Monday, June 8, 2009


Ms Odette Mascarenhas author of the Book Masci The Man Behind the legend has won the prestigious ‘Special Jury Award’ of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2008.

- The book has also been short listed to compete in a glittering award ceremony for the Best in the World at the Comedie Francaise Theatre in Paris on 1st July 2009. . In total this year, books from 51 countries have reached that level of excellence. The process is more like the Olympics, with many specialized competitions for numerous countries. The award ceremony is long, as if all medal ceremonies of the Olympics were held at the same time.

Besides this award winning book which is a biography of the first Goan Executive Chef – Masci-The Man behind the legend, she has also written two books for tweens in the Alfie Alphonso series to develop their potential. Alfie Alphonso The Search for the Mystical Crystal and Alfie Alphonso The lot on the Canvas. She has a popular Food column called Gourmet’s Delight in the Zest-the magazine section of the Navhind Times.

Besides this she anchors a Food TV series, ‘A Legacy for the Tastebuds’ for Goa 365.

Odette is a Management Consultant by profession and has been in the field of training for the past 20 years. She has been associated with the Taj Group of Hotels for 18 years and has been Group Training Manager (Western Region). She is also a trained and Certified Educator through the A H & M A ( U.S.A.)

A brief about the award
1.-Unique in the Book Sector
• Free, open to all
• For books published within the year, useful for bookstores, authors, publishers.
• Over 100 countries participating, in all languages.
• The average country competes in 10 categories: as in the Olympics, one country seldom participates in all competitions.
• Many categories so that each country has a chance: 45 countries will win at least one medal, Gold, Silver, or Bronze.
• Just as in the Olympics, the media report only on winners from their own country. So there are very few winners for each country.
• Small publishers and big publishers, big and small countries all have an equal chance.
• No other sector of book publishing benefits from such an organization.

2.-For Those who Cook with Words
• Honours on one of the most prestigious stages in the world, La Comédie Française in Paris, unprecedented for books, and cookbooks.
• Huge media impact: the Gourmand Awards get over 1100 articles worldwide every year.
• Winning books get often reviewed again, reprinted, translated and distributed in foreign countries.
• At the latest London Book Fair, in April 2009, publishers said “The Gourmand Awards now drive the cookbook business”.
• The scope of the event is similar to the Olympics. The emotion of the long awards show filmed for television is similar to the Oscars.
• No other sector of book publishing benefits from such an international impact. Spread across dozens of countries, for several important books at the same time.

3.-The Winner is the Book
The “Gourmand World Cookbook Award” is given to the book. It is always the result of team work, including often the publisher, editor, art director, writer, chef, stylist, translator, photographer, printer, and others.
The focus is on the book.

For more information regarding this award please check the link below:

Its all in the name..Tamari

2500 years ago the Chinese invented soy, the basic condiment used in all their cuisine. The Buddhist monks brought the soya bean to Japan, where they in the traditional manner mashed under foot on a special floor the cooked beans…perhaps a precursor to the ceremonial foot pressing of wine grapes. This liquid was also aged like wine in barrels, but the final product was called ‘Tamari’ which is derived from the Japanese word ‘Tamaru’ that signifies ‘to accumulate’ perhaps referring to the fact that Tamari was traditionally from the liquid byproduct during the fermentation of ‘miso’ their main condiment in cooking.

All these thoughts passed through my mind as we entered the elegantly appointed Pan Asian restaurant called Tamari in the spanking new hotel in the heart of Panjim called Vivanta by Taj. Elegant, classy, fresh…these words pale in comparison. We sink into the luxurious corner sofas as we waited in anticipation for our treat, into Chinese and More Asia delicacies as promised by the Executive Chef Gyanendra Gupta.

‘This is so exciting,’ I murmur as I leaf through the attractive bright red menu card, with window slats over the cherry blossom tree. ‘Yes,’ agrees Chef, ‘our aim is not only to create the food but also excitement.’ Now this was a statement that perked my senses. Was he going to produce sumo wrestlers as part of the entertainment or perhaps some Chinese dancing girls? But Chef Gyanendra was continuing, ‘our aim is to create an experience for our diners ‘

Well the first experience is the manner in which the menu card is put together. Innovative, now one would normally find a host of starters, main courses, rice and noodles with desserts ending the pages. Here was one with a difference. You could perhaps visit the restaurant with the idea of having a day preparation, or perhaps a curry one…or perchance something small to nibble on. Well this is how it goes.

It begins with small plates, you have a choice of Chinese or More Asia. Under More Asian you could have a choice of Thai, Japanese or even a few Indonesian dishes. Now some of the dishes listed there are Vegetable Crispy Fried Water Chestnuts, Chilli Padi Corn Kernel, Thai Wok Chicken…These are just a few…and they are the ones that arrived on the well appointed table. Cross cloths which resemble the eye of the tiger, elegantly black chop sticks with gold rims and Chinese teacups to match. But the décor pales in comparison when the colorful preparations arrive. What did Chef say? ‘One eats with their eyes first and so we work on our presentations.’ Well he was absolutely right. The Chilli Padi Corn kernel was presented in a huge wanton fried basket. There are two ladles used apparently to create the same. Crispy corn kernels with monkey chilli (these are the spicy red Thai chilly0, bell pepper and garlic….dont ever leave the restaurant without trying this. But then I had not started on the second preparation…the Thai Wok Chicken. .boneless chicken a deep orangey red, crisp on the outside, soft within in that tangy spicy sauce...uuum…mouthwatering. And the small imbedded garlic adds zest to the aftertaste. Now please do not blame me. You see Chef Gyanendra believes in ‘filling one slowly’ with his delicacies. The Vegetable Crispy Fried Water Chestnut tossed in Hoisin sauce had arrived. Sweet, Tangy, Crispy…the flavors warred with each other in my mouth. My gastric juices sent frantic messages to my brain…the result… to die for. Now I had eaten water chestnuts in Thai desserts…and if you have not tried them begin with these starters… Chef has also added Honey Hunan potatoes which he says “ is a favorite of children and adults alike”.

