Gusto is a wonderfully relaxed establishment that combines an emphasis on great ingredients from the area with local charm, style and panache. Located just off the maddening Candolim main road and tucked into a quiet lane, the restaurant is refreshing in every sense of the word! It doesn’t seek attention with flashy lights and live music. They focus on what they do, and trust that those with a good taste in food and looking for a quiet evening and will find their way there.

Jennifer and Bilal, the husband-wife duo running the restaurant are a charming pair, and give you the insider feel that you don’t get at more formal restaurants. I, for one, and I think most of us, love that homely touch when we dine out. The foodie-enthusiasm that they show wouldn’t be exuded quite as joyfully as in a larger enterprise.

AMBIANCE

On turning into a lane off the main road, Gusto is located a few hundred meters down, right next to the Literatti Book Shop. It was once called Tamarin, but a change of name and location has brought it where it is today.

gusto tamarin goa

Once you’ve arrived at this outdoor restaurant, take a seat under bright orange canopies. It makes a pleasant, breezy space for an afternoon lunch, and as the sun begins to set, you’ll notice that each canopy has a light bulb shielded with a basket for a rustic appeal. Bug spray on each table is effective enough to let you enjoy your meal, pest-free.  A little distance away, the magic happens in an indoor kitchen tucked out of sight behind a wall of bamboo.

SERVICE

While the staff is attentive and capable enough to answer questions, Jennifer is the force behind running the floor seamlessly. I couldn’t help but notice her cheery hellos and goodbyes to diners. She suggested a great mix of dishes that allowed me to sample a bit of the Kashmiri and Mediterranean menus, ensuring each course wouldn’t fill me up before the next.

Bilal, from Kashmir, manages the kitchen behind-the-scenes. In the brief conversation I had with him, I was amazed to learn about how he scoured the state to find the international-level produce – mozzarella, mutton and what have you, from suppliers in Goa, that I, being a local, haven’t ever heard of! He said he hadn’t studied cooking formally, yet his love for food was apparent in his words and shone through in the food he prepared.

FOOD

At first, the half-Kashmiri, half-Mediterranean menu can be a bit strange. But hey, if you do both equally well, it would be a shame to hide it.

Gazpacho + Beetroot and Mint Soup

I preferred the gazpacho to the beetroot and mint soup. Both were served chilled in little shot glasses but the gazpacho was delicious and not like watered-down salsa you get in many places. Made with chilled tomatoes, spring onions, olive oil and garlic, it’s great to get the appetite going before ordering mains.

gusto goa

Lebanese Beef Kibbeh

Kibbeh is the epitome of Middle Eastern comfort food. These were rounder, firmer and slightly drier than croquettes. The exterior was deliciously crispy, and surprisingly, there was not a drop of oil on it at all! So easy to fill up on these since they can be quite heavy!

lebanese beef kibbeh

Mushroom Kebabs

I could not get enough of these, they were SO GOOD! Gorgeous juicy mushrooms stuffed with parmesan, homemade pesto and pine nuts, roasted or sautéed and skewered on a stick. These were absolutely melt-in-your-mouth and the presentation turned the delicious outdoor appetizer into a classier version. Must Try!

gusto candolim mushroom pesto kebab

Israeli Sauteed Chicken

This chicken was divine, and is understandably Gusto’s bestseller. Every bite of the well-cooked, succulent chicken absorbed sweet and savoury orange sauce that really hits all the senses and taste buds. Just enough jus in the bowl lended flavour to the Mujadarra rice with black lentils. The dish was complete with cucumber cut into paper thin slices, pomegranate for a pop of flavour and mint for freshness. This dish was sheer poetry!

israeli chicken gusto goa

Mutton Biryani

Faultless! Before even tasting biryani, I look for the caramelized onions on top! Was instantly pleased with this one and it just kept getting better from there. Fragrant rice, scrumptious chunks of meltingly-tender mutton, ghee, saffron and the taste of fresh herbs and spices cooked together. Another winning dish from Gusto and we polished off every last grain of it.

mutton biryani gusto goa

Rogan Josh

The aromatic lamb dish of Persian origin, is one of the signature recipes of Kashmiri cuisine. This was yet another sensory striking dish – it’s thick gravy marked with its vibrant red hue, brimming with flavour. Again, the lamb chunks were ultra soft and came apart at the slightest insistence. Mutton lovers will recognize the premium cuts of lamb used by the lack of sinew and presence of a delicious layer of fatty goodness. First timers, don’t be alarmed by all the red you see, it’s not fiery hot at all!

Wangun Ruwangan

I’m a huge fan of brinjal/aubergine, especially when paired with a tomato based gravy. This dish with a funny name had fried baby aubergines cooked with tamarind and spice-spiked tomato sauce. Zingy gravy and deliciously mushy brinjal! This is one of those wonderful dishes created with minimalistic ingredients but packing a ton of flavour.

wangun ruwangun gusto goa

Phirni

I overdosed on Phirni this year and swore to stay off it because it was getting boring and monotonous. But when Bilal said he gave it his own spin, I decided to give it a shot, seeing as how he hit the ball out of the park with every other dish. While it was much better in terms of looks and texture, what put me off was the cardamom. I’m not a fan of evil little elaichi when its presence is overly felt.

phirni gusto goa

Coconut Ice Cream

Move over, Naturals Ice Cream! This handmade ice cream has to be tried to be believed. Ultra creamy, smooth and satisfying and surpassing other coconut ice creams by miles!

Overall, the chef-owners have developed a harmonious menu that is thoughtful, aestically well presented and stripped of any pretentions. Both types of cuisine are filled with expertise and sophistication and its worth visiting, not just to eat, but to relish an extraordinary dining experience in the most casual atmosphere.

Meal for 2 – Rs. 1500- Rs. 1800

Address – Literati Bookshop, Gaura Vaddo, Calangute, Goa 403515, India

Check out my post featuring Mustard, which serves French and Bengali cuisine, bound together by a common ingredient! Also, don’t miss some authentic Goan fare at Goan Stories at Vivanta by Taj!

Catch up with you soon! Till then, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Hey Guys!

I know I’ve been MIA for around 2 weeks, but you know how hectic trips home are! Seriously!

When I was studying, going home to Goa meant lazing around, sleeping, eating my fave dishes that Mum cooked and sleeping some more.

Now, before I even reach home, I have a list of restaurants to visit and I eat out more than I eat in. I love it because that means I get to tell YOU GUYS where to find the BEST when you go on a short trip to Goa. Because who has time for mediocre food, right?

This November, I went to surprise my uncle who came home to Goa from the US after 9 whole years. Imagine his craving for authentic Goan food after that long a time. At every restaurant we went, we scanned the menu for some Goan sausage, vindaloo and xacuti because when you’re home for a week, you can’t waste an opportunity to eat that! Of course, most restaurants do it all wrong.

Goans, I know you’ll agree with me here. Our food is complex. Preparing it takes ages. I’ve never seen my grandmother use powders and pastes for as long as she lived. She’d sit out in the balcony and grind masalas on stone, scrape fresh coconut, tap into her stores for vinegar and toddy every single day – and the results showed in every last drop that we’d lick up. The quick, half-hearted ways that many restaurants cook these days is a sham! And sadly, most tourists will never know true Goan food, if they don’t step away from the beach belt.

