Monday, February 21, 2011

Fine Dining…Tapas style

So what does the term ‘tapas’ mean? Well the word is derived from the Spanish word ‘tapar’ to cover. Legend has it that the tapas tradition began when King Alfonso X of Castille recovered from an illness drinking wine and eating small dishes between meals. On regaining his health his royal decree stated that no tavern would be allowed to serve wine to customers unless accompanied by a small snack ‘tapas’.

It was with this legend in mind that we decided to visit a new restaurant named ‘Manga’…where the concept of fine Oriental dining-Tapas style was the order of the day. The classy entrance of laterite stone, candlelight and right in the center a majestic mango tree…from which the restaurant derives its name, an initiative of the de Souza Group of Hotels. We met with Anne Hayden-the force behind this concept.
Now we Goans love to eat wholesome hearty meals, so would this ‘concept’ fill the ‘need’ of dining well? Would we be satisfied with a ‘nibble’ or two Tapas style? I looked across at Joe. Here was my ‘guinea pig’…Goan to the core.

Bret Wheeler, the South African Barman was at his best…there was a whole list of delightful cocktails besides the regular wine and spirit list. ‘Try our Long white cloud,‘ says Anne Hayden, ‘it literally is a translation from Aotearoahas- a Maori word.’ I look at the ingredients….kiwi and triple sec. but hang on a sec, I see another interesting combination ‘Pineapple and cardamom Daiquiri. ‘We use plenty of fresh herbs and spices in the mixed drinks,’ murmurs Anne as she led us to the table.
Joe was in his element, a chilli Mojito at hand while I browsed through the menu. Anne had promised us an Oriental New Taste….Thai, Indonesian, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese…a mix of the traditional and fusion.

I looked at the attractive paper lanterns with the flickering candlelight, the ornate, ethnic chandeliers overheard…mystic and promise…I sat back expectantly. The waiter brought in the house compliments…crumb fried mushrooms with two titillate the taste buds.

To start with one had a choice of two soups, the traditional Tom Yam Soup and the Tom Kah Gha soup. Joe was off the start line….’for me the Tom Yam soup with prawns,’ well they come with prawns don’t they…I looked at him sourly…it was my favorite soup, till I realized that the menu gave one a vegetarian choice too. I reluctantly settled for what I considered was second best, the Tom Kah Gha soup…chicken and lemon grass in a coconut base. I took a sip of my soup….the chef’s had captured every nuance of the creamy coconut with the lemon grass flavor, the chicken chunks adding its own zing. Great! I looked across at Joe who had kept his Mojito aside as he applied himself to the soup. Jack Sprat and his wife…the bowls were licked clean.
Now miniature plates were put in front of us…we were ready for the ‘Tapas’ style feast. Crunchy Tofu with crispy Basil...Japanese style. Now let me share a secret of the menu. You can order either a small or a large portion, depending on the size of the group or how much you would want to eat. I took a dip…sorry I dipped the Tofu into the choice of Wasabi Mayo, Coriander dip and Anne’s unique preparation of lime chilli jam. Now I can understand the choice...I loved the spicy Wasabi mayo, Joe the coriander dip…something for everyone’s palate. The next dish was approaching in a cane covered dim-sum basket. Another Japanese preparation common in Japanese households…Japanese Beef Gyonze(dumplings). Now these steamed crescent shaped preparations with its minced meat when dipped in the Ponzu dripping sauce. The word ‘pon’ arrived in the Japanese element from the Dutch word which is the same as the English word punch, while su in Japanese means vinegar. So there is seaweed, rice vinegar and the juice of a citrus fruit. Delicious…..
Our ‘Tapas’ was still on…the Tangy Tofu and Mango salad. Now this is a must. How can one sit under a mango tree and be oblivious to the fruit. But the dressing with the chilli flakes, herbs and mango tartness….unbelievable.

There were many other preparations to be tried out, but we were onto the ‘mains’. But before this, another complementary…to cleanse the palate. ‘a sago shot’…watermelon, coconut milk and sago in shot glasses. Pampering…..for the next spread.
Kothamalli…this Malaysian delicacy with strong Indian antecedents…minced prawn and cucumber on cucumber medallions….a connoisseurs delight. Ah! Yes, put me in that bracket, I truly enjoyed that flavor. Subtle and mysterious..…teasing moments. But the grilled red snapper doused in rice wine as a marinade and lightly grilled was bearing upon us. With its combo of sauteed Bok, choi and carrots…one could not help but grin like Bugs Bunny.