Now remember I have only started with the small plates. On the menu one sees a listing of soups, The Prawn Laksa- a coconut base and spicy soup topped with king prawn and fish cakes garnished with mint is the chefs recommendation, while for the vegetarians the lung fung, a thick soup flavored with garlic is a hot favorite.
And then comes the Grills and sizzlers. Think only about sizzling steaks? Well here is a new one. Toban fish, a full pomfret in chilli bean sauce comes sizzling to your table at your explicit order or maybe a Szechwan Double coated pork. Well when you think of something coated, and here it was the pork, my feverish imagination played on those suited and booted guys dressed to kill. Perhaps this sizzling coated dish could do the same. Knock you off the seat. I promised myself that I would definitely try this dish the next time…..

Because how much can one eat. The seafood dimsums had arrived with its accompaniments. Yes that is the next category. Honey coriander sauce, Black pepper and the Tomato sesame dips were placed on the table before those steaming baskets were opened. What a steamy affair…Would love to do it again.

But did the chef leave us to enjoy the aftermath? The Stir fried category followed by the curries and sauces were next on his agenda. Please no more…we plead. And so we combined all the dishes onto the Big Plate concept. But just a word on the Curries and sauces…. one can order a choice of Fiery Manchurian sauce, Red Hot Szechwan sauce, Hot and sweet garlic sauce, Hot bean sauce or chilli oyster sauce. The choice of meat or vegetable is now left to you.

And so now onto the big Plates, Kaeng Mass Man, vegetable in Thai Green curry and Hot and Sweet Garlic prawns with steamed rice. Now let me tell you about this Kaeng Mass Man….it is a dish which was the legacy that the Portuguese left behind in Thailand. Lean slices of meat cooked with potatoes, coconut and tamarind. We Goans will sure love this preparation. Joe definitely did. The Vegetable green curry definitely needs a mention. Pok Choy, mushrooms, green beans, asparagus, bamboo shoots and Thai eggplant. ‘ these little babies,’ Chef Gyanendra was referring to the Thai eggplant, ‘is available in goa, and they help put the spice in the preparation.’

Other fast moving preparations are the Sapo style Wok chicken…if you like it sweet and spicy, the Bo Hai Huppak Chicken, hot and spicy and the Smorgasbord seafood platter with a choice of Szechwan, salt and pepper or chilli coriander sauce. The chilli coriander seems to be the most popular.

What is in a name? Well let me tell you there is a lot to be read in a name. The mystery…the spice,.. and everything nice. 2500 years ago the Chinese invented it, the Japanese named it and today the basic condiment used in most of the preparations have found its way into the heart of Panjim. Tamari…their menu has accumulated it all.

Restaurant: Tamari (Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Indonesian)
Hotel Vivanta By Taj
Dr D.B Bandodkar Road,
St Inez Junction, Panaji,
Tel No. 0832 6633636

Kuch kuch hota hai

We were watching the re run of the movie, Shah Rukh Khan with his two leading ladies Kajol and Rani. ‘The movie is aptly named,’ I comment after the last scene, ‘something happens even after the movie is over. My emotions are still hip hopping like crazy.’ Joe smiles enigmatically. I guess by now he has understood the high and low points of his wife.

‘Lets eat,’ he suggests. If there is any kuch kuch hota hai in his life is when his stomach is tended too. I still wonder how he keeps so trim. Just have to look at food and the calories start mounting for me. So to keep the man in my life happy I decided to pamper his taste buds to a meal at a very popular Indian restaurant in the very heart of Panjim….Mirch Masala at Fidalgo.

We meet with Mr Sunil Kapoor head of the Food & Beverage Services who has been in this line for over 22 years and Chef Pankaj who epitomizes the picture of a true chef at work. While the chit chat was progressing I could see Joe’s impatience mounting. Men!! Give them a drink in their hands and they will not bother about food even if it is going cold on the table, but if there is a slight delay in the service from the kitchen to the table, then their hunger pangs start moving in overdrive.

Anyway my job is to get the best items from the chef’s repertoire for our readers. I had taken one look at the attractively presented menu and was tempted to order everything…. the power of Advertising.

Now their presentation if not like that of the regular Indian restaurants…it is a la fusion. Rice, boiled vegetables, potatoes are dressed alongside the food. And so with camera in hand I stood waiting to click those delicacies to capture the essence of the creativity. By chance I cast a quick look in the direction of my spouse as I fiddled with the positioning of the food. My dog Mojo normally has this expression when I say ‘mojo stay!’ as I temptingly place a bone in front of him. The look was so familiar that I wondered if I had said ‘Joe stay!’ aloud. Perhaps I did cause both Sunil and Chef Pankaj looked at me. ‘I am ready for the snap,’ I sheepishly commented.

Anyway, Chef had suggested for starters…Paneer Tikka Assorted, and Murg Tikka Hara Bara. The chicken was marinated in yoghurt, spices with the subtle flavoring of fenugreek, mint and coriander. Soft succulent the green spice coated preparation was a delight to the senses, while the Paneer is an assortment of masalas…red, saffron and green…soft and melting. Delight to the gastric juices. No chewing or biting or gnashing of the molars required for the job. Love at first bite! Sounds like something out of a Dracula movie….but oh so true.