AMBIANCE

I was invited by Vivanta by Taj, Panjim to check out their new restaurant, Goan Stories. The hotel is located right in the middle of Panjim and isn’t surrounded with acres of greenery and a view of the sea. On entering a small, but well spaced-out lobby, Goan Stories is located on the left of it. At first glance, it does appear quite bare and not as opulent as you’d expect a restaurant in the Taj to be. The tables and chairs are well spaced out and a wooden bar stretches along one end.

At one point, this restaurant, called Tease, was solely a bar. It has now been converted into a restaurant-cum-bar so that it sees footfall all day long, and not just during the evening hours. Goan Stories is relatively new. Still, you can’t help but notice the thought that’s gone behind every touch point.

goan stories taj vivanta goa

Starting with the music! Thankfully, it wasn’t one of those dreary old Konkani playlists but upbeat and super fun songs that are apt for a tiatr. In one of the songs, the singer enthusiastically sung about how he ate a green chilly and his rear-end was now on fire. Totally had us in splits!!

Even the napkins that were neatly placed like a bow on the plates was a Kunbi weave, a craft that is slowly dying out. The kunbis are the aboriginal settlers of Goa and I’m told that to get this particular fabric and pattern, the team hunted the length and breadth of Goa, in the end, finding an old man who was still in the trade, with thoughts of closing down his business. Luckily, Goan Stories now has cloth napkins in the original Kunbi weave style.

kunbi weave taj vivanta goan stories

SERVICE

Well-informed, smartly dressed boys managed the floor with no hitches. If you’ve been reading my reviews, you’ll know I don’t give shout-outs unless really warranted! Thank you, Marvin D’costa, for the apt suggestions and pleasant conversation.

The bartender makes a pretty good martini!

vivanta taj goan stories

FOOD

Let’s not waste any time beating around the bush here! The food was epic from start to finish! Chef Rego, a renowned name in the food industry for preserving Goan cuisine worldwide, has supervised the entire process of putting together the menu at Goan Stories. Most dishes was flawless. I only wished my appetite allowed me to sample it all!

The menu was another element I loved about the restaurant – it came in a huge shell and on opening it, the booklet was stuck to the shell’s hinges. Lovely!!

Flavoured butter!

OMG this was to-die-for! The bread basket had tiny poees, the katro pao (shaped like a butterly) and the much-loved-but-rarely-seen-anymore, kakonn, shaped like a hard bangle. Three flavours of butters arrived too – xacuti, piri piri and cafreal. While it may sound off-putting at first, these were INSANELY yum. It was against our better judgement to fill ourselves up on bread, but we just couldn’t resist those butters. I hope they bottle it up and sell some soon! Oh, and four types of pickles came with the bread, too.

flavoured butter goan stories taj vivanta

thatgoangirl goan stories

Beef and Fish Potato Chops

Goan snacks are incomplete without chops! While the beef chop was pretty great, the fish one wasn’t fishy-enough. Possibly because there was potato mixed in with the fish. It would have been great with some great fusion-sauce, like the butter. I ordered sample portions of these, hence there are only a few on each plate.

snacks goan stories taj vivanta

Rissois

One of my favourite Goan snacks, the rissois usually comes with minced prawn inside. However, in order to keep the veg-non veg balance, these were filled with spinach and corn. LOVED it! The delicious outer shells were beautifully coated with breadcrumbs and so crispy, and the inside had that delicious silky smooth texture, just like prawn rissois are. Must try!

potato chops goan stories vivanta taj

Goan Sausage Chilly Fry

Most Goans know how good these sausages are by the smell alone. For me, just the thought of the heady aroma of spiced, tangy, smoked and sundried goan choriz is something that makes me drool. My rule of thumb is if you can smell it from 500 meters away, it’s gotta be delish! The choriz here ticked all the boxes – robust, packed with rich flavour, and all the delicious juices intact, soaked up in the onions. Gosh, I’m salivating just writing about it!

goan sausages chorizo goan

Crab Xec Xec

Huge red rock crabs cooked in delicious spiced coconut gravy tastes like the coast! When crab xec xec is made from scratch like this was, you’ll taste the complexity of the spice mix and feel the flavours unfold in every bite.  I’ll let the picture do the talking here, but I’ll say this – we had runny noses while eating it. And that = gooooood!

crab xec xec goan stories

Chicken Xacuti

An absolute Goan favourite, and you can’t leave without trying it! The chicken xacuti is much milder than the crab xec xec and we ordered 2 sannas to go with it as rice came along with the dish! Absolutely yum and we mopped up the thick, fragrant curry with deliciously sweet sannas!

chicken xacuti goa goan stories

Sera Durra

The last time I was in Goa, I went to 6-8 restaurants in the hope of tasting Sera Durra, a dessert my family reserves for special occasions. It features layers of biscuit crumbs and whipped cream and the trick to getting it right is whipping the cream just enough, not more – not less, to achieve the right consistency. Many places use sweeteners and gelatin, thereby affecting the taste. The Sera Durra here ended our meal on the perfect note. We were so stuffed, that this light, not-too-sweet dessert topped with berries was just what we needed.

serra durra goa goan stories

This was definitely one of the finest Goan meals I’ve had. Tourists, foodies, everyone, put this on your map the next time around! It will set the bar in terms of authentic Goan food.

I’m sharing pictures and stories of my recent trip to sunny Goa, and current trip to freeezing Canada on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Come along!

Hey guys!

After sampling the limited-time-only Rajasthan Food Festival at Grand Hyatt, Goa in August, I hadn’t visited any short food festivals or special menu events. While these events are few and far between, they’re slowly starting to become a trend. I love attending them for a couple of reasons. These limited-time-only menus give chefs a chance to reinvent and step away from the tried and tested menu that often haven’t been re-looked at in years. The creativity in the new menu speaks volumes every single time!

Often, the menus highlight a certain ingredient, festival or region and chefs from outside the restaurant, or even state and country are brought in. During the ‘Culinary Journey through India’ by Marriott, Goa, the resort honed the skills of their in-house chefs from around the country. The Punjabi chefs took over on the day dedicated to Punjabi cuisine, Goan chefs highlighted Goa fare and every day gave a new chef a chance at the helm. Not something you see everyday, is it?

Without rambling on, I’ll get to the point. The Heirloom Festival by Punjab Grill has been on for around 2 months now and the menu reflects a dedication to using thoughtfully chosen fairly traded ingredients. There’s just about a  week left until the dishes are taken off the menu, so I hope you read this in time. The main ingredient in every dish is chicken!

Scroll through all the delish items on the menu (I sampled EVERYTHING!)

MURGH SHORBA WITH GARLIC AND BARLEY

Flaming orange, super fragrant and spicy (but not the tear-inducing kind), the soup had small chunks of chicken and a generous amount of barley for some chewy texture. It was rich and comforting and I could feel the warm spice make its way down as I swallowed. One of those feel-good, scintillating soups for sure!

murgh shorba garlic barley soup punjab grill

MURGH DALCHA TIKKA

Murgh dalcha is a gravy dish where chicken is cooked with lentils. This was the ‘tikka’ variety. Chicken coated in a smooth lentil/dal paste with yogurt and spices and then dipped into the tandoor to cook. Can’t tell you how succulent this was – the texture of the chicken was neither stringy, tough or too soft. In fact, the chicken in every single dish was spot on perfect. I haven’t seen this dish offered in any restaurant so far, which is quite a pity.

murgh dalcha kebab

TAMARIND TANDOORI CHICKEN WINGS

BBQ glazed chicken wings is always a crowd pleaser! This one was a tad different as it was marinated with a yogurt-spice mix, cooked in the tandoor and then glazed with finger-licking good tamarind sauce. Beautifully sweet, tart and sticky.

tamarind tandoori chicken wings punjab grill

CHARGHA KUKKAD

Can’t believe I’ve never heard of Chargha Kukkad before. A delicacy from the streets of Lahore, chicken is marinated in ground spices and deep fried until golden. This would have probably tasted better with the crispy skin left on, but it was delicious without it, nonetheless.

chargha kukkad punjab grill

MURGH CHAAMPEIN 

Don’t be fooled – these aren’t your everyday chicken lollipops. These chicken drumsticks were marinated and slow cooked for hours so that the flavours penetrated to the bone. This dish just cannot be faulted! It was so juicy and flavourful and had was slightly charred for a smokey taste.

murgh ki champein punjab

THE MAINS

After those 4 meaty starters, I was in no position to attempt mains. But since I may never taste these dishes at Punjab Grill again, I went YOLO! and sampled a spoonful of each.

