Thursday, November 4, 2010

Top of the World

I wonder if anyone remembers the fact that once upon a time in Goa…perhaps in the 1940’s, the highest point from Mother Earth would perhaps be the Rooster seated on the rooftops. What a vantage point….and here is a descendant of that very rooster in the Upper House at Panjim.

Today, I am going to share my experience at this very place, where one can partake on a feast of Goan flavor. The ambience that night was magical, a far cry from the busy hub of the morning. Still in my fantasy world I wondered if I could change all the shops which had downed their shutters into restaurants…it would be such a pleasure to walk around the Garcia de Orta…the beautiful gardens, maybe before or after a meal. There was magic in the air.

But perhaps the growls in my ‘better-half’s’ mid-riff had temporarily wiped out the romance in his soul. ‘It’s time to eat,’ was his flat reply. And so we walked up a beautifully decorated flight of stairs…it was so lovely to see drawings of regal old homes on the walls…a touch of the 40’s perhaps? But the ‘rooster’ by my side was in no mood to while away the time and I hurried up the last few steps into…I stopped short. The management of the place had retained the same gracious warmth and splendor of the days gone by, with ‘sensitivity’ towards the modern day fuss-pots….a beautiful air-conditioned dining room.

We sat down at the table; the trio playing the music warmed the ‘cockles’ of our hearts. Join the two dining rooms…yes there is a private one too…was a lounge Bar in shades of red. I would not be surprised if I saw Tom Cruise jump onto the counter, spouting poetry ‘a la cocktail’ style. Perhaps the neon lit word ‘cocktails’ added to my fantasy.

So who are the ‘creators’ of this enterprise? Meet Prakash and Anil Periera, although both are in the sporting field, their passion is food. ‘Well Anil is the creator behind the masalas,’ says brother Prakash, as we complement him on converting an old house into such a tasteful venture. ‘We called it the Upper House,’ he remarks modestly ‘because just like the House of Lords or the Rajya Sabha we wanted it to be one of that status’. Hearing this I decided on starting my ‘mental scorecard’.

Wile we waited for our starters, I took a quick look at the diners. ‘Around 80% of our diners are local Goans,’ Prakash says proudly. Scorecard asks a silent question…’would the food be so ‘ghar-ka’ to make the locals try something which perhaps their kitchens could conjure up?’ Had I asked the question out loud? Prakash continues, ‘Even we were a little apprehensive when we first opened whether the locas Goan would try our place, we can now say that they do,’ he concludes happily.
Nelson Crasto and his team materializes with the starters...chicken tikka in Cafreal masala (you can choose your flavor Xacutti, peri-peri or even go for the popular malai’ Drunken prawns in Beer Batter with a choice of your very own dip….mango puree or mint. I spoon a bit of that mango chutney in my mouth…’what goes into this?’ I ask Prakash. ‘You must talk to my brother Anil,’ he states.

The mango chutney is a mix of mango, cream, mayo and mustard seeds….different. Whose idea? Well this place is full of the ‘Divarkars creativity’ I learn. From Chef Rego’s initial interaction to the current chef Peter’s involvement, to sister Eugenia’s hidden recipes….’ I loved food,’ confesses Anil ,’ and as a child I would ask my sister Eugenia for different recipes.’

Well that is not all….most of the ingredients….vinegar, coconuts, rice are carted from Divar. I moved my attention away from Anil in time to rescue the last bits of starters from the plate. Leave my ‘rooster’ unattended and there would be nothing left for me. Well the starter’s were good, the chicken ‘soft’, the prawns ‘drunken’. Jokes aside, good way to begin the meal. Another preparation worth highlighting is the Bacon wrapped prawn in BBQ sauce and Golden fried Baby corn.

But Joe was eagerly awaiting the main course. I don’t know if you remember me saying that the ‘topmost’ cuisine in his repertoire of culinary delights is Goan.
And so out came the Sorpotel, Fejuado, Beef Roulade, Fish balchao, Samarachi Kodi and Sannas. We started with the Beef Roulade…outstanding….perhaps their signature dish, the Samarchi Kodi…mind blowing…’can I take a packing order?’ says Joe, ‘it reminds me of my mother’s preparation,’ ..the sorpotel with the sannas…delightful. Even their Feijuado and Fish Balchao evoked pleasant memories of ‘good’ home cooked food.

But can we do without the ‘fish curry rice’ combo? We sampled the ‘combo’ Prawn curry/Rice/Kishmur/Fried Fish/cabbage foogath/waterpickle/papad…now they change the ‘bhajji’ daily but what a spread. The prawn curry was smooth and when had with the ‘ukdia xitt’ and a bit of everything…just what the ‘Goans order.’

There was the ‘stuffed crab’ too to sample, but we were too stuffed to try it.
Anil has kept the dessert too ‘traditional’. Home made bread pudding, rich with raisins and cashew nuts and the famous ‘Alla Belle’ the stuffing of coconut, honey and jaggery, a pure delight. The football crazy fans were enjoying the match on the big screen, but for me the lyrics of the song being crooned…’I am on top of the world and looking’ besides me the Rooster crowed with pleasure.

The Upper House
Address: 12/24/2A Rua Cunha Rivara,
Opposite the Garcia de Corta Gardens,
Tel no: +91 0832 2426475/6456330

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