But can one ever complete a meal without some good rice and curry. Well the Thai favorites of Massaman and your choice of Red, Yellow, Green. We feasted on the Green curry and the Massaman in Tapas style…with lemon grass rice and steamed rice.
But before I wind up, let me tell you another aspect of ‘Tapas’. In Sanskrit it means striving for Nirvana or even striving for perfection in a particular field. The Desserts….Banana and date pancake in the caramelized custard sauce, the coconut panacotta and the crowning glory…the Toblerone dessert cocktail. Where do I I talk about the panacotta with its strawberry, mint, ginger and lemongrass flavor or the hot pancake or the sip of divine bailey, kahlua, hersheys choc, cream and shave choc ‘interventions’? I had reached ‘Nirvana’ and it happens when you dine at Manga……Tapas style.

Posh and Spice

Brings to mind the Spice girls doesn’t it? But this is temptation of another kind….right on the beach of Candolim…..that will make your mouth open in a very big O! Try it ..O – O – O Hotel. Yes that is the place, and as you walk down towards the beach…you can ask for a buggy if you like, but I definitely recommend a walk to activate the juices, because you are in for a treat.

So we walked…right beyond the pool…up a wooden platform overlooking a private secluded sandy stretch to your very own private dining hall. Believe me, just limited seating on comfortable cane chairs as you commune with the stars above, to the soft music of a live two piece band…ADDAH, a tryst with Indian cuisine par excellence.

We met with Executive Sous chef Pritam Mahadik. He needs no introduction, he has been in Goa for some time now and his Indian preparations always had me begging for more. We were presented with a classy pull out menu….well the place spells ‘Posh fine dining’, someplace where you can entertain or celebrate in style. How much closer without the crowds can one get to the beach.

There is a wide variety of selected ‘spiced cuisine’ that one can choose from. Try our Maan Sahari Kebab Platter,’ Chef Pritam suggests. And while the order is being executed we look at the wine list and the spirits offered. Well there is an open display cabinet too…tempting to whet…or wet the orifice of your oral cavity before the spice works its magic. While I was getting romantic, Joe was very practical nursing a Jack Daniels on the rocks in his hand.

‘Maan lo……’ I am now referring to the platter….lasooni fish, Tandoori prawns, chicken adraki Tikka, Seekh Kebab..and the colorful accompaniments…mint chutney, garlic chutney…pickled onions…. Now getting down to business. We all have eaten and relished Indian food, but having kebabs served sizzling hot on the beach, is mind blowing and succulent too. The faint tinge of the Adrak’ in the marination of the chicken…ADDAH! …to your vocabulary my mind commanded. I opened my mouth to give a pleasurable AH!!!!! The prawns dipped in the mint chutney….the delicate spice marinade…’Tandoori delights’…. But before I go on to explain the delightful explosions in my mouth, the waiter arrived with ‘Bhuna hua Anjeer’. Now this was a first in any menu that I have studied. ‘We have many vegetarian preparations,’ Chef Pritam says. I popped a mini ball…AHH!! ..ADD another :H: to ADDAH!. Dry figs soaked in whey, and when swollen to perfection smoked in mustard and spices, even the spice girls would not be capable of creating that gyration of ecstasy that consumed me. Eaten plain or even with the kebab the ‘sweet and spicy’ combo of fig and spice…if Adam had donned a fig leaf to cover himself I am sure that his ‘gyrations’ would have dislodged the same. Luckily Joe was sedately dressed, but his mouth as he blew out into the sultry night was a delightful ‘AHHH!”

The shammi kebabs had arrived…those tasty minced cakes of gram and spices. I looked at the repertoire in the menu wondering what chef would surprise us with next. I peeked down the platform at the kitchen and saw him with a platter. ‘Raan..’ It’s not on the menu, but one can order it in advance,’ he says. Sikhander Raan, cooked for 45 minutes with yoghurt and spices…believe me it’s a feast for the kings right down to the bone. As we chomped and relished every bit we were informed that this preparation and many others were standardized in all the restaurants of the ‘O Hotel’ Group around India.

But he was just teasing us with ‘starters’. Bhatti ke Bharwan Khumb (mushrooms in cashew paste, onion, curd and capsicum) a vegetarians delight, Dum Aloo Kashmiri (although this dish needs no explanations it packs a ‘Dum’ filling), Deg ki Dal (the whole black lentil-Joe’s favorite) and with piping hot Missi Roti’s and Laccha parathas…the ‘O’s” and the Ah’a’ will keep on coming in quick successions. Well I have mentioned the vegetarian because Chef Pritam is passionate about pleasing his vegetarian guests, but he had also added a Murgh Changezi….chicken in a spicy tomato curry. A crisp missi roti dipped in that curry….all I can say please practice your vowels.