CHUR CHUR NAAN – I’m one to choose rice over flatbread, but this naan was such a guilty pleasure! It’s hot and firm exterior was stuffed with a thick, satin-like paste of cauliflower and apricots. It was so yum, I could have eaten it plain. But it perfectly complimented every gravy offered.

RAW MANGO CHICKEN CURRY – This dish really stood out! I can still distinctly remember the taste of that tangy gravy. If you’ve ever tried Kasundi, a Bengali curry made of raw mango and mustard, you’d find slight similarities to this one.

MURGH ROAST FATEHWAL – This was really the star of the mains. It was punchy, well balanced fragrant and the taste of ground spices roasted in ghee was apparent in every delicious morsel. Highly recommended.

MURGH KOFTA – I didn’t find anything really spectacular about this dish. It was pretty standard – chicken meatballs cooked in generic Indian spices.

ALOO MURGH KI TEHRI – Simplicity at its best! Baby potatoes cooked dum-style along with minimally spiced boneless chicken. The long-grained rice was also cooked in spices and the rich taste of saffron made its presence felt. There was generous caramelized onions, something I can’t do without in biryanis.

heirloom menu punjab grill

PHIRNI

I thought the phirni I had in Delhi was good. But this one was off the charts! After talking so much about the food, I’m sure you’ll believe me when I say it was Ah-Mazing! The custard like texture, nuts, saffron, broken rice – this was harmony!

phirni punjab grill

Expect nothing less than excellence from the house of Kalra – they’re restaurants never fail to deliver time and again. Head over for a ferocious display of chicken dishes from Punjab Grill before they go.

You may also want to check out my review of another mindblowing Kalra restaurant, Pa Pa Ya.

There’s something new coming up on the blog next – so I’ll be taking a sabbatical from food related posts for a week or so. No shortage of it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram though. Are ya ready?

Mahabaleshwar, the queen of hill stations, is known for many things – the enchanting views of the valley, the chilly weather almost all year round, its strawberries, and its evergreen forests. One thing it is not known for is the food.

It’s true that there are restaurants lined up one besides the other offering cheap eats like south Indian fare in traditional udupi restaurants, steaming maggi noodles in little cafes, wraps and rolls – ideal for a budget traveller to grab a bite and head off to explore. But unless you’re staying at a resort like Brightland, the chances of finding a good quality, sit-down restaurant, complete with great ambience and music is almost nil.

grapevine mahabaleshwar

I heard about The Grapevine coincidentally through the grapevine (sorry, I just had to do that!)  It was recommended to me by a friend, Briston, who owns Foxes Fiesta, close to my home in Goa, that too, as a comment on my check-in to Mahabaleshwar on Facebook. When a chef suggests a restaurant to you, you know it HAS to be worthwhile going there and that’s why I did. Obviously, I was not disappointed; on the contrary, I was blown away! And while I wasn’t intending to blog about it initially, after visiting I feel the world should DEFINITELY know about this little jewel.

AMBIENCE

It took a while to find Grapevine, because Google Maps took me to one side of the building, when the entry to the restaurant was on another. But when I did find it, it stood out right away. Unlike the makeshift restaurants I had seen so far, with their offerings printed on large boards at the entrance and their red plastic chairs within, Grapevine had a clean open facade with white, wrought iron furniture outside.

grapevine restaurant

On entering, a variety of liquor and wine in a wall-to-wall set-up at eye level breaks up the seating areas – one, a couple of steps up on the mezzanine floor, and the other, a couple of steps below ground level. The whole place has a warm, rustic feel and the upbeat music really livens it up, making it almost too hip for Mahabaleshwar!

grapevine restaurant mahabaleshwar

the grapevine mahabaleshwar

SERVICE

Apart from a couple of wait-staff who bring food to the table and clear the dishes, the show is almost entirely run by the chef/owner, Raio, a third generation Parsi from Mahabaleshwar. Softspoken and smiling, he greets us with his warm countenance and since Briston has already given him a heads-up that I may visit, he kindly joins us for a chat.

Raio tells me how his grandfather moved here because the clean air helped his asthma troubles. His family then started Imperial stores, a shopping establishment in Mahabaleshwar. Raio always knew that whatever he ended up doing in life, he’d want to do in his hometown. So after studying Hotel Management in Goa and working for the Taj Hotels, he started the Grapevine.

FOOD

It was quite early in the evening when I visited The Grapevine, and my intention was only to stop by for a coffee or mid-evening snack. But seeing Raio talk about his food so passionately, I couldn’t leave without trying something, nor did he let me.

The restaurant has a huuuuge menu – encompassing soups, starters like tempura, prawn cocktail and parsi mutton bheja cutlets and a small spread of veg offerings too. Mains span from hakka noodles to akuri, pastas, thai curries and of course, Parsi staples like Patra Ni Macchi.

Having fresh seafood brought in all the way from Mumbai up to the hills miles away, just to serve in a gourmet restaurant seems like a whole lot of trouble. So trying a seafood dish seemed like a must-do. On Chef Raio’s recommendation, I tried the Prawn Pattiya which is essentially a Parsi gravy that he has turned into a starter by serving it semi-dry. Perfectly cooked, juicy prawns were coated with the richest sweet-sour gravy I’ve ever tried. Absolute winning dish and we weren’t even sorry that we scraped up every last bit of gravy from the plate.

prawn pattiya grapevine

Just when we thought nothing could top the Prawn Pattiya, the lamb shanks arrived! Oh, those lamb shanks!  It cut like soft butter and was so delicate, you’d have a hard time believing it escaped a furious fire just minutes ago. Deliciously smoky-sweet and overwhelmingly tender, the dark gravy penetrated right to the bone! It was served with a generous helping of cheesy mash potato that sent us to seventh heaven!

lamb shanks the grapevine

A Parsi meal without dhansak? No way! Chef Raio sent this delicious quintessential Parsi staple up next. A huge bowl of fragrant brown rice alongside chunky pieces of mutton that had been simmered in a dal based gravy. What was to be a coffee break turned to a full-fledged meal by 8 pm and we could only manage a couple of spoonfuls. I’ve probably said it before, but I’ll say it again – soOoOOooo good!

mutton dhaksak

Lastly, we sampled one of the desserts, the Ferero Rocher terrine, which was a cool slab of dark chocolate Ferrero Rocher, liquid malt syrup, cream and dark chocolate sauce. It is one of Chef Raio’s inventions. Not too sweet, but considering the meal was so indulgent, we were glad the silky smooth dessert wasn’t too decadent.

thatgoangirl the grapevine 2

It’s a pity one has to go all the way to Mahabaleshwar to get a taste of the food at The Grapevine. I wasn’t intending to make another visit to those parts, but there sure is enough incentive now! If you ever visit that gorgeous hill station, do NOT leave without trying this place out!

