Monday, October 11, 2010

hbo…sheer entertainment

It’s happening…and the belt is rocking. If you feel that the above caption has to do with your staying at home and watching movies…think again.

We were told that at the corner of the bridge (to Baga creek) is this place for exotic food,retro and jazz. So with this thought in mind we decided to visit Goa’s latest happening place hbo. Maybe the size of the lettering is a misnomer; we walked into an open verandah attractively laid out for fine dining to a miniature stage where Laurie of L’ace was ready to belt out the latest hits. I looked across at Jude Fernandes the ‘chef’ behind this venture, was this going to be another ‘entertainment’ place where guests stood around the bar nibbling on tit-bits and snacks?

Jude ushered us into a small A/C enclosure where you sink into deep sofas and funky blue lights. ‘Just right for a drink,’ Joe states looking around appreciatively. ‘Why don’t you try our Blue Goddess?’ Barman Hari offers, ‘athough we do a good Blue Hawaain or a Pink Lady…’

‘I think I will focus on the food,’ I tell Jude leaving Joe to his favorite hobby. ‘I have experimented on ‘fusion’ snacks, intermixing a few of my creative masalas and herbs’ he says, ‘but have left the authenticity of taste in the Continental, Indian and Goan preparations,’ he says.

We ordered the the French mustard chicken, the stuffed mushroom peri-peri and the spicy Louisana chicken. Now let me tell you why I call certain chefs ‘master craftsmen.’ It is fine to follow a traditional recipe but when one has to play around with spices and herbs to satisfy the palate of normally ‘traditional’ diners…it definitely needs a skill. And moreover, the menu very clearly specifies fine-dining at affordable prices.

The starters arrive…just in time. The Blue Goddess was taking Joe up to the ‘heavens.’ Let me start with the mushrooms- with our local peri-peri masala. But what a difference! These little umbrellas (fresh mushrooms) were stuffed with chopped mushrooms and nuts…and the masala? ‘I buy the peri-peri chillies from Mumbai,’ Jude explains, ‘and although they are pretty steep they definitely give the taste.’ Agreed! Yum…yum..yum. And with the Blue Goddess…’I’m in heaven,’ Joe comments ordering another one.

Next was the French mustard chicken. Now all of us know that a little mustard on a chicken roll works wonders…and on this grilled tit bit? It certainly was a great way to ‘start’ the evening. The music tempo was lifting and so was my spirit…while for Joe the spirit was keeping him company. That Barman definitely had a trick or two up his sleeve…even for the ‘blues.’

The third starter…well I am off to Louisiana…it can even wean a person off his ‘spirit’. I looked at the rapidly emptying plate. ‘Too good to be true..’ Joe murmurs. Did he have the ‘Goddess’ in mind? No it was the spicy chicken Louisiana.
‘I would like you to try my special ‘fusion’ fish. It’s fresh and different although I just call it the Black pomfret Raechade,’ Jude recommends. Now I am never one for the black pomfret….i prefer the white. So while we waited with bated breath, the seafood pasta salad reached us. For those who are off the ‘spice’ route I would definitely recommend this. Creamy mayo and vinaigrette just coating the Fusili and seafood. Cool, classy and tasty too.

But the pomfret had arrived. It lay on the gleaming platter taunting and inviting…the sheet of spicy raechade covering the body to perfection. ‘This is not pan fried,’ Jude says, ‘it’s tandoori baked.’

What can I say, the fish flaked in the mouth, the masala a fusion mix of raechade and English herbs of tarragon and some other herbs (no chef likes to share their secrets) ..mind blowing fare. There was absolute silence as we dug into the deepest crevices of the fish, trying the access the last bit ….have you heard of stripped to the bone? Well that is what happened. A definite ‘must’ if one likes to deviate from traditional fare.

Jude would not leave us to sink back and savor the memories. The Mutton Biryani… mutton Roganjosh…the rogan adding zest to the succulent meat. And if one likes Continental I am given to understand that his steaks are worth contemplating.
But desserts are my Achilles heel. And so we decided to feast in that section. Many restaurants do great meals but when it comes to desserts they either outsource or have something similar that is available in other places too. What did Jude put on the hbo menu? An Almond Barcadi Wedge, White chocolate ecstasy among a host of unheard desserts. Shall I start…the Almond Barcardi full of gooey chocolate…melting moments…’leave this for me,’ Joe growls. Was it the Barcardi or the dessert? I sneaked a spoon. WOW! Now the White chocolate ecstasy? Layers of caramel between an exotic sponge and topped with white chocolate..’It’s Lindt,’ a little bird whispers in my ear. I moved my plate when Joe’s spoon reached across. And then just for good measure we decided to ‘taste’? - no ‘hog’ on the Apple pie and Hyderabadi double ka Mithai. It seemed to have come right from the Nizam’s palace.

Jude looks at our satisfied faces. We were too full even to get up from those sofas. So a word of caution….do not sit there for a meal. ‘We want to produce the best food and entertainment in town,’ he concludes. You got it my friend. ‘hbo is sheer entertainment.’

hbo Resto Bar
Address: Saunta Vaddo, Calangute Baga Road, Bardez, Goa
Tel no: 0832 6511005

Recommendations: Spicy Chicken Louisiana, Mushroom Peri-peri, Black Pomfret Raechade, Mutton Roganjosh, Desserts to die for..