The main course Chef had recommended was to let us understand the diversity of the preparations available at his restaurant. Bhape Chingre from the land of Mamta Banerjee…sorry West Bengal. I have been watching the news so avidly these days. Murg Mashooq! Not that sounds so Lebaneseee… perhaps the dish originated some time in that area before reaching North India and onto the table of the Nawabs, and their very own Gosht biryani...a favorite of Joe’s.

As mentioned earlier the presentation was unique, the rich aromas mingled with each other to create a medley of electrifying sensations…just by looking, smelling…and we had not even begun the tasting. ‘Kuch Kuch Hota hai,’ Joe murmurs under his breathe. The waiters took pity on him and began heaping food onto the plate. I use the word heaping, because the portions were so big. This really is a family restaurant.

There was pin drop silence as the food on the plate diminished. The mutton was succulent, the gravy of ‘Mamta’s’ sorry Bhape Chingre was fresh and mustardy which left a delightful feeling with the rice, and the chicken? No wonder the Nawab’s loved this dish. Maybe Chef Pankaj learned the art from those kitchens.

After such a lovely fulfilling meal I had mentally prepared myself to reject any thought of dessert. But the offer of Phallon ki kulfi was tempting. You see they offer a variety of those kulfi’s…kesar, malai, mango...the choice is yours. I decided to have all three. ‘Greedy,’ Joe hisses. ‘Just sampling for the readers,’ I hiss back a smile on my face. For those watching from afar it would seem that we were mouthing sweet nothings at each other. But when it comes to dessert, Joe can be quite a stick in the mud. He never says anything when the food comes on the table so why does he behave like this when the desserts arrive? That is something to think about.

Anyway…the flavours especially the mango put us both back on track. One does not need Karan Johar to create a kuch kuch hota hai…believe me it can happen after a great meal at Mirch Masala.

Restaurant Mirch Masala (Indian)
Hotel Fidalgo
18th June Road, Panjim

For Zest in Life

We were at a dinner party, and the heat had sapped everyone’s energy quotient. Conversation was lethargic, till Joe with his usual tongue in cheek humor said, ‘what we need is some zest in life.’ From the other end of the room a voice piped in ’did you go there, the food is excellent.’ Now when you talk about food, Joe resembles a hound dog…sorry Elvis…sniffing for a new trail…. ‘Zest?’ he queries…’yes’ was the answer, ‘right in the heart of Panjim.’

So here we were climbing up a narrow flight of steps to the top storey of an old Goan house, Joe bounding up the steps with ‘zest’ in his step even on that hot sunny afternoon. Yours truly made a more sedate entry…well perhaps because my body is not used to ‘bounding’ these days. You see eating out does become an occupational hazard. I promised myself that I would only nibble at the dish to check its taste. Joe was already in conversation with two individuals in the plush well decorated lounge cum bar.

Meet Executive Chef Rahul Kulkarni and his counterpart Asst Manager Vaishnavni Nalawade the Asst Manager. Now despite his youth, Chef Rahul was with the Copper Chimney, of Mumbai fame. Seated in the rustic Portuguese ambienece of the restaurant…you see even the wall chandeliers resemble those old torch lanterns of the days gone by, Rahul stressed the concept of the promoters of this venture (with Rajdhani, Citrus, Revival too) fine dining, with 9 outlets all over India. And this was the first.

Now what was the cuisine? I wondered, soaking in the soft, relaxing ambience. It would be difficult to guess as there were no ‘traditional’ concepts around the place. ‘we serve North Indian and Oriental,’ Rahul says apparently reading my mind. I mentally groan. Can anyone stomach a heavy Indian meal on such a hot day? I mentally prepared myself to opt for the Oriental…but then Rahul mentioned ‘Dal Bukhara’…and that was like a red flag before the hound dog….I know I have my sayings crossed, but a bull does not twitch its nostrils at the mention of its favorite food. ‘Dal Bukhara,’ Joe breathes, ‘that is my specialty.’

And so the die was cast. I leafed through the menu desultorily, and then perked up….this seemed like Indian food with a difference. For one, Rahul has used many local products in his Mari nation…like fenny and karavandas, and two, the explanations read like something out of a Continental menu…’roulade of spinach and ripe tomato. Compote napped with a cheesy tomato curry’.

Have I ever seen this explanation in an Indian menu? I looked at Rahul for verification. ‘the methodology used in Indian cuisine at times is very similar to continental,’ he vouchsafed, ‘for example take the Palak ke dhol..’ he was referring to the very explanation I had found. And so we waited in anticipation for the starters. Rahul has worked on an interesting concept of ‘packaged flavors’…simply put, one can order the item and taste the variety of starters or Indian Breads on the menu.

The sizzling platters arrive. Their smoky flavor encompasses us. Did I mention that I was just going to ‘nibble’ at the dish . Forget it. The first dish ‘Paneerelay’ reached my plate…no not a plate, a designers concept…white on black.. Oh those creamy yellow thin slices of paneer stuffed with spinach and tomato…yes in continental food as well as Portuguese food…you call it a roulade. Well I was ready to ‘roll’ in ecstasy….soft, tender, melting…no not a Mills and Boon romance, but I am ready to romance this dish till kingdom come…. ‘we always serve our starters on a sizzler plate ’Vaishnavni comments..