Address – The Grapevine Restaurant. Mahabaleshwar Jama Masjid Rd, Mahabaleshwar

Cost for 2 – Rs. 1200-Rs. 1500

Check out my other posts on Mahabaleshwar and drop by to my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for a chat. Bye!

Ever since I got invited to review Poush, a restaurant serving Kashmiri food and Just Kerala, a south Indian one, I’ve had the song ‘Kashmir Tu Mein Kanyakumari’ stuck in my head. And apart from that one line, I don’t know the words to that song at all. Anyway!

There’s no denying that Mumbai is a mixed bag of cultures, traditions and religions. Naturally, restaurants serving authentic regional cuisine have to find space among new-age fusion restaurants to give people a taste of home, and give foodies a taste of what the country has to offer. Poush is one such place.

AMBIENCE

poush kurla

Comfortably located on the topmost floor of Phoenix Marketcity, Kurla, Poush is anything but inconspiculous. Through its arched wooden windows and intricate patterned curtains, you’ll notice that the interiors aren’t what you’d find in an ordinary restaurant. In fact, it has been designed to resemble a traditional, opulent shikara – or houseboat – on the Dal Lake in Kashmir.

poush mumbai

Both sides of the restauant feature ‘cubicles’ with drawn curtains wherein a thin matteress on which to sit cross legged on either sides of a low table are placed. The center of the restaurant has conventional tables and chairs. I picked the former seating arrangement and stretched my legs out under the table that seemed almost too big for two, but too small for four.

Instrumental sitar and tabla music played on in the background and our tummies began to rumble for a taste of Kashmir’s delectable cuisine.

SERVICE

The staff was quick to attend to patrons and suggest the specials among the vast dozen paged menu. The food came out surprisingly quickly for such lavishly cooked dishes. I couldn’t help but smile when, on requesting for the traditional Kashmiri Thaali comprising of 6-7 meaty dishes, the waiter raised his eyebrows, looked at me and said “madam, zyada padega aapke liye,” (that would be too much food for you). Can’t blame him or his good intentions – he doesn’t know who he’s dealing with 🙂

FOOD

I always read zomato reviews AFTER I visit a restaurant, so that the opinions of others don’t cloud my own judgement. I go without any preconcieved notions and apart from knowing what the menu is like, I don’t read what others have to say. So I was honestly surprised when I came home and read one negative review after another about Poush. My experience was by and large quite positive!

Alphonse and Love Story –  I wasn’t a fan of Alphonse which was made of mango juice, khus and cream. Since it was a mango-based drink, I thought it would be, well, mango-coloured and not green! True, it isn’t the season for fresh mango, but the overly-sweet, artificial taste of the juice was not just lingering, but strong. Love Story, on the other hand was great! I loved the tart pineapple, sweet mango and delicious flavour and scent of rose!

poush kashmiri restaurant

Poush Special Kebab – Rajma Masala is the quintessential comfort food for North Indians and a few of us in the south, too. I skipped the regular meaty kebabs and tried this vegetarian one simply because the name said it was a Poush special. It was a great start to the meal – crispy edges, soft inside and the taste of sauteed onions and herbs was present in every bite! Different from the creamy, satisfying rajma I’m used to.

poush special kebab

Kokur Seekh Kanti – Boneless chicken in a smoky tomato gravy is always bound to be a crowd pleaser. What would have made it much better was if the chicken wasn’t as hard and chewy as it was. I felt the presentation could have used a little work, too.

kokur seekh kanti poush mumbai

Trami – I had a fabulous introduction to Kashmiri cuisine through the Wazwan, a multi course feast prepared during Kashmiri weddings and served on a copper thali called a Trami. To call it a meal would be an understatement, it is nothing short of a meaty celebration. The ‘half-trami’ comprises of 5 starters and 5 main dishes that serve 2.

I was a little surprised on seeing 5 starter pieces served around a heap of rice. Nadier Palak Tikki was fenugreek cutlet of sorts, sort of like a dal wada or a dry cutlet. It was similar to a dal wada in looks and texture but the strong herbal taste of fenugreek was the prime differentiation.

trami wazwan poush mumbai

Fried chicken was yet another starter – it looked red hot but was mild in taste and, unlike the kokur seekh kanti, quite succulent. Next up, seekh kebab – melt-in-the-mouth minced mutton marinated and grilled on skewers over coal, keeping the delicate crunch of onions in the meat for texture.

The most interesting starter was the kabargah, which I learnt were ribs of a young lamb cooked in a special blend of milk and spices and then fried. It comes absolutely bone-dry and tastes as if it had been dried in the sun for days. I really got down and dirty eating this Kashmiri delicacy, with its crispy edges and sinewy meat that took quite a lot of effort to get off the bone. The best way to eat this is without any inhibitions!

Lastly, we sampled methi maaz which stood out for being the only gravy starter. This aromatic, spicy curry had tiny fatty chunks of mutton and generous amounts of fenugreek. The rice helped balance out the fiery spices here, but made us so full that we didn’t anticipate how to tackle the 5 mains.

that goan girl poush

Among the 5 main dishes I mopped up with tandoori roti, I loved the hearty Rogan Josh best! This signature bright red lamb dish had robust flavours and the softest meat soaked in rich, flavour-packed gravy. Goshtaba was another first for me. It was a dish of tough, tightly formed mutton balls cooked in a mildly tempered curd gravy. A tasty bowl of rajma was the only familiar dish I knew of. Nadier Palak added a whole new taste profile thanks to the lotus stem-spinach gravy and broke up the meat and spice overload. Lastly, Ruwangan Kokur also featured which was a chicken dish cooked in a tomato gravy with ample seasoning with kashmiri chillies.

trami kashmiri food

When we were too stuffed to breathe, the waiter bought out an elaborate spouted copper teapot with water and a vessel called a Tash Naer to wash our hands in and finally, dessert comprised of a simple Phirni in a clay dish.

phirni poush mumbai

No Kashmiri meal is complete without Kahwa, a strong, fragrant, absolutely delicious green tea. While I’m not a fan of green tea, the taste of cardamom, nuts, saffron and apples really cleansed my palate and was soul-warming to say the least. Loved every drop of it!

kahwa poush mumbai

That comes to the end of my elaborate, scrumptious meal at Poush in Kurla. If you’re based in the Western Suburbs or SoBo, it may seem like a tremendous task to travel all the way to Kurla, but for die-hard food lovers, it is worth the trip! Poush also delivers all across Mumbai within 1-4 hours, depending on where you’re based.

Address: S-25, Floor 2, Phoenix Market City, LBS Road, Kurla, Mumbai

Cost for 2 – Rs. 2000/-

Hope you enjoyed reading this! I’ll keep you posted on my latest food discoveries on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too!

Note – I was invited to review Poush, and my meal was sponsored. However, views, as always, are my own.

How are you doing, guys?

After a quiet monsoon season of catching up on work and building my marketing agency, I’ve suddenly found myself drowning in blog posts. Just two months ago, things seemed to have stagnated and this blog, That Goan Girl, seemed to have plateaued. But post my trip home to Goa, where I reviewed at least half a dozen restaurants, I’m back in Mumbai and it’s literally raining collaborations and feature requests again. While my pickiness about who I feature here and talk to you about does filter a lot of brands/restaurants out, there are quite a few that are worth talking about.

