Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dil ‘Mangii’ More!

Now if you think this is a Bollywood blockbuster, you could be right…but just with a small difference. This Bollywood starrer is actually based in Mumbai, an Italian restaurant…and has now opened at Panjim...the venue Café Mangii. Now if you want to know how the ‘bollywood’ hunks and babes dine out…Proprietor Prashant Chaudhri has created just the place for you.

What does Mangii mean? A slight twist to the spelling and in Hindi it would mean ‘asking’, and in Italian it means ‘mango.’ Ah yes! Right from the ‘raw to ripe’ mango colored walls to the casual and trendy uniforms of the is a signature of taste.

‘Café Mangii’s the ‘haunt’ of the celebrities in Mumbai,’ explains Manager Roston Colaco, ‘and after extensive research we have short listed 90% of the ‘favorites’ listed on that menu and brought it here for the ‘discerning’ gourmet at a very competitive and affordable price.’

Discerning? Affordable?….I propped myself on the high chair in the ‘bar zone’ and looked at the ‘mango’ coloured menu’s offered to me. Now it seemed there was one for every mood…the drinks (where one could be seated here at the ‘lounging’ and ‘hep’ area) nibbling at bruschetta of Brie or perhaps a prawn tempura as you wait for a buddy to join you.

Talking about tit bits? The crisp golden coating of that prawn tempura as you dip into the chef’s special butter garlic sauce…Uummm! The temptation to roll that tongue over the upper lip the way the starlets do is ‘unconscious and provocative.

But yours truly did just that and got a surprised look from hubby wondering what his (well in his opinion) ‘over the hill’ wife was trying to do. But ignore him I did, and took a ‘crunchy’ bite of the Bruschetta as the topping of Rome tomatoes, sweet basil and camembert cheese drizzled with Balsamic vinegar…well I say drizzled because this preparation actually sizzled. I closed my eyes…’well this preparation can be had as an Insalate too,’ This words were that of the young chef Krishna Khetle who is the ‘Force’ behind the culinary preparations. I look at him reverently…the taste still lingering in my mouth, ‘we use imported items specially brought in from Mumbai ’ he smiles, ‘and it guarantees the authenticity.’

Authenticity….it is so important to understand that in Rome one should do what the Romans do. Fast food and old favorites like pizzas and pastas…have taken away the sheen of the real flavors. ‘oh , but we do have a separate menu for pizzas...the thin crust variety, and it is prepared in the oven right in front of you.’ We look at the restaurant section….the chef was busy putting in the pizza for the diners. We decided to have a pepperoni pizza. The oven fired with mango and rubber firewood seems to give the thin-crust pizza its own signature taste and believe me there is a stupendous number of preparations listed on a separate menu…exclusive for pizzas only.

But we were here to check out what made the Bollywood upper crust patronize the place. Was sure it was not only for pizzas…although that concept adds some ‘piaazzz’ to the place. So it was back to Menu No 3…..Zuppa ..…Inslalta…Antipasta….Primi and Secondi….Dolci… Do not worry, the explanations are in English too…was just trying out my Italian.

‘What Zuppa do you recommend?’ I ask the chef. Simply translated ‘what soup’? ‘Try our Lobster Bisque’, chef recommends. Well always check out the chefs recommendation…he is bound to be right and he was. That thick seafood flavored soup…deep red in color with miniature pieces of lobster within…..’mamma mia’. Spoon after spoon of that ‘superb’ recipe was literally shoveled into the mouth without a break. ‘wow!’ I breathe at last, ‘what is in it?’ ‘Flambéed cognac,’ was the chef’s reply. What more can one ask for?

But there was more to come…from the Antipasta, the chicken liver pate, calamari fritto (batter fried sqid) …sure to be the Goan’s delight...and then the Gnocchi patata. One dish to die for. If tell you that it is mashed potato with spinach and parmesan I would not be doing justice to the taste. The creamy spinach, the cheesy taste that wrapped itself around the chef’s labor of preparation (the potato)…you will scream in ecstasy… die for. So too is the Gnocchi pesto made with cous cous.
Kuch..Kuch hota hai…well this was my comment bollywood shstyle after the Penne alla Romano reached the table. Now this was the anti-pasta stage. The creamy white wine sauce….it coated the pasta to perfection...rolling smoothly on the palate imparting flavors unheard of…a must try especially when the waiter sprinkles freshly ground pepper from the peppermill. And the Rissotto with champagne? Even Joe who does not care for this preparation took an extra helping. Maybe it was the champagne that added zest…but for me the chef had cooked it to perfection.

Oh yes there are many more preparations I could vouch for….but I have to come to the Dolci…the desserts. Italians always knew how to plan a ‘grand finale’….the Tiramisu…words cannot define it. And the Crème Brulee….Before I could spoon in more than two mouthfuls I realized that Joe had done the honors….finished the dessert…and here is a man who confesses that he does not have a sweet tooth.