But I am not listening cause the assortment of starters had arrived…sizzling through my nostrils. Karonda Kebabs…chicken winglets marinated in Karavanda berries and in a Tangy Tamarind dressing. I remember as a child climbing up those little hillocks to pick those berries…now I will climb mountains for this preparation. The chicken winglets were chewed right down to the bone. Later Joe remarks that the look of satisfaction that was apparent on my face was as though I had finished chewing off his brains. Men! How they love to make women seem carnivorous. But that feeling remained as we feasted on Murg ke Talli Tikka..tender morsels of chargrilled chicken with fenny, Champi Tikka-those crushed peppercorn played havoc with my taste buds. There was fish…oh so soft and fresh, Seekh kebabs…that platter is a must to order.

But he had more in store for us…and we were just on starters. Cheesy Prawns. If any photographer had come into the restaurant at that moment and said ‘say cheese’ he would not have to wait long…cause I was grinning away to glory like a ‘Cheshire cat.’ Rahul had used Mozarella cheese (and I thought that was only used for Italian food), and added spices like basil, oregano and Indian herbs to create this dish. What a blend…and I always had this myth of Indian spices with Indian food…..

We were in no mood for Shorbas but Vaishnavni says that the Yakhani Shorba a creamy lamb broth) and the Hara Shorba (pureed greens) are popular. She should know…she is the one in the front. So we left the main course to be ordered by her….pleading that it should not exceed two dishes…’and of course the Dal Bukhara’’ Joe pipes in. And they say women are the ones who never forget.

If I was talking about designer plates, the dishes were specifically designed too. Both the containers and what was within. First came the Gosht Nallui Nihari…’the only dish with bones on the menu’ Rahul says. And with the marrow spoon too. Let me share the feelings dish by dish. Soft succulent meat in a smooth brown gravy, and if you dip the Dahati (corn) roti with it, yes that was part of the Roti ki Tokri, mama mia, here I go again…Rahul what would food be without you, I groan thinking of the add on calories as I took on an extra helping. And the presentation…the Murg Laccha Methidaar, it looked like something out of the Axe Advert…99999. It was the strips of chicken rolled in the center with chicken mince, and pine nuts the end of the chicken strip resembling the tail of number 9….swimming in a pool of fenugreek curry. Now I am getting fanciful…but after a taste of that dish I was swimming in ecstasy…the rahadi roti (a rustic preparation with spinach) complementing the preparation.

‘Keep place for dessert,’ Vaishnavni cautions. I look surprised. What can be different about Indian desserts? Although Rahul had changed the traditional Patiala Pomfret to one stuffed with prawns. As were the other items mentioned.

‘You see the Sheermal Naan,’ Vaishnavni mentions, ‘although an Indian bread it can be served as a dessert.’ I look at the explanation…exotic nut encrusted bread, kneaded with milk and honey, drizzled with chilled Rabdi. I hd noticed that they had Rabdi served with seasonal fruit too. ‘I love Rabdi,’ I croak, ‘so can I just taste it?’ Joe gives me a stern look across the table. ‘As well as the Akroat Halwa, and the Shahi Jamun.’ What the heck…I will walk 5 km this evening. I promise myself. But perhaps I have to increase the mileage I thought as I devoured the Rabdi….never have I tasted this preparation in Goa, you normally get the watered down version, and the Walnut halwa sprinkled with dry fruit and topped with Vanilla icecream? To die for. I kept it out of Joe’s reach leaving him to sample the Shahi Jamun..although Rahul’s Gulkhand homemade ripple icecream is a steal.

Did I complain about heavy Indian food on a hot afternoon? All I can say is that if you want to add Zest to your life, take a trip to Executive Chef Rahul’s creative palour- you have a genuine treat in store for you.

Restaurant Zest (Indian and Chinese)
Next to Hotel Mandovi
Panjim, Goa

Welcome to my world

Now why did this sentence pop into my mind as we climbed up a narrow stairway to a cozy restaurant that is now celebrating its Silver Jubilee year. Perhaps the deep melodious voice of one of my favorite singers Jim Reeves singing ‘wont you come on in…’ played on as we met with the smiling faces of the proprietors Michael and Ovita de Souza. Or maybe it could be my usual one sided communication with hubby Joe who picks up the restaurant of his choice for the week. ‘Joe where are we going ?’ I ask. ‘Avanti..’ he mumbles as he tries to avoid the death defying act of a motor cyclist who was trying to squeeze in between our car and the one ahead at full speed. But yours truly was more concerned in getting her ‘I’s’ dotted and her ‘t’s’ crossed. ‘Where?’ I shout looking at him in exasperation. ‘Avanti-Avanti,’ says my long suffering spouse. ‘That means ‘welcome’ in Italian,’ I remark, ‘I wonder if this was the reason for the name’, I look at him questioningly but only get a frown of irritation for my query.

But there is something about good food that manages to put Joe into a positive frame of mind. And maybe more so because the proprietors had managed to retain the ‘old’ look….red chequered table cloths, topped with bright red cross cloths garnished with colorful table mats. Ah! Ha! I know that I am not talking about a food preparation, but the ambience of Avanti which has stood firm in its traditional belief of serving good Portuguese Goan food for over 25 years spelt this out loud and clear.

Now many of my readers feel that I only say ‘good’ things about the restaurant we visit. Let me explain my modus operandi! I ask the ‘person’ who knows the best about his or her place… Joe says, ‘if any one wants to know your plus points they have to ask me, or else they will get a good dose of ‘Odettiteee…’ So seated with Michael we put forward our standard question.

Now Michael is not a businessman proprietor (as many of the new joints boast of) alone. He knows food. Trained in Holiday Inns abroad he decided to utilize his trade skills back home in Goa, and in 1984 opened his ‘extremely popular’ restaurant Avanti- for a Goan Gourmet Experience. He chose his site well, I thought as I looked out of the window at the calm waters of the Ourem Creek.