Pa Pa Ya is one of them! Casual, yet fine-dining, luxurious, yet edgy, Zorawar Kalra’s restaurant has been on my radar for the longest time. His other restaurants, Masala Library and Farzi Cafe are both mighty impressive, and employ the concept of molecular gastronomy, of which, he is the master.

pa pa ya ambience

AMBIENCE

I’ve peeked in at Pa Pa Ya’s Lower Parel outlet as I’ve walked past on many occasions and boy, does it ooze glamour! My review was held at the Colaba outlet and it was just as chic! This dimly lit modern Asian bistro had touches of crimson and an ample amount of their hexagon motifs everywhere. While downstairs is much more spacious, especially with the high ceiling, it is not quite the case upstairs.

pa pa ya ambience colaba

SERVICE

The service was quick, the staff was knowledgeable, but for the life of me, I couldn’t understand a word my waiter said. He literally spoke so fast that after a couple of dishes arrived, whenever I saw him approach with something new, I kept the menu ready for him to simply point out what the dish was. Anyway, I can’t deny that the knowledge was all there, because whenever I asked him what seasoning was used, he would rattle off without any hesitation.

FOOD

What makes Zorawar Kalra’s many restaurants stand out is that for the longest time, he’s been redefining what it means to cook ‘authentic’ food. Not quite traditional, not quite modern, most of the food plays with flavors from other cultures, creating an entirely new take on cuisines that have long remained the same. His brilliant knowledge of molecular gastronomy and one look at the menu confirms that here too, it’s all about experimentation. Here’s what I tried from the long and confusing 16-page menu.

Crispy Lotus Root – We were first brought the Amuse Bouche – a basil compressed watermelon in lemongrass and chilly foam served on a seashell with some smoking dry ice below. It popped like a bubble bursting in my mouth and released all its delicious flavour, making way for the Lotus Root that was brought quickly after.

crispy lotus roots

Sticky, sweet, slightly caramelized and just a slight hint of spice! The crispy lotus root from Pa Pa Ya is so crispy, you can break it with a satisfying *snap*

I’m so addicted to crispy starters, and this one was no exception! It came with a cool, creamy avocado dip for balance.

Sushi Tree – Sushi lovers like myself have often wished that this Japanese staple would grow on trees, and at Pa Pa Ya, they do! Various types of colourful nigiri are placed on the branches of this wooden tree and at the base are pickled ginger and wasabi. Apart from the traditional tuna and salmon sushi with caviar on top, there were two interesting nigiri as well. I particularly liked the ‘carbon sushi with rice balls’ which are coloured jet black with squid ink and had rice-crispy-balls on top for crunch. Another great ‘fruit’ of the tree was spicy tuna roll with seaweed that had a 7 powdered-spice mix coated on the sides. Loved every bite!

sushi tree pa pa ya colaba

sushi tree pa pa ya

Lamb and Mandarin Bee Hun – This looked like a piece of art! Translucent steamed potato and rice wrappers stuffed with mandarin flavoured lamb was cooked to perfection. It was served with a tiny bit of black bean sauce which worked wonders in elevating the dish.

lamb mandarin bee hun

Kale and Pakchoy Gaozi – This may be a hit with the vegetarians, but I wasn’t a fan. The delicate mushroom parcels were served with a crispy-starchy potato shell. Presentation wise it was quite messy – random splotches of sauce on the plate with microgreens strewn around carelessly. The waiter suggested rolling the mushroom in the papad-like coverings and while that added texture, it was pretty strange, I must admit.

Beet Infused Dim Sum – A colourful twist to dimsum, Pa Pa Ya kept it natural with bright pink beet infused wrappers stuffed with sautéed leeks, chestnuts, celery and spring onions. It was served with yuzu soya foam on top as garnish and looked refreshingly different. The flavours here seemed very Indian and it could be the use of spices. It was good, but not wow. What saved it for me was that texture wise, silken wrappers paired with the crispy filling was interesting.

beet infused dimsum pa pa ya

Pla Samrot Gung – I looove sweet-and-sour flavour profiles so the Pla Samrot Gung was a hit in my books. You may find the flavour here overlapping with many of the dishes on the menu though. Plump tiger prawns were coated in piquant Thai sauce, served on a bed of pea sauce with a beautiful dehydrated slice of pineapple for garnish which was dry and chewy at the same time. Ah-mazing!

pla samrot gung pa pa ya

Pork Belly Skewers – Again, mildly sweet but oh, how buttery!! This is Pa Pa Ya’s version of Japanese Pork Belly Skewers and it is glazed with mirin and soy sauce. Chargrilled, slightly sticky and utterly melt-in-your-mouth good, this was simply irresistible. Check out the presentation!

pork skewers papaya

pork skewers pa pa ya

Wasabi Rice – Not something I’d ordinarily order, but I’ve had some good luck going with the staff’s suggestions and once again, this one was a win! Don’t let the name scare you away, this dish won’t set your nostrils aflame. The rice is slightly sticky, fragrant and with an ever-so-slight tinge of wasabi. The tiny diced bell peppers added colour and bite to it.

wasabi rice pa pa ya

Lamb Rendang Curry – Its hard picking a favourite dish here, but this one came out tops. To call the meat ‘tender’ would be an understatement – it literally fell off the bone at the slightest touch. That gravy, guys!! Mind blowing! Infused with strong spices with a dash of coconut cream, it was irresistible I didn’t like the lachha paratha it was served with, but then I like my rotis fully cooked – so it comes down to personal taste on that front. Definitely don’t leave Pa Pa Ya without digging into this one.

lamb rendang pa pa ya

Pad Thai Noodles – Unlike the other items that were either sweet-ish or rich, this one was quite basic in comparison. Tossed noodles with scrambled egg, peanuts and capsicum and slightly on the oily side.

pad thai noodles pa pa ya

Braised Sliced Chicken in Chilly Sauce – As I write this, around a fortnight after visiting Pa Pa Ya, nothing about this dish stands out. I’d definitely skip this on the next visit because there are stellar items on the menu and this one doesn’t quite match up.

chicken chilly sauce pa pa ya

Flaming Chocolate Ball – Pa Pa Ya’s signature dessert has very ordinary elements put together to form a whimsical creation. Scoops of ice cream inside a chocolate ball, some cookie crumble, nuts, whipped cream, orange liqueur, chunks of chocolate brownie and a bit of chocolate ganache. It is set ablaze with 15 mls of alcohol and the blue flames slowly reveal the ice cream within. Taste-wise it wasn’t Pa Pa Ya worthy, but it did add some theatre! The video of its sapphire blue flames are on my Instagram page.

flaming chocolate ball pa pa ya

At Pa Pa Ya, the food speaks, and how! It is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. The restaurant takes any notions you have of Asian Food and turns it around, giving you an experience you’ll never forget.

Address: Hotel Diplomat, Whitehouse Building, 24-26, B. K. Boman Behram Marg, Apollo, Bund, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001

Cost for 2: Rs. 3000/-

See you next time! Until then, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and check out my last posts on The Oak Barrel and Caravela Cafe

xoxo

P.S.- I was invited to review Pa Pa Ya, and my meal was sponsored. However, views, as always, are my own.

Whew!