So remember whether it is ‘Ah”…’Eee”….”Oh”…the ‘I’, ‘U’ will have a delightful time at ADDAH absolutely Posh and Spice.

ADDAH (only for Dinner) Address: OHotel,DandoCandolim Tel No: 0832 3047000

Flying fish…Drunken Prawns

Is the dolphin a fish…no siree. They are marine mammals. So why do I have this perception of a ‘flying fish’? Well this is the story…the name ‘dolphin’ is originally from Greek ‘delphis’ and the animals name can be interpreted as meaning ‘a fish with a womb’. But why go to the Mediterranean region to find out about the dolphin…these mammals are seen flying…guess that word does seem ‘extreme’ but when you see them soaring above the waves in that elegant twirl, you could be pardoned for thinking of them taking ‘flight’.

Coming back to the ‘Flying Dolphin’…it is found along the Candolim coast…the real Mcoy and the ‘multi cuisine’ restaurant started by Michael Mascarenhas way back in 1996. Now this restaurant needs no introduction…originally started as a bar serving now operates as a full fledged restaurant, situated right on the beach, a superb lookout for the Dolphins that spin along the coast come sunrise.

So what does this restaurant whose motto states ‘where the sun never sets’ have fior the discerning diner? Well there was one thing that we realized as we sat under a thatched canopy of the restaurant talking to him and his son Lionel who now has taken over the running of the place…is that they keep up with the times.

Eating trends keep on evolving…and besides the Goan, Continental, Indian preparations listed on the menu, and a smattering of Greek…a new cuisine sushi can now be ordered as you sit looking across the vast expanse of sand and ocean. So what is Sushi… well it is the rage in cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. It is a Japanese dish consisting of cooked vinegared rice commonly topped with other ingredients such as fish, lobster, prawn, tuna….

So we decided on Vegetable rolls…cucumber, avocado, Chinese cabbage mixed with a little mayo…well no fish in this…we dipped it in the ‘wasabi flavored soya sauce…I am getting to be quite an expert at this…and popped it whole, the fermented rice with the crunch of the vegetables and the spicy tang of the soya…even a ‘pukka’ non-vegetarian like me reveled in the taste. Well we were still on our sampling mode so….it was the Calangute roll. Well Calangute was always considered to be our ‘Queen’ of beaches, and here was this roll with its very own crown…a layer of smoked salmon...delicately sitting on top of the roll of tuna, avocado, cucumber and Philadelphia cheese. Uumm! Now we were definitely on a roll…Tomago Roll..Now this was a definite innovation. King Prawn, caviar, avocado rolled in egg (a la omlette style) with a hint of mayo. ‘we get our caviar from the flying fish,’ I was informed. Aha! The full circle. The flying fish arises out of the ‘myth.’ But not the Dolphin in this case…the fish whose eggs give this delightful ‘taste’ to the preparation.

Now sushi was ‘great’ but we wanted to know more about this multi cuisine restaurant. As Lionel put it..’we have a cuisine for everone…the foreigners, Indians, Goans…’ so we ordered the Masala prawns…shades of red. They lay on the plate as if in a stupor soaked in the ‘peri-peri’ chili-lime masala….the thought involuntarily flashed through my mind….’they looked drunk’…but a bite of that succulent preparation…well it can make you soar in ecstasy. I closed my eyes savoring every spice added in this ‘innovative’ masala. ‘goes great with drinks,’ adds Lionel. He definitely has got a point....but I can stretch it further…even great for teetotalers like me.

Well how much can one eat. We sat there saturated to the gills…that comes when you lose yourself in the ‘fishy’ flavor you begin to act like a fish…I floundered through the menu mentally imagining the preparations listed there….prawn stuffed pomfret-a definite order if I was not so stuffed, Greek style calamari…well Michael had the cuisine from that region showcased for many years till he decided that the ‘home’ dolphins should bask on the ‘menu’ pages too. Then there is a ‘kurkure Jhinga’…shades of the heroine – Juhi Chawla hopping around in the advertisement…these ‘butterfly cut’ prawns lightly coated with rawa can make you hop’ around with delight when dipped in that tangy cocktail sauce.

We sat there watching the waves gently lap the shore as we lapped on steaming hot Lavazza coffee. Whether a meal or just a snack, from 6.00 am in the morning to 1.00 am the next morning…you can vibe with nature and an excellent cuisine. Perchance you might also catch sight of a ‘flying fish’ as you get high on the ‘drunken prawns’.