‘We have 20 types of seafood cooked with our own home made recipes,’ he states in reply to my query. I glance through the menu. His boast is not a casual one. Listed were Oysters, Mussels, Squid, Bombay Duck, Crabs, Rawas, Rockfish….I could go on and on. ‘And if you notice,’ he remarks, ‘the fish is listed by names..’ I look again. He has got a point. Rauns, Gobro, Tamuso, Modso…In many establishments we normally see the dishes listed as ‘ Fish.’.

‘My restaurant was the ‘first of its kind,’ coffeeshop in Goa,’ he reminisces, ‘and I also believe that my recipes have something which is yet to be seen in Goa,’ I look at him questioningly. ‘For example, take the Balchao masala. My wife Ovita prepares the same six months before it is actually used. We prepare the mixture and leave it for fermentation.’ My look of confusion must have been seen on my face, because he smiles as Ovita produces a dust covered bottle from the cellar which has sediment in a liquid. I sniff tentatively as she explains.’ we use galmo (prawn larva with our very own homemade spirit and allow it to mature.’ I raise my eyebrows in astonishment. In today’s world of ‘quick fix’s’ I am surprised that people still have the passion to retain old home made recipes. I wait in anticipation for the food…

A delightful array of Rawa fried prawns (butterfly cut and dusted with the savory rawa), Stuffed squid (the whole squid stuffed with a delightful mixture of chopped squid, prawns and onions)…you can just pop those pieces into your mouth, gratinated masala stuffed crab (This had a green masala with onions, tomatoes and home made spices)…and as I had stated that Joe was not really fond of squid( he finds it too rubbery), a portion of masala squid peri peri too. Now if I go onto explain the feelings experienced at starter stage I will not have place for the main course…so I will be brief by remarking that there was not a single piece of food left on the plates…or more succinctly, Joe had polished every ring of Calamari, chewing onto the masalas…something a la Deepika Padkone in the Orbit chewing gum Ad.

But now let me talk about the masala’s of the main course…Balchao, Goan curry and the home made pickle that accompanied it. Now if the peri peri masala of the squid was a bright orangey red, the deep red with a tinge of brown of the balchao was an obvious different shade of color. And the yellow orange color of the prawn curry? These shades would never be found on an artistes palette. And here they were presented on the table so that we could feast with the most important sense…our eyes.

But did not a wise man say…’the taste of the food is in the eating?’ No not a wise man, but hubby dear, 26 years ago-maybe the same time that Michael had planned to open his restaurant. You see it was my first sojourn into the kitchen after marriage, and this ‘confused’ man…no not Confucious....but Joe, uttered these words. Not so wise after all. The rest of the honeymoon he was helping out in the kitchen.

But coming back to the food ,the Pork Balchao besides the color the thick creamy deep red masala-believe me there was no oil visible despite the fact that it was a pork dish… smooth, creamy enough to coat every grain of rice, so ‘spitan’. Now that is my own word to share the spicy tangy aftermath on my taste buds. A Spitan Ecstasy. That dish was polished off in no time…those six months of marination had paid dividends. And the prawn curry since we were in tasting mode I were doing one thing at a time. Wrong move. Although the food was served in the ‘soup plates’ of yore big portions, there was very little left for me to sample. Joe has always been crazy about good prawn curry rice, and when Ovita took out the homemade ‘Tendli pickle’…that combo was just what the doctor recommended…An unbidden thought. Why do we always agree to what a doctor recommends, but not to what a lawyer or a priest recommends? Anyway this ‘Doctor’ of Portuguese Goan food has a few special ingredients up his sleeve.

But there was still the Sera Dura to come. The dessert. Creamy! Yes that was the adjective. the chilled concoction was a delight.. a fitting finale to the wonderful experience. In Sanskrit, Avanti means ‘first or foremost.’ The name seems to be aptly chosen.

Could this be why the song was playing unconsciously in my mind? What were the words? ‘Welcome to my world, wont you come on in, miracles I guess still happen now and then…’ Absolutely right.. these sorts of miracles do happen now and then.

Hotel Avanti
Proprietor: Michael de Souza
Address; Rue De Ourem Creek,
Old Latin Quarter, Panjim-Goa
Tel no: 9822167005
E mail:

No Travel ‘too’ far

‘Where wanderlust meets cuisine’ and you find yourself in a Mediteranean courtyard reminiscent of the 1930’s…wooden benches, stone flooring, under the leafy canopy of an almond tree…how far does one go? Not very far, cause the ‘Travel Bar’ in Candolim opposite the Tarcar Ice factory is just that place.

And now before you get cold feet… see some of us are not very adventurous, we prefer to stick to old and reliable ‘eating haunts’. I know a lot of my friends who do that.

Whatever the reason….it is a ‘must have’ for people who enjoy continental food, cause in that courtyard with its blue canopy and leafy green foliage is a place for classy, up market but affordable Mediterranean, Portuguese and French cuisine.

Meet Anjali Lobo who with her business partner Vinay Mudkani developed this concept to give Goa something different. Anjali runs a travel Agency in Candolim, and Vinay is an architect by profession. But there is one thing that they have in common…both are passionate about ‘good food.’

Why ‘Travel Bar?’ I ask Anjali. Well originally Anjali had worked on this concept of having salads and baguettes to be served in this venue. But with Vinay’s expertise, not only as an architect…’he is my strongest food critic’ she says…the old world Mediterranean touch came into being.