I’ve finally come to the end of my string of restaurant reviews in Goa. From Tio Tillys to Yaki Zushi, Marriott to Grand Hyatt, Caravela Cafe to Cluck Tales – this trip sure had me piling on the kilos.

the oak barrel

However, I was certain that I left the best for last when I checked out The Oak Barrel in Miramar with my brother one evening. Situated a few minutes before the Miramar Circle, the restaurant is fairly new and hard to miss as you drive past.

oak barrel goa interiors

The Oak Barrel caters to the older generation. On the day we visited, multiple tables had, what looked like 30-year-classmate-reunions happening. The energy, laughter and merriment was truly contagious.

AMBIENCE

The two-level restaurant has warm, tasteful interiors with a very relaxed ‘lounge’ feel to it. Downstairs the tables have high-stools, whereas upstairs the seating options vary between long couches for large groups and very low chairs for parties of twos and threes. The chairs aren’t the comfiest in the world, especially for tall folks like we are.

oak barrel restaurant

A glitzy bar greets you as you enter and as you make your way upstairs, you’ll find a waist-high glass-paneled cubicle in the center from where one could stand and look down over the bar. This area had beautiful paper lanterns in all shapes and sizes and added some romance and colour to the otherwise earthy space. Lovely!!

the oak barrel panjim goa

There were live crooners, Adrian and Dylan, the day I visited and they belted out one nostalgic hit after the other. Literally every table was singing along to MLTR songs. It almost seemed like one big jam-up session.

oak barrel goa live music

SERVICE

Kudos to the service staff! They were so prompt, attentive and experienced. I have to mention the young restaurant manager, Nathan, who handled the entire restaurant seamlessly, while finding time to mingle with each table and even serve patrons their meals. Complete hands-on attitude.

FOOD

Being a Pan Asian Restaurant, the menu is a mix of Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese food and the like. Nathan tells me that the food here doesn’t promise to be authentic, but it does promise to deliver on taste without compromising on the quality of ingredients. So while you won’t find “bland soupy” South East Asian fare in all its authenticity, you can sample some Indo-style twists that are more suited to the Indian palate.

Go Green + Passion Hunter – The cocktails were turned into mocktails for us teetotallers. I tried the Green Apple, a drink made with cucumber and green apple. Clean flavours, very hydrating and you could feel the coolness with every sip. My brother picked the Passion Hunter which was basically a mojito with passion fruit extract. Again, it was quite refreshing and tropical and we kept sipping each other’s drinks throughout.

Prawn Har Ghao – How good do these look? Prawn Har Gao are also known as crystal shrimp dumplings because the chunks of shrimp can be seen through the translucent wrapping. Being minimally spiced, you can taste all the fresh, juicy flavours. If you like momos, you’ll love these!

prawn hargao oak barrel goa

Exotic Veg Dimsum – Emerald green in colour and with such a gorgeous sheen! These were the first green dimsums I’ve seen and they taste as appetizing as they look. Just like the prawn har ghao, these were super juicy, yet firm. I couldn’t help but notice that even though I picked one up so many times to get that perfect photograph, it didn’t break apart like most do.

exotic veg dimsum oak barrel goa

Got to mention those sauces though – the dimsum was served with three sauces that were just spectacular! It’s hard to choose a favourite but the honey-pepper sauce had just a little more edge. I could drink that bowl of dipping sauce and I’m not even kidding!

Tossed Mushroom Trio – Every bite holds something new because this dish has so many textures. I bet I probably had a quizzical expression when I tried the Tossed Mushroom Trio because it just kept me guessing throughout. Succulent, buttery button mushroom, chewy Shittake, jelly-like-yet-crunchy black fungus mushroom, spongy-looking yet unusually crispy white fungus mushroom and smooth straw mushrooms all tossed in mild spices. It’s a party in your mouth!

Home style Pork – This one would pair well with drinks for sure. It was dry and just the right amount of salty to make it a perfect dish for a rainy day! Don’t think too much about ordering this one, it would make a good side dish for just about any rice-curry dish you order.

home style pork the oak barrel goa

Laksa – More like Khao Suey than Laksa, but there is a fine line between the two. This one-pot-wonder will strike every single tastebud with its vibrant flavour. Thick, luscious coconut-milk-based gravy with just a tinge of an elaborate spice mix loaded with noodles, veggies, chicken cubes and egg, garnished with tofu. I’ve always said that if something could be called a bowl of happiness, this would be it!

laksa the oak barrel goa

Massaman Curry and Jasmine Rice – The flavours slightly overlapped with the Laksa, but then again, this was a coconut-milk based gravy dish too. I’ve saved the best for last here and still thank my stars that Nathan recommended the Massaman Curry to us. This one deserves an Oscar! The lamb was meltingly tender, the curry was luxurious, complex, flavourful and we just couldn’t stop eating it, even after being so stuffed. Paired with some sticky jasmine rice, this was divine!

Coconut Caramel Custard – I didn’t think that the quintessential caramel custard could get any better, but the delicious hint and smell of coconut made it downright irresistible. We couldn’t stop digging in!

coconut caranel custard theioakbarrel

Homemade Ice Cream – We tried two flavours, cinnamon and coconut-jaggery and hands-down vote for the coconut! Dense, not too sweet and the taste takes centre stage.

Such a gem, this place! We left so pleased and satisfied! If you’re in Goa, definitely check them out and thank me later!

Address: The Oak Barrel. Near the Times Building. Dayanand Bandodkar Marg, Miramar, Panjim, Goa 

Cost for 2: Rs. 1,200/-

Got any restaurants or hotels you think I should feature on That Goan Girl? Drop me a comment or holla on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and I’ll be glad to drop by!

xoxo

Jade

P.S. My meal was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own

A lot of folks from the Saligao-Sangolda-Porvorim area, and even beyond would have dined at Alua, Salgolda. Back in the day (getting old, I know), there weren’t a lot of dining options in Saligao, my hometown, and almost every occasion would be celebrated with lunch or dinner at Alua.

Hailing from the Alua family, Chef Amory D’souza started a restaurant of his own in the very same property called Yaki Zushi. Chef Amory has worked in some of Goa’s best hotels and soaked up all he could when Japanese chefs came to visit the kitchens of these hotels. He understood the value of good quality seafood when it comes to Japanese cuisine and picked up all the techniques to enhance his experience.

yaki zushi goa

AMBIENCE

The red and black themed restaurant leans more towards modern sensibilities than tradition, however it has a lot of oriental themed décor in places. Hanging paper lamps, bamboo accents and an intricate Japanese panelled door cut-out framing the entrance are a few of them. The only giveaway is the large Portuguese-Goan shell windows that add a bit of the Indo feel to the Asian restaurant. I visited during the day and sat in the spacious restaurant outside for more natural light.

SERVICE

Apart from my table and another, there were no customers that day, perhaps since it was on the afternoon of a weekday. The service was prompt and quick but servers tended to mutter the dishes they were bringing out and it wasn’t really audible most of the time. They were keen and offered help at a single glance.

FOOD

Yaki Zushi is making a name for itself as the best Sushi place in Goa. Apart from Japanese, it also serves some fabulous Thai and Chinese food. South-East-Asian fare can be a put off for many since it is riddled with ideas of being bland, raw and if you want quality, expensive. Yaki Zushi turns all that around with items that suit every palate and suggests dishes based on the diner’s openness to trying out new things.

