Monday, June 8, 2009

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.

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