‘No more’ I beg with folded hands to Roston. ‘we have the folded pizzas too,’ he tempts smiling. Well as much as my heart would like to try out….there are limitations of space. So as Roston recommends it’s better to go with a group for maximum fulfillment … ‘Dil Mangii more’

Cafe Mangii
Address: 1st Floor, Madhav Ashram, Near Azad Maidan, MG Road, Panjim
Telephone no: 0832 2230773
Recommendations: As stated above. Too many to mention.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Down by the River Side

If the lyrics don’t get you, this place will. Soothing, serene…the well mapped greenery to calm your senses which are on over drive; the ‘lap-lap’ of the water to lull you into a suitable frame of mind and then the ‘ZAP!’ Isn’t that the way comic books express one’s emotions…the round eyes, the tongue hanging out…a little saliva dribbling down the chin. Picture this because that was exactly what happened to us one Friday afternoon while we were on our way to the airport.

‘I don’t like to be late?’ I yell at my better half…nothing ever ruffles him, ‘and you have promised to eat at that place…’why do you take on so many things on the same day?’ I grumble as I stuff last minutes accessories in my carry bag. I don’t know if anyone has ever received a ‘placid’ look in response…I did and it increased my stress levels three fold.

But the scenic view en route to the airport temporarily calmed my agitation and the soothing sound of the river as the road wound parallel to its course had a sedative effect…after the hectic morning my eyelids began to droop...till ‘there’s St. Jacinto island’ intruded into my drifting mind. There was the island and on the road was our lunch halt….Sheela Restaurant cum Bar…a restaurant that had stood the test of time running with an enviable distinction of being a ‘locals favorite’ for the past 25 years.

We walk up a flight of steps…nothing ostentatious about it, but the deck overlooked the scenic beauty of the river. We sat there entranced, captivated by the beauty eager to hear the story from the beginning.

Sylvester D’Souza, the proprietor’s son meets us. All around there is a buzz of activity…..waiters scurry around with ‘thali’s’ the local lunch favorite. ‘My father Nicolua D’Souza although he was a tailor by profession started this venture 25 years ago,’ he says with pride, ‘and the original food served was this very same ‘Thali’ then priced at Rs 3.50p.’ Today although it is still priced at a little more than ten times the amount it seemed to be a ‘hot’ favorite.

But we wanted to know a little more about the preparations from the kitchen. His mother Luize Marie is at the helm. ‘Our Raechade masala is famous,’ Sylvester explains, ’and also our other preparations. Even Mr Vijay Mallya would take a packing order of our stuffed crabs and prawn curry.’

And so while we waited for our order we marveled at the beauty and the proximity to the airport. ‘we would like people who are in a hurry to phone in their order,’ he says, ‘this establishment is time tested for its quality and standardization, so the a la carte preparations take place the moment the order is placed. Advance intimation would help.’

The starters arrive. Rawa fried prawns, Chonak Raechade Masala and fried Bombay Duck. Now I am no great fan of the Rawa encrusted preparations. You see some establishments coat them so heavily that the taste of the fish is lost. I take a tentative bite off the prawns. The green masala in which the prawns were marinated temptingly added to the flavor, the crunch of the rava glorified the freshness of the prawn…now here was a dish to fish for.

But there was more to come. I am a staunch lover of Bombay ducks…and for all you Bombay Duck fans. The soft flesh is ‘melting moments’. One can even slurp it down…slowly enticingly, because the marinade does wonders to this preparation. There was no distraction…Joe addressed himself to the Chonak Raechade while I like the proverbial miserly rat, kept the plate close to me as I relished every mouthful of that preparation.

‘She likes it,’ Joe says apologetically to Sylvester. Apology was needed because I ignored the poor man. I smiled sheepishly wondering if the ‘ZAP!’ expression was still showing. I wiped the side of my mouth delicately.

‘My father named this place after my sister,’ Sylvester says, ‘we were the first restaurant and many of our regular guests still visit us.’

‘It’s a pity that most people are in a hurry to get back to work,’ I remark watching the ‘thali’ workers depart. ‘It is heaven in the night,’ he states, ‘with the church lit and its reflection mirrored in the water.’ I look across visualizing the beauty of the place, entranced.

The main course arrives. ‘Ukde Shit’, Prawn curry and Beans Foogath. Have you ever heard the phrase…’as mother makes it..’ True…so very true. Mother Luize’s magic in her kitchen is unparalleled. ‘We do not put the milk in the prawn curry,’ says Sylvester, ‘it is pure coconut.’

And for us it was sheer Bliss. I am given to understand that there is a special chicken preparation made by his mother with a three masala flavor. ‘Excellent with drinks,’ he says, ‘so although we call it chilly chicken now, I am going to name the dish after her.’

And this young man with a stint at the Taj after a course in Hotel management has followed in his fathers footsteps and added a few of his own recipes like Stuffed squid and crab. This might be the 25th Anniversary of the restaurant, but don’t be surprised if it celebrates another twenty five more. All you have to do to check it out is to drive ‘Down by the River side.’

Sheela Restaurant cum Bar
Address: Opposite St Jacinto Island, Sancoale, Goa
Tel No: 0832 2555675
Recommendations: Seafood= Rawa fried prawns,
Fish with Raechade Masala (house speciality)