The menu features a mix of local favourites and traditional items such as Manchaow Soup, Tom Kha Soup, starters such as pork chilli, wantons, thai chicken wings; dimsum, sushi, nigiri, sashimi, tempenyaki, rices and noodles.

Here’s what I tried:

Guava Mary

The bar menu is vast has a little of every spirit you could think of. They have a decent selection of cocktails and mocktails. I picked the Guava Mary, a mocktail made of guava juice, lime and tobacco sauce. I quite enjoyed it but wish the straw was bigger so all the herbs wouldn’t keep getting stuck in it. I couldn’t help notice how the straw was shaped like a bamboo shoot. Attention to detail – I like that!

Spicy Crab Meat Soup

Thick and piping hot – just the way soup should be! Soft chunks of crab continually made its presence felt in every bite and I could get a mild taste of rice wine. However, it’s creamy appearance was deceptive since the heat was so overwhelming! I do have a moderate tolerance for spice, but this made me feel like one of Denarys’ fire-breathing dragons (waddup, GoT reference!) Order if you dare!

spicy crab meat soup yaki zushi

Satay Kai

Totally fell in love with this starter! Slightly crispy chicken was skewered on sticks and had a delicious, mild taste of mustard oil. Complete lip-smacker, this one – and it came with a side of peanut sauce. The flavour combo worked so well together! Kids will definitely enjoy it.

satay kai yaku zushi

satay kai yaki zushi

Prawn Sushi Roll

The menu comprises of sushi options for all kinds of people –the die-hard fans and those who for whom the thought of sushi is a complete turn off. Chef Amory and his team try to figure out where you stand on the ‘sushi-meter’ and suggest either authentic sushi dishes or ones that can gradually wean you in to the cuisine.

I tried Prawn Sushi and while I love the taste and flavour of raw (cured) fish, this one was slightly different. The prawns were coated in delicious crispy tempura batter before being rolled in sticky rice. Thereafter, sesame seeds sprinkle on top added more texture. This dish is a must-try for sushi lovers and newbies alike.

prawn tempura sushi yaki zushi

Norweigian Salmon Ceviche

Yaki Zushi imports most of its fish from Norway and the quality is apparent! I got a small tasting portion of the Norwegian Salmon – which is essentially raw salmon cured in citrus juice with their special seasoning. The ultra-thin layers of fish were so plump and juicy and soaked up all the refreshing zingy flaours so it had a beautiful salty-sweet taste. It came with a small mound of pickled ginger to be eaten sparingly with the fish.

Prawn Teppenyaki

Although I visited Yaki Zushi weeks ago, I can still taste that delicious sauce as if I just ate it for dinner. This BBQ-style dish was stellar! Jumbo-sized prawns were butterflied, grilled and doused in awesome sweet-sticky sauce. Crispy, soft, garlic, honey – all the textures and flavours were spot on! You won’t go wrong ordering this, for sure!

prawn tempenyaki

Chicken Sizzler

I wouldn’t have ordinarily picked a sizzler in a restaurant known for Asian food, but it was presented to me to try. While the chicken was great, the rice was quite dry. I’d suggest passing on the sizzler and gorging on some pad thai, pork chilli or sushi (of course) instead.

sizzler yaki zushi

WHAT I LOVED

The prawn tempura sushi and prawn tempenyaki – go ahead and give it a try!

Good portions of food per dish at a reasonable cost

Personalized recommendations – It’s not every day you come across a restaurant that’s so dedicated to a cuisine, that they do their best to ease you into it.

WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED

The menus were in not-so-great condition and could do with a revamp

P.S – here’s a shot of me goofing around 🙂

thatgoangirlSadly, I didn’t get a chance to sample the desserts since the restaurant was closing for the afternoon. Anyway, the place is so close to home that I may drop in again to try some.

Meal for 2 – Rs. 1000 approx

Address – Shop 251, Bella Vista Waddo, Near Alua. Sangolda, Goa

Let me know if you liked this review! Lots more coming up! Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a preview of the next one!

Until then!

xoxo

P.S. My meal was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own

If you drive along the Candolim-Sinquerim Road, you’ll undoubtedly see a series of new restaurants that have replaced ones you’ve dined at before. There’s literally no stretch of road in Goa that has a dining scene as booming as this one, and it continues to flourish, enticing those seeking a food-binge. Many of these potentially amazing new finds come at the end of an exasperating travel experience since the area’s tiny road is always choc-a-bloc with traffic.

Tio Tilly’s has that advantage – it’s located right at the start of the road and gives you more time in the restaurant, sinking your teeth into a delicious burger and less time flinging cuss-words at floral-shirt-wearing-tourists from other parts of the country who find it hard to follow traffic rules.

tio tillys candolim

I visited Tio Tilly’s a couple of weeks ago – a restaurant that’s barely a month old and is hard to miss, with its sunny cottage-like yellow exterior and hanging white bird cages. Everything about it looks neat – even the board out in the front indicating that Tio Tilly’s also contains a resort at the back by the name of Resort Tio.

AMBIENCE

The restaurant is decently sized, housing around 8 tables with a bar in one corner. It is open and airy and even though I visited on a hot, sunny afternoon, I didn’t feel the absence of an air-conditioner, an amenity that usually plays a deciding factor on where I dine on humid days like that one. The theme is quite rustic and I love the fact that the tiled roof is kept intact which is something you don’t see in most restaurants like these anymore.

tio tillys interiors

The tables tops comprise of slabs of wood in various shapes and sizes. In fact, even the hanging chandelier-of-sorts is a slab of wood with bulbs hanging at various heights. I’d love to see the place in the evening, it looks so much warmer and more rustic with dim lighting, as seen in pictures.

tio tillys interiors

There are a couple of tables and chairs laid outside as well, but only a couple of foreign tourists decided to sit out there in the blazing afternoon heat (don’t ask me why). Since it is situated right on the main road, the restaurant would definitely be noisy during tourist season.

I’ve got to mention the nostalgic music! All the 90’s boy-bands I’ve once loved played back-to-back! Yaay!

tio tillys view

SERVICE

Tio Tilly’s is owned and run by two Goan lads, Adit and Tylden, who gave up their corporate jobs in Mumbai to fulfill a dream of owning a restaurant. While the staff are courteous, the management lends a personal touch by interacting with guests, suggesting things off the menu and looking for ways to improve all aspects of the restaurant.

tio tillys bar

FOOD

The menu isn’t too vast, but has more than enough options to choose from. Finger foods, shumai (open dumplings), noodles, burgers, thin-crust pizzas and pasta are the main categories with a handful of dishes under each. Sadly, there were no desserts on the menu yer, but there are plans to introduce them shortly. Here’s what I sampled when I reviewed their food with Mum.

Thousand Island Crispy Fish Burger

Tio Tilly’s is quickly gaining popularity for their burgers and they are pretty darn good! I tried the Thousand Island Crispy Fish burger – something I wouldn’t ordinarily pick, but went with on Tylden’s suggestion. Burgers generally scream ‘unhealthy,’ but this fish one was so light and low on fat, making it a good pick for healthy eaters. I couldn’t get enough of that crispy batter and 2 home-made sauces on the side. The bun didn’t break apart and it wasn’t messy – which are huge pluses according to me! Unlike many fish burgers, it didn’t have that fishy smell, either – could definitely pass off as a chicken burger!

BBQ Chicken Twist Pizza

Tylden tells me that his chef used to work in a Pizza joint I frequent here in Mumbai. And it showed, because this was one yummy pizza! Great thin crust, stringy cheese, smokey BBQ sauce, and tons of mushrooms and chicken! Value for money, too, if you’re on a budget and are going in with a friend.