Flying Dolphin
Address: Near Hotel Golden Eye
Gaurowaddo, Calangute,
Bardez, Goa
Telephone No: 0832 5613246

Food talk

Have you ever wondered how Alice in that famous story ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was able to talk to the Cheshire cat? Well, I was in my very own wonderland ...seated in a pleasant garden, stars twinkling overhead, lulled by the sounds of the waves rolling over crystalline sand....and listening to ‘Food Talk’.

Aha! You might be wondering if I have gone ‘cuckoo’ but I have witnesses...very stable ones too...the Capriconian variety...the ‘goat’ of the Zodiac sign. I am referring to the men in my life hubby and son, and when it comes to food, you must hear them talk.

But I am deviating, it is my helicopter brain you see...we were seated in this garden for a Bar-be-que dinner at the ‘Barbeque’ no dash-dash-dash, very classy, aprons instead of napkins, colourful placemats....’i’m in for a grilling’ whispered a voice, followed by a groan ‘things are getting tikka even for us.’

I looked sternly at the waiter who had come to take our order, was he one of the culprits who was part of this conversation? But his pleasant countenance and smiling demeanour, as he asked hubby and son for their drink order belied the fact. So who was in for a grilling? The diners on other tables were enjoying their meal...things were definitely not getting ‘tikka’ for them.

So I put off the disturbing quest and decided to place our order. Well there was a host of the ‘sizzlers’ to choose from. Short, seafood, meat, tandoori. With the ‘tikka’ foremost in mind I urged hubby and son to go for ‘Tandoori’.

‘They have some excellent starters here Mum,’ says Nolan. I looked at the menu...tempting. So we ordered bacon wrapped mussels, chilli garlic squid rings...
Voices was coming from a sizzler being served by the waiter on the next table. I very clearly heard the guest say ‘check out the kebab flirting with the onion’...and the onion rings which garnished the platter reply ’Give me a ring when you are free.’

‘Did you hear that,’ I squeaked looking at the duo sitting at my table...husband and son look at me blankly. ‘You are day dreaming mum,’ says son Nolan, ‘here try this squid and the mussels...they are divine.’ The two of them were concentrating on the starters, so I joined in voices temporally forgotten. The squid with its chilli flake, tomato and lime juice marinade was ‘awesome’ and the bacon wrapped a Christmas gift. The crunchy salty packing (bacon) enhanced the soft flavour of the mussels...mouth watering moments. The combo was one to be recommended.

‘The music is great! I’m tempted to shake a leg...’ Music? ‘Can you hear music,’ I ask my better half. He looks at me oddly and then at the full moon up above. I glare at him and freeze as someone replies ’i’ll join you in a twist.’

‘Someone wants to twist,’ I croak. ‘So do I,’ says hubby dear nibbling at the kasturi kebab. The Tandoori platter which I had ordered was sizzling at the table. ‘Add this twist of lemon, dad,’ says Nolan.

I look down at the table and I realize that I was no ‘Alice’ in wonderland. The voices in my mind – well I was subconsciously reading the attractively decorated place mats which had kebabs, fish, onion rings and lemon twists talking to each other. I gave a self conscious grin and decided to apply myself to the food. The kebabs...chicken, mutton, fish, soft, succulent and marinated so wonder Joe wanted to ‘Twist.’

But the piece the resistance’ was the Lobster..the three in one combo which the chef had decided to let us try out. They lay there in their shell...I took a sneak peek at the place mat...the lobster was saying, ’my plans are going a skewer’ while the chilli responded ‘what do you expect when you don’t come of your shell.’ Well the chilli was right...we dug into the soft meat prying it out of the shell. Chef had used three different marinades....basil, chilli garlic and Cajun. Every one of them was - simply great. We smacked our lips in ‘unison’.

We sat back replete wiping our hands with hot towels that the waiter had so thoughtfully provided. Hubby and son had a good laugh at the ‘voices’ I was hearing when I was unconsciously reading off the place mat.

‘It could be a ‘new’ novel to work on,’ laughs Nolan, ‘Odette in Barbequeland.’ I consider his words thoughtfully. Well this was definitely one place where the food talks to you....tasty, unique and marinated to perfection. And for those who have not tried it...well you are definitely on the other side of the looking glass.

It’s a munch…munch..brunch

Sunday! What a glorious day-supposedly a day of rest. But does that mean that our taste buds need one too? No way, especially when there are ‘peppy’ brunches to tease your palate. So what does a ‘brunch’ signify? Breakfast and lunch…and in one place they also served ‘trunch’…lunch and tea. Boy oh Boy- talk about combos.