We open the classy silver and blue menus. No lengthy lists of items offered….’we pick up everything fresh in the mornings,’ Anjali says. So if no avacados are available on a certain day, it is not served. Nothing substandard is permitted. ‘And moreover only a certain number of portions are prepared per day,’ Anjali adds.

So we decided to use our standard phrase…’what is the most popular items moving in this place.’ Anjali looked at us foxed for a moment. ‘It is difficult to say,’ she adds slowly, ‘you see we have guests coming in here repeatedly and ordering evry single dish to try out.’ Now that could be considered to be a boast…but I realized later, that is not Anjali’s style. So for starters we had a little of everything served onto the table…Tempura prawns, Prawn tartlets, chicken satay…Anjali even offered to serve the Seared Tuna(it is an apparent favorite with customers), but the very thought of having sesame seared rare tuna salad, gave Joe cold feet. Was that due to the ice factory in the vicinity? I thought he would be more adventurous.

But there was no time to dwell on his reaction…the starters had arrived. Batter fried prawns with a sweet chilly dip. The presentation was good…shedded lettuce covered the plate and it looked as though the prawns were swimming in their own aquamarine sea…and the taste? No heavy batter coated the prawns, and yet they were fried to a crisp still retaining the juices within. And combined with the sweet chilly dip? Boy –o-boy…Yummy, yummy, yummy… a hole in my tummy…I could have begged for more. But let me talk about the Prawn tartlet and the Chicken Satay too. Their very own shortcrust pastry filled with a caramelized onion and pepper jam…with the prawns immersed head first in this concoction. At least that is what I believed as I saw the tails hanging outside the tart. But if the prawns arrived at our table in that mode, believe me we would be doing so shortly….think of the combo of caramelised onions, pepper jam and those prawns combined with a small nibble on that short crust pastry… die for. Now many of my readers belive that I play with words, but I am sure that if a survey is conducted with the people who have had this dish…I am sure that it would have played ‘havoc’ with their culinary senses too. I am still dreaming of the saliva that accumulated in my oral cavity once that dish was finished, and would be bad manners to ask our hostess for more. We were just supposed to taste after all.

We were offered soup…but with the promise of their ‘gourmet’ salads and then the main course to follow, we said a poilite ‘no.’ But I am given to understand that the Tomato Basil soup…the tomatoes are roasted with basil, and the Spinach soup are ‘hot favorites.’

Anjali had recommended the Asian Rare Beef Salad.but again Joe got cold feet or perhaps the passion had still to be kindled. Perhaps the dressing on the salad would have helped. When you go there please put on sock warmers cause believe me this is one dish you must try-marinated beef with passion fruit dressing…it is Anjali’s recommendation. But he was in a mood for his favorite ‘wasabi’ dressing. So it was Beet Wasabi Salad. Now this beetroot was not boiled…it was roasted. And accompanied with the wasabi yoghurt dressing…. ‘yo gut goosepimples.’ At least that was what happened to me,.the sharp taste of the wasabi, the cooling refreshing yoghurt sent prickly signals of electricity through my nerve endings. What a lovely combo. And after all this, Anjali throws the challenge back at us.’You order the main course from the menu,’ she says.

And so as we waited for our Red Snapper filet and mustard Orange chicken with an accompaniment of garlic bread, we got a chance to chat with Vinay-the architect of this concept. That he loves food goes without saying, but he is also a firm believer in quality. ‘Our menu has a lot of focus on Nouvelle cuisine,’ he adds. Now this cuisine is an approach to cooking and food presentation used in French cuisine. Contrasted with cuisine classique, nouvelle cuisine is characterized by lighter, more delicate dishes and an increased emphasis on presentation. "Nouvelle cuisine," like the earlier "cuisine classique" are both forms of haute cuisine.’Moreover we are very flexible catering to our customers taste.’ Vinay has also decorated a new addition of the restaurant….a cosy bar where one can sit surrounded by many old artifacts and sip a drink.

But by now the main course had arrived. My chicken had an orange slice at top mast,,,,ahoy there! The chicken delicately grilled was a delightful combo with the sauce sitting on layers of zucchini and potatoes roasted with parsley. But I need to recount Joe’s novel expression said it all. I had never seen my man so engrossed. Something was ‘fishy’. Yes it was his Red snapper filly…sorry filet. That seared fish filet in that delicate dill sauce. The flesh shredded at the touch of the fork, the sauce coated it,,oh so lovingly…and the taste? ‘Its fantastic,’ he breathes. This was a really ‘nouvelle’ experience.

Oh there are ‘hot favorites’ for the veggies too…Asian Tofu (tofu and vegetables in a peanut sauce), Mushroom Risotto (Fresh mushrooms in a creamy vegetable Risotto)….but Anjali has added a tantalizing line to my favorite part of the meal…the desserts. So I ask the waiter? What’ s up? ‘Grilled Bananas with almond and deep fried icecream.’ Now picturize this….bananas –o so lovingly tossed in wine and honey with a sprinkling of almonds. And to accompany it… a scoop of cornflaked ice cream right out of the freezer and into the hot oil till it is a golden brown. Now take this crusty ball and add it to the molten golden bananas…voila!! Any takers.

I know believe in what Anjali has said even though I have not eaten all her dishes….it’s no travel too far to the Travel Bar.

Restaurant : Travel Bar (Mediterranean )
Opposite Tarcar Ice Factory
Candolim, Goa.

