Sunday, May 18, 2008

Viagem de Sabores – a journey of tastes

Walking down the staircase, my bag tightly clutched under my arm, I was looking forward to my journey; to a Bohemian area in Portugal called ‘Al Fama.’ I am given to understand that the fado’s originated there…the little cobbled streets, the café’s…and the voices singing the ballads.

I have now reached my destination…a sign proclaiming: Dress Code- smart casuals. I look at my attire self consciously and am thankful that I have taken pains with my appearance. We are about the enter the area…no, no not in Portugal but in our very own.…the Cidade de Goa.

We are escorted throughout our journey….now it’s the journey of taste…for handed to us, is our very own invitation which states…Food is life and life is food. Very apt…very promising…I see Joe’s eyes light up in anticipation…his motto…I eat not to live; but I live to eat ; seems to be encased in that simple red cover.

Mr Akash Timblo, explains the idea behind the ‘Viagem de Sabores…a journey of tastes.’ ‘When we know that someone is coming to the restaurant, we offer them a choice between the a la carte menu or the specially prepared menu like the one you are holding, which will give them a chance to sample a little bit of everything on the menu,’ he states. The words printed on this special menu says ‘Encounter various influences…present flavors of contrast.’ I perk up in anticipation…looks like we are in for a treat.

As we are waiting for the salads, I notice that the kafrial is spelled with a ‘K’. ‘I have done a lot of research on the subject,’ Akash confides. Apparently the Cafreal as we normally pronounce it, had its origin in Mozambique, where the Kafir Muslims of the place would cook it on coal pits. There is of course the other theory that it originated in Thailand….the kafir limestones. Looking up at the starry sky….boy was I romanticizing ....they were fairy lights in the ceiling. Joe laughs good naturedly, ‘I think we are a little too old for romance, although the environment is tempting,’ but the poetry on the menu lingers on in my mind....’Dusk turns to blue, a lamp turns a cobble street golden…’ It was not the lamp light that was orange-gold…it was the Kokum Gazpacho, the thick soup served in demi tasse cups, served with the intent to tempt and cleanse the palate.

The musical strain of the fado plays….’A fadista glances yet sings, her serenader strums a fado… ‘the poetry is awesome,’ I remark. Akash smiles. I learn later that he was the composer. By now the Goesa com Amor…a salad of lettuce and apple with a delicate seasoning, and Salada de Llorta…olives, cucumber, cheese, red cabbage in kokum vinegar is served. ‘Present flavors of contrast, yet bring great joy’. Yes those words are mentioned on the menu. We relish every morsel…and believe me that is just the beginning.

Now come the starters. The Kafrial, the Sassate (lamb in a peanut flavored sauce), and the Verduras variete which has Vegetable Rissois and Almondegas. Well the starters were supposed to be what they are…just starters…but they are so delicious believe me you would be asking for more. But don’t do that. The waiter comes to ask you what your choice for the main course is. Looking at the menu you will realize that there are still three more courses to come. Well there was a choice of four items to choose from. I decided on the Travessa du Camarao…seafood in a choice of four flavors, while Joe chose the Frango Africana…chicken served in a sauce made of coconut, cayenne pepper and accompanied with a banana and cinnamon flavored pulao.

While the order was being processed the waiter brought in the Sopa de Camarao, a rich seafood broth…like a bisque. The velvety flavor rolls down your throat, warming the cockles of your taste buds.

While we waited for the main course we discussed the pro’s of this ‘journey of tastes.’ ‘The reason why we offer this table d’hote menu is that the customer will be able to sample the different flavors that are offered in our menu,’ states Akash. Good thinking. If we had gone a la carte we would have been able to sample maybe a soup or a main course with the dessert. So far we had a chance to taste seven varieties of preparations with another four to follow. Did I give a small burp at that. I hope no one noticed.

Akash is right. The prawns were cooked in peri-peri, caldin, kokum and contemporary. Well decorated with a generous helping of mash potatoes. I look at Joe’s plate. The Frango Africana is all but over. His motto is working on overdrive right now. Main course over, I look forward to the dessert. One good thing about these menu’s is that the dessert comes automatically. So no raised eyebrows at this time of the meal.

The Tali de Doces…literally put a thali of desserts. A tempting array of cashew cake, honey cake, bibinca in miniature portions with a small glass of Vanilla ice cream in an orange flavored sauce. Bliss. Even Joe has a go at it.

Well my friends, the journey is nearly at an end. I look with regret at the cobbled stones, the starry lights…and wish that this memorable sweet journey would never end. I open my eyes to see the waiter placing chocolates on the table. Well we all know that every plane journey takes off with a chocolate or a sweet served at the beginning…This my friends is just the beginning of the journey to Al Fama…cause believe me you will be wanting to do it again and again and again.

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