So on a very empty stomach….believe me one has to plan accordingly. We moved into the lobby of the Vivanta by Taj…towards ‘Ground Zero’ – Latitude. Now one might wonder why the term ‘Ground Zero’ is used here….it was the vibrations…the deep fusion of sounds....the husky monotone of ‘Every move you make…I’ll be watching you.’ Who? Why? Watching me? I’m only here for a meal….and then I realized that ‘Ground Zero’ was the two-piece band rending the popular song…the music was echoed through the lofty atrium, feathering through the indoor palm trees creating a ‘zing’ to the afternoon.

The restaurant was full…families was my first thought. Little ones and big ones too. I take in the food display at a glance……and then the voice… ‘Chiquita, can you tell me what’s wrong?’ it was the song again but sounding so personal. ‘Nothing is wrong,’ I wanted to say, ‘but where does one start?’ Well every brunch has a plan, especially when there are house drinks included too, so there was Joe starting with a ‘vodka’ fusion and to avoid any confusion I will tell you why…

The first counter was the ‘oyster counter’. Now this is one sure innovation. Well the chef has ‘vodka shots’ ready with salt, lemon juice with tabasco. Immerse the oyster into this shot glass and then add all your favorite toppings in…chopped shallots, chives, grated egg yolk and white…’C’mon Rockefeller you have competition,’ I said to myself as Chef Sudip got ready with his mix. Slurp…Slurp…swallow whole and lick your lips….’Lucky Lips are meant for kissing.’

Wrong...should have said, ’meant for smacking,’ watching Joe ‘smack’ his lips together…but ‘Ground Zero’ was really setting the mood for the next encounter.

The salad counter….Executive Chef Gyanendra explains the health concept…sprouted beans…today it was wheat and mustard. You pick it off the ground (literally) and mix it with the dressing of your choice….vinaigrette, olive oil or even if you want to cheat a little-mayo. The whole counter gives one a health kick…twelve varieties to choose from while the chef BBQ’s on the live counter the ‘fresh’ catch of the day. Four varieties of seafood…I nibble a little. I can well believe the chef’s boast that this is a morning catch…Fresh. But if you want to really ‘splurge’…there was that song again...’Don’t tell my heart…my ikky, nikky heart’…cholesterol be dammed...there is the Oriental live counter, the pasta live counter, the Indian live counter, the Dosa live counter…remember you have more than two hours of eating time. I decided not to waste it...the ‘farfelli’ –the butterfly shaped pasta in that cheesy-cheesy sauce….even the kids would have that ‘cheesy’ grin at the end of the feast…but they too have their very own counter…with a special ladder to climb with their desserts on display.

Forget the ‘kiddo’ stuff…I looked at the full fish displayed under the hot counter. Well this was cooked Lebanese ‘style’ – Grouper marinated with fresh cilantro and lemon juice. Simple but effective! The fish flaked and melted, the lime added the tartness and the cilantro….i went through the preparation through and through. Plate wiped clean. I beamed at Chef Sudip in delight.

Food & Beverage Manager Suhash Bose has reason to smile too. Ground Zero was at it again..’Don’t worry…by happy ’ they crooned. And every guest warmed to the theme. In air conditioned comfort the food tasted all the more ‘zestful.’ I regretfully left the hot counters to focus on the food in the chaffing dishes….Lucknowi Biryani. Well I was in luck. I was dreaming of this ‘dum pukt’ preparation for days. But would it meet the test. A little nibble at the finely cooked rice grains and …..’staying alive..a..a…a..a staying alive.’ Each spice added to the preparation told its own story….and the combo a volume. I looked regretfully at the number of dishes inviting me to ‘munch’….i shook my head regretfully as I took an extra helping of the biryani. I left behind the Continental, Goan, Indian, Pan Asian…..

And then the desserts…a table of 22 delicacies and I have not added the on the spot ‘Jalebi’ and waffles if one wants to leave it for the last. I nibbled at the shahi tukda..crisp to the last, munched on the jalebi’s…yumm, crunched on the waffles with maple syrup..oohhh, slurped through the blackberry cheesecake…yes it was soft and delectable. ‘I’m at the Top of the World and looking..’ yes that was Ground Zero again. The music added to my heightened senses. I wished I could have packed in more…but sadly could not. So if you are there on a Sunday afternoon remember to munch…munch…munch at the Sunday Brunch.

Address: Vivanta by Taj
St Inez Junction, Panjim
Tel No : 0832 6633686