Monday, July 21, 2008

High Spirits at Casa Sarita

The silver grey tassels of the beaded antique chandeliers moved to the whispers of the air- conditioned draft, the beautiful black and white mosaic on the floor shone in the subdued light, and the murmur of anticipated delights of the guests echoed against the walls.

Listen guys, this is not a descriptive piece for a publishing house or an essay competition I am talking about a restaurant at the Hyatt’s Resort and Spa…Casa Sarita. Now why were we here? It was a celebration dinner. Casa Sarita is featured on the Conde Nast Travellers Hot List Tables 2008 in the Indian category. Now this publication apparently has its team of roving epicures visit around 32 countries to track down the world's most exciting new restaurants…and only 105 make the cut…and Casa Sarita has done it.

We sit comfortably with the warm and affable General Manager Andrew Mensforth as the waiters get ready to display the chef’s culinary expertise. Would the food be similar to what we get in the restaurants in the city and along the beaches I wonder…the Xacutti, Vindaloo, Xec-Xec etc? Would anything be different after all?

A small crescent of golden brown descends on my plate. Was this a rissoise? A gentle touch of the fork and the mixture oozed out…a creamy mixture of prawns with that subtle flavoring of spices.

After the first bite, I lunged out to look at the printed menu to check the name. Prawn Pastelihos. If it was fashioned to be a rissoise, then it far surpassed the preparations I have eaten on many occasions. Delectably delicious! I signaled to the waiter for another helping although the Grandma pan fried vegetable cutlets were making its round. But I must make mention of the pineapple salad. You see the name does not really titillate the palate. But wait till you taste it.

The pineapple cubes with roasted coriander, cumin powder and liberally sprinkled with grated coconut. I was told it was a local Goan specialty. If it is, then I am definitely going to invite myself to someone’s house, as I do not see this dish being listed in other Goan restaurants. The spices blended with the tangy pineapple and the sweetness of those slivers of coconut played havoc with my salivary glands. Sometimes sweet, sometimes sour….the dish teased the taste buds as my molars gently masticated on the appetizer. No wonder they are called appetizers…..Yuummm!

The main course was descending on to the table. Based on the printed menu it seemed like an avalanche but one to look forward to. Xacutti de Carneiro, Chicken Baffad, Rawa fry Modso, Beans foogath, Bhindi Sukhem, goan Rice, Sannas, Pao, Goan chappatis. With such a variety, one would wonder where to start. So I will list down my favorites. The chicken Baffad with the Goan chappati’s. Its been ages since I had those triangular thich crispy wheat flour preparations. And combined with the chicken Baffad. Now that dish was a very popular training recipe in the first year of catering colleges…but this preparation was awesome. Maybe it was the grinding of the spices, maybe the authentic toddy vinegar used…or maybe the catch was in the words mentioned in the menu…house dried. The dark gravy with the crispy chappati’s were to die for. Is that term right? I know that the term is used frequently in the foodie parties in Mumbai. Thank heaven I did not use it at that moment.…cause my wish could be granted and I might never have got a chance to taste the next dish…Lobster curry. Now Kavita Khiara had told me that this was her favorite dish in the restaurant. She is the Area marketing Communication Manager, All India. So I took a generous helping of the curry with the unpolished Goan rice. Halleluiah! Thank heaven I had heeded her advice. My own son being in Marketing and communications has this lament. ’You see mum,’ he says, ‘many people do not believe us. They feel we are bull….ters.’ He says bull fighters, I tend to disagree.

Communication people always believe that they are fighting for a cause, so they have to use this skill often. Anyway, coming back to that Lobster curry. Well as per the normal explanations given there is a mention of coconut. Well this coconut tree must have been watered profusely cause the coconut milk was ‘o so’ creamy. And to add to the taste the small chunks of lobster swimming in the rich orange red gravy was so soft and tender. This dish will definitely send you into raptures.
And as always…it is the sweet finale that leaves the lingering aftermath as you depart. Miniature dessert platters of every conceivable Goan and Portuguese preparations…just the right size too.

You could pop in a tart of Portuguese Tari, take in a sliver of Bibinca and still have room for the pinagre, Doce and almond cake. I was so enamored by the tasty tit bits that I insisted on filming Chef Asif, the Executive chef with Kavita whose words of wisdom helped me take on that generous helping through the platter. Now you know that it is not only the watery spirits that get you high…my spirit was satiated with those wonderful delicacies.

Now you will wonder why I have not made any mention of Joe. Although he was seated by my side it seemed that he was transported into his own realm of euphoria. Was it the two charming ladies who were seated by his side? Whatever it was…and he did tell me that he enjoyed the food…his spirits were definitely upbeat on the long drive home.

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