House of Lords…..sorry LLoyds

‘Look out for a yellow and white house,’ Joe instructs as we drive down the winding road of Saipem. I give him a look of disgust…can you ever see the color of a house in the night, especially in Goa? Unless of course , it is brightly lit with halogen lamps like some of those heritage homes. He did of course mention that we were going to eat at the House of Lords. I thought it was in London…you see the place where all those ‘propah-propah’ British aristocracy meet. But in Goa one never knows…maybe they have their own House of Lords set up in the countryside.

After eons of darkness, interspersed with a few roadlights we pass a ‘beautifully’ lit place…gardens, pergola et al. ‘Stop,’ I squeak, ‘the sign says House of Lor….it’s Lloyds.’ I look at him stonily. ‘That’s what I said,’ he quips, ‘the House of Lloyds…look at that beautiful old Portuguese-Goan home? That is the house of Lloyd Braganza and the restaurant in the garden is known as the House of Lloyds.’ I wanted to tell him that his pronounciation sucked, but he was already making a beeline for the wicket gate.

So there was this beautiful 100 year old bungalow in the background…and in the garden-fairyland. A small walk through the flowering shrubs and you reach a fountain, and behind it is…’tipplers Taverna’. Bar stools around the counter and a big cement balcao to share a drink and a tete a tete with your loved ones and friends…accompanied by the murmur and gurgle of the running water.

Meet Suruchi and Floyd Gomes. Floyd, Lloyd and Peter are the brains behind the venture, giving you Goa on a plate. Goan fare, seafood, meats, Continental fare…you name it the menu says it all.

So here we were seated very ‘propah-propah’ in the restaurant…definitely ‘classy up-market’ with retro music wafting seductively through the air. The reason I used the word ‘propah’ is that we had no idea…unlike the other guests; that the creation of ‘tipplers taverna’ was for that casual interaction with people over drinks and dinner while one waits for the food. However ,Rajesh and Sangeeta, Donabelle and Lester, Bina and Divya Kapur had no such inhibitions. Glasses in hand, they sat on the stools and the balcao exchanging pleasantaries and ‘gup-chup’ as they nibbled on the snacks they had ordered.

‘So what is your favorite preparation?’ I asked Bina who has visited this place often. Bina and Divya are of the ‘Literatti’ fame. ‘For me the Rosemary fish and the calamari fritters,’ says Bina. ‘Terriyaki, Porkchops and the steak,’ adds Divvya when asked for her views. ‘Oh those sauces that accompany the steaks are divine,’ Bina says ‘blue cheese, mushroom, pepper…take your pick.’

‘Well you can nibble a little of all those starters,’ Suruchi says as Floyd supervises the kitchens, ‘you see we both are ‘foodies’ and wanted to set up a ‘garden’ restaurant for country, retro and jazz music lovers as well as those who enjoy Continental and Goan fare.’

The starters arrive placed on the trendy blue cross cloth of the table. Bacon wrapped prawns with spicy mango salsa, Teriyaki beef skewers, crumb fried cheese jalapeno, crispy fried mushrooms. We just did not know where to start. But Joe always has the right moves….it was the ‘crustacean attack.’ Somehow or the other those prawns had landed on his plate before you could say ‘jumping joe.’ Well I made that up…it is supposed to be ‘jumping Jack’ but that was Joe in motion. But let me not place the blame squarely on his appetite…sorry the word is shoulder….but where those prawns were concerned his shoulders were nowhere in the picture... and neither were mine. Crispy, crunchy, spicy, tangy….gosh my adjectives seemed to be jumping from one flavor to another. The bacon crunched, the prawns were crisp the mango salsa that accompanied the dish both spicy and tangy. What can one add…the dish was a mind boggling .. And for those who do not like it fried ( there are some calorie conscious people unlike me) the dish can be sautéed to your convenience Floyd adds.

But now those cigar shaped pieces lying on the plate beckoned. Crumb fried cheese and jalapeno. Now while we were discussing Bina’s favorite dishes Suruchi had hastened to add that there were some vegetarian specialities too…because she is a ‘veggie.’ Her favorite was cauliflower Mornay. And now here was this ‘vegetarian’ starter placed in my mouth…..mozzarella and cheddar cheese flavored with jalapenos and garlic…crispy on the outside….soft and melting within. Well I know that the ‘no smoking’ is mandatory in all restaurants but this cigar had me oozing out great gasps of...fortunately not smoke or fire, but pleasure. The blend of cheese with the garlic and jalapeno…no sauce is needed to have you begging for more….aahhaaa!!!

But there was still the teriyaki. The small slivers of beef cooked to perfection…the spices coating every fiber of that minute morsel…silence prevailed on the table as every one of those starters were polished off the plate.

But Floyd was still organizing his piece de resistance. Smoked chicken and Pork Assad. We had requested a sample of both cuisines and here they were. The breast of the smoked chicken with its buttered herbs and white wine sauce was delicate to the palate. Maybe it is the thought of the wine sauce that is making me use these adjectives…but the sauce fully complemented the smoked flavor of the chicken. If you are in the ‘propah’ aristiocratic mood for fine dining, do order the dish…just right for the ‘Conti buffs’. But my favorite that night was those palm sized slices of Assad overlapping each other on the plate. The preparation was so ‘porky-porky’. There goes my adjective again. What I mean was that the flavour of the pork ’meat and fat so delicately entwined’ and the Goan spices that enhanced its flavour would have done justice to the reputation of the meals served in the days gone by in this 100 year old house. Abso delightful. My better half was in the seventh heaven of delight as he applied himself wholeheartedly to his meal.

Divya and friends had now left the ‘Tipplers Taverna’ to sit in the restaurant to enjoy their favorite dishes. As goodbyes rang out across the restaurant ours a little loud and tipsy…I can well image how the Lords of yore would have felt as they staggered out of their clubs after a fine dining experiences. Well Lord and Lady Mascarenhas were tipped to the ‘nines’ feeling replete and fine. A meal of fine dining one could well afford, in Saipem at the House of Lords…sorry Lloyds.

