on minute morsels of Bread with a Pepper Cream Cheese, I asked Tina, who is at the front of the house, ‘why I 95?’
The I 95, is apparently an immigration form, filled in as you leave the ship…simply put, it is the Ticket to Freedom. The foursome, spent some time on board a ship and then decided to display their skills in sunny Goa.
And we were ready to see it. Seated that night, breathing the warmth and silence enveloping us like a cloak, we gave the ambience an outstanding rating. This was the real Goa, the terracotta courtyard, the soft lighting..it is a place to relax and entertain your guests in style.
Then came the most important part..the food and the service. The menu had an assortment of spirits and wines, including cocktails. Joe was sipping on a Bombay Smasher, and when he asked for a repeat, I guessed it must have been a ‘smasher’.
The menu is not a very elaborate affair. Well designed, it boasts of starters, soups and pastas, which range between Rs 220 – Rs 300.
We left the choice to James and Sumera, who take charge of the kitchen. The starter was a Baked Goat Cheese, with Carraway brulee, with beetroot and a walnut dressing. It was delicious.
Sunil replies to my query, that the lava stones are specially sourced from abroad, and most of their grills are cooked on it. ‘Can I see it?’ I ask him. On the grill in the kitchen, were these stones, which when lit has the flame leaping nearly a foot high. Out comes my camera, this is different from the usual charcoal grills.
Coming back to the table, we are served French Onion Soup and a Mushroom Cappucino. I flipped over the Mushroom cappuccino, made of porcini mushrooms, served in a glass goblet, it was unique and simply divine. The French Onion soup would be a little heavy for one who would want to address a main course later on.
The chef’s decided to serve us their specialty. The Grills on the hot stones. Priced between Rs 310 to Rs 400/-. I had the Blue cheese Tournedos, wrapped in streaky bacon, on a bed of mashed potatoes, while Joe had the Seared fish on a bed of cilantro risotto, served with Nam Pla Sauce.
And while we are on food, let me comment about the service. Sunil is at the helm, the local youth discreet and professional under his watchful eye.
And then it was time for dessert. The warm Chocolate pudding, for those with a sweet tooth is a must. The desserts are priced at Rs 250/-
What has I 95, to recommend to its customers. I took a sneak preview of the previous comments of the guests who have dined there. There was Ms Bina Ramani of the Jessica Lal fame, Mr Shiney Ahuja took time of his busy acting schedule to dine there, and so did Jackie Shroff.
But what touched me the most was a comment made by a tourist, Jeanne & Hary Dant of Tampa Florida. ‘This restaurant rivals any great restaurant in Bombay, New York or London.’
If Goa has this to offer, especially when one is competing in the International arena, then I-95 has the right recipe for success.