Monday, June 8, 2009

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.

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