Well, blame it on Joe. I feel he should purchase one of those pathfinders…they have a high tech name for it – GPS, ‘Global Positioning System.’ You see when one is traveling down those unfamiliar dark roads in the South….trust a northerner to talk like that, every lane seems to look the same, so instead of hitting the railroad at Utorda to touch the highway, we turned left, and went on and on a very bumpy road…is it the rains that make them so bad? Or do we not know how to make good roads in these remote places? Anyway blame the grouchy mood on a growling stomach and Joe’s placid comments at intervals…’I do not know where we are.’ Why can’t men put a little more emotion in their voices to match their wife’s mood....God only knows. They fail to understand that empathy is the need of the hour.
Anyway to cut the long story short, this pussycat had reached boiling point, when suddenly after a few more violent bumps, we had bobbed into a well lit arena… Zeebop-by the sea. The tantalizing aroma of grilled fish, assailed my senses, so I gave my better half a steely glare and stated, ‘Time for dinner.’
We crunched over swept and flattened white sand, the perforated mud lanterns bobbing over our heads to a table closest to a hammock between the trees. The rumble of the waves, soothed my dark feelings as I opened the menu listing a variety of items to tempt even the foolhardy who insist that they are on a diet.
The starters listed fifteen preparations of seafood. The main course under the name of Underwater treasures listed another eighteen. It was raining fish…hallehluiah…from crabs, prawns, squid, mussels to lobsters, Zebra shark, Red Snapper, Pomfret and even an off the menu Sting ray. I am given to understand that its soft meat makes an excellent Amotik, very similar to shark.
‘Why Zeebop?’ I asked Sergio, the proud owner of the restaurant who had apparently opened this place 15 years ago. ‘No real reason,’ he confesses with a smile, ‘you see, I was listening to Carlos Santana’s Reebob-Zeebop, so I decided to create a seafood institution in the south.’ Well he seems to be a man after my own heart, swayed by the lyrics of famous musicians.
Joe in the meanwhile, had his attention drawn to the table nearby. They were foreigners. But they also had two pretty girls sitting there. I turned my steely gaze in that direction. ‘Well the pussycat is amazing,’ he says with that innocent look of his. Pussycat! My fur begins to rise. But he is absolutely right. A small pussycat was purring contentedly arching its back against the table. The reason? The waiters were presenting a huge seafood platter to the guests so that they could make their choice. That platter was more than three feet in length and had a couple of big lobsters, tiger prawns pomfret, crabs on display. To top it all the lobsters were hitting their tails against the platter…was it because of those pretty girls I wondered. Anyway that left Joe off the hook.
The stuffed crab and the Calamari Reichade arrived at our table. Sergio’s boast of having a fresh catch delivered to his doorstep every morning registered. The meat of the crab was delicious…really worth recommending. No wonder Shobhaa De, the renowned columnist in Bombay writes about the place whenever she visits Goa. ‘People in Bombay know about Zeebop,’ Sergio states, ‘I do not need to advertise.’
‘Would you like to see the crabs on display?’ he invites. The waiter brings a huge crab,14 inches in diameter, its claws tied up to prevent any damage to the onlooker. ‘This is one of our smaller crabs,’ Sergio states, ‘People come from all around for the seafood.’
Looking at the tables already occupied I could not agree with him more. People from the local five star hotels have found an economical bonanza on the beach at Utorda. The grilled red snapper and the fish Amotik was now before us. Melting moments! No, I am not talking about the biscuits, it was the fish…Ooh! La! La! Pure ecstasy, it just melts in the mouth. Joe was no longer passing furtive glances at the pussycat. The fish had captured all his senses.
Fully replete, we left the cosy ambience for our long drive home. The sand crabs scuttling beneath our feet bade us goodbye. The meal had honed in Joe’s navigational skills. We hit the highway without any problem, the contented look on his face speaking volumes. One thing I realized…bad road or good, we would definitely hit Zeebop again for a date with the pussycat.