Restaurant: House of Lloyds (Indian, Continental, Goan)
Saipem, Goa

Dance the Rumba

Rumba is a dance term with two quite different meanings. First, it means Cuban event of African style, organically related to the rumba genre of Afro-Cuban music. It also refers to one of the ballroom dances which occurs in social dance and in international competitions.

Now all this was running through my mind as we were driving towards Dias Vaddo to learn about the other Rumba…a restaurant opened by Samns Hospitality (Pvt) Ltd owned by Mohammed Haroon and run by Corporate Chef Jude Fernandes. The fields lay open and wide and in the distance we saw coloured lights along the periphery wall of an old house a lane before the Nagoa church intersection.

‘So this is where one experiences the ‘Rumba’, I thought to myself as we walked down a well laid pathway, past mini gazebo’s where one could sit and commune with nature, towards a big canopied structure that housed the restaurant.

Well you cant miss Jude, I thought to myself, he personifies a chef to the core. The ample warm welcome spoke volumes….I was to learn much later that his portions were ‘ample’ too. ‘welcome to Rumba,’ a place for ‘Fine dining’, he smiles.

And so here we were listening to my favorite ‘retro’ music as the palms swayed with its rhythm and even the tall and stately coconut trees swished in the sultry breeze. Although the temperatures were soaring out there, the cool breeze that blew across the fields cooled our heated brows as Jude recounted his culinary experience as we waited for the meal to arrive. With a stint at the Taj Coramandel, Jude worked at the stand alone restaurant ‘Village Bistro’ in Delhi which catered to the likes of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. But this son of the soil decided to come back to Goa to showcase his culinary skills.

The starters arrive….Now this restaurant is multicuisine. Indian, Continental and Goan with a few Chinese favorites thrown in. I look across at our guests for the evening..Lavinia and Eliot Gonsalves owners of Talon animations. I am sure that they were sizing up Judes persona for the next animated character they planned to make. But it was the food that they were focussed on. Prawn salt pepper, Chicken Panjabi Tikka, Panner Achari, Crispy Chilli Corn and Chicken Tao. Now it was fine for us ‘foodies’ to rave about the place, but we wanted to get the views of a few ‘fish curry rice’ regulars to give their views about the food.

‘These prawns are delicious,’ Lavinia states. ‘I love the Chicken Tao,’ says Eliot….that was the chicken and pimento in garlic mayo..’and the prwans too,’ he adds as an afterthought. ‘I agree,’ Joe says, ‘and the Indian food too.’ The two of them nodded. Now you must be wondering why no mention is made of the Crispy chilly corn. You see after that preliminary bite, I had taken that dish aside, out of the reach of others…crunchy, tangy…the honey vied with the red chillies..what a combo. Joe tried to reach out, but I managed to steer his mind away by pointing towards some people sitting under the coconut trees in the lawn as they enjoyed their drinks and snacks before dinner. Jude nods. ‘Yes,’ says he, ‘one has a choice as to where they would like to sit…the lawn, the gazebo or even here in the restaurant.’
But I was not paying attention…the main course had arrived. I had insisted on it being placed on another table for the photograph….but this helped me get a ‘sneak preview’ as to what was in store for us. You see one has to plan what one should attack first….

Through the lens of the camera I saw the Pomfret lying flat on its back….you see it was stuffed with prawns. I mentally envisioned what would happen to me after this feast. Prawn Balchao, Murg Shahajani, chicken cafreal, Mutton Ra-Ra….
Ra..Ra…pum…pum…pum. Got the beat of the Rumba? The mutton was so succulent, you do not even need teeth to chew on it…and the gravy? I was told that all the cooks were from Delhi…get the gist? But there is a Goan connection in that kitchen too. The Balchaio was uummm….the cafreal had a sauce boat of some extra sauce on the side…chuuum…..and the Indian gravies??? Pum…pum…pum. You want to put those sounds together? You don’t need to. Our guests were swaying to their own invisible beat as they dined on the delicacies that this ‘master chef’ had turned out. ‘how is it?’ I asked. They all nodded in unison…mouths too full to comment. Finally Joe croaks, ‘the Dal Rumba is the best that I have had in is Bukhara style’ he was referring to the Bukhara restaurant in Delhi which is an household name for ‘foodies.’ Jude smiles and nods…the secret of the recipe is out.

But we were not ready as yet for the desserts. Jude’s own secret recipe…the Caramel Flan and rasagullas stuffed with strawberries. Now I guess my readers know my penchant for desserts…but my calorie conscious guests threw caution to the winds. A blend of our very own caramel custard…but with a twist… you see when your spoon enters the pudding, it slices through the dessert like a knife through creamy butter. And the taste…if I was learning the Rumba before….the tempo now had quickened. A jive, a cha cha cha…I needed no partner. That dessert was to die for. And have you ever tasted a strawberry in the ‘gulla’? What a combo…just like the Rumba.

If you think that you will be ‘walking heavy’ after this meal, think again. As the M.D. Mohammed Haoon, who has a literal factory in Delhi churning out 20,000 corporate meals a day says..’ you will never feel heavy after eating our food.’ ‘Yes,’ affirms jude, ‘we use only olive and sunflower oil in our cooking.’ Whatever is their secret ingredient, as we left the restaurant I realized that I was able to do the quickstep after all.

Restaurant Rumba (multicuisine)
On Calangute-Arpora Road.