Butter Basic Prawns

Whenever I used watch those foreign cooking shows and see chefs cook seafood or meat in a little oil, sprinkled with salt, pepper and herbs, I wonder – “where is all the flavour? How can protein taste as lip-smacking as they make it out to be without all the masala?” And then I come across dishes like the butter basic prawns at Tio Tilly’s! Just tossed in a little butter for as little time as possible, these prawns were soft, ultra-succulent, melt-in-your-mouth good and all that buttery-infusion came through in every bite. Definitely ordering this when I go back.

Tio Kaku’s Shumai Prawn

Shumai is a traditional Chinese dumpling but unlike a momo, it is open, and looks like a rose. The filling is usually ground to a paste and it is served steamed, with hot dipping sauces. Unlike the butter basic prawns, the filling here wasn’t really moist and flavourful and I found it a little dry.

tio tillys shumai

Pink Pasta

I’m a huge pasta lover – the cheesier, the better! While I’ve been hearing of some restaurants carrying pink pasta on their menu, I’ve never had a chance to taste some. Pink Pasta is essentially the red and white sauces mixed together – which is a little disappointing because it isn’t really pink at all. There’s nothing wrong with the pasta, per se, at Tio Tilly’s – I’d have liked it to be creamier, and well, pinker! There are better options on the menu, so I’d suggest passing on this.

That comes to the end of the food, but I also had a brief tour of Resort Tio which is located just behind the restaurant, I thought I’d share some of the images in case you or someone you know is looking for convenient, affordable accommodation along the Candolim beach stretch.

The resort is sprawled around a squeaky-clean pool and houses around a dozen rooms currently. Like I said, the entire place is very new and there’s still a lot of plans that need to be implemented – such as doing up the open kitchen/bar by the pool and furnishing another building in the compound to open up additional rooms.

resort tio

I immediately noticed how well-kept the property was and there was attention-to-detail maintained. Paintings in the corridors, the towels formed into little animal shapes and thoughtful interiors for starters. It would be nice if there were some beach beds by the pool, but space may be a constraint here.

resort tio goa

The rooms are pretty basic as you can see, which is good for a budget traveler. They’re spacious and the architecture provided for a kitchen in each of the rooms which will now be turned into something else… we’ll have to wait and see. The washrooms are good too- clean, yet basic -and if you’re anything like I am, that’s the first thing you want to know before booking a room for a holiday – so you can take my word for it here.

Resort Tio also provides complimentary breakfast at Tio Tilly’s and will soon set up a buffet breakfast on the lawn a little distance away from the pool

resort tio room

WHAT I LIKED

The food – Great burgers and pizzas at a reasonable cost. It would be nice to have some a few more vegetarian options under both these sections. I was informed that the restaurant also caters to people who have requests apart from what is on the menu and will also serve Indian food.

Location – The location and maintenance of the restaurant is spot on.

WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED

The decor of the restaurant – While ‘rustic’ may be the theme of the restaurant, it does look a little too bare and lacking in colour. Some table mats, table decor, colourful posters etc would make the restaurant look more inviting in the day, too!

I’ll need to make another trip to try the dessert – I sure do hope they have Serra Dura on the menu and some great cheesecake! Maybe lava cake too. Ok, I’m getting carried away here!

Address: Opposite to Meridien, Gaura Vaddo, Calangute, Goa

Cost for 2: Rs. 1000/-

Give it a shot and let me know what you think. In the meanwhile, check out my last post and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. More restaurants from Goa to be featured soon!

See ya later!

P.S. My meal was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own

It’s easy for a tiny country to be lost among two giants, each with a rich and diverse culture and cuisine of their own. That’s Nepal for you. With India and China, two culinary greats by its side, Nepalese cuisine seems almost lost, forgotten. The cuisine itself isn’t one that fights for attention, but is mild and restrained, with simple flavours that wow the palate in a way that Indian and Chinese explosions of flavour cannot.

Nepalese cuisine made a quiet entrance into Mumbai’s competitive food industry just a few weeks ago, off the boisterous Link Road in Andheri. Mumbai’s first Nepali restaurant, called Yomari, is named after the traditional dessert of the land. Not only was it my first time trying the cuisine, but also, the first time I was the only blogger called to review it! Double win!

AMBIENCE

Yomari is a tiny 4-table restaurant in Andheri West, Mumbai and a few steps will take you from the main entrance to the kitchen. A tiled, covered patio in the front suggest that a couple of more tables will be added for outdoor seating. Inside, it is minimally decorated with Nepalese trinkets, a statue of an elephant and over the kitchen door, a wall to wall back-lit image of the Himalayas.

SERVICE

The restaurant being so new, there were no servers been hired yet. I’ll update this section on the service when I visit again.

yomari mumbai

FOOD

The menu features traditional Nepali staples such as Jhol (soups), Khaja Ghor (snacks), salads, ‘tummy full meals’ which comprise of various proteins over rice, Momos (of course!), Sadeko (munchies), Sekuwas and Chhoilas (Grilled/BBQ styled appetizers).

Soya Sadeko – For starters, I was served a traditional cold dish called sadeko with puffed rice, bamboo shoot pickle, and a glass full of some epic chaas! Unlike other soya items that are eaten with rice or roti, you just pop these soya chunks into your mouth. Right from this starter onwards, the food at Yomari kept me guessing what spices and techniques were at work!

soya sadeko yomari mumbai

Chicken Sadeko – While this chicken starter as well as the earlier soya one was novel, I liked this one slightly more than soya sadeko as it had more flavour and was so tempting! Chicken is shredded, tossed and further sautéed in spices and herbs to renew its rich flavour that appears almost like a salad. This was served with crunchy, beaten rice and tart radish pickle that I absolutely couldn’t get enough of!

chicken sadeko yomari mumbai

Shrimp Salad – Seafood in Nepal?? Hmm.. I’m not sure about that one, but I kid you not, these prawns were probably the best I’ve had in Mumbai, and they weren’t even ‘Goa-style’ spiced and fried like the way I usually like my prawns! Cooked to perfection and minimally spiced, the prawns were steamed and served with an assortment of spring veggies, sprinkled over with pepper and herbs and tossed in a delicious, zippy dressing. Bang on perfect!

shrimp salad yomari mumbai

Chicken Chop – I loved how light and delicious these starters were! They reminded me of the ones Mum makes at home, however the spices were much milder like Nepali food is supposed to be. These crumb fried minced chicken and mashed potato chops were served with a spicy chutney and salad and I could have easily eaten half a dozen.

chicken cutlets yomari mumbai

Chicken Momos – From high-end nibble restaurants to dingy bhattis, momos are ubiquitously popular everywhere, especially up north. Maybe I’ve eaten too many commercialized momos, but these seemed a tad too bland for my liking. Either way, the chilli dipping sauce gave it a boost.

chicken momos yomari mumbai

Mushroom and Cheese Momos – These were among the freshest mushroom momos I’ve eaten. They were sooo juicy and the chilli sauce paired well with them, too. Mushrooms being soggier than chicken, all the delicious flavour got infused in the translucent shells as well, making it even juicier!

mushroom cheese momos

Mutton Sekhwa – Sekhwa is a quintessential street food item which is sort of like satay or kebabs, but without the skewer. Like most of the dishes served, this one came with that scary-looking chilli on top, but it wasn’t spicy at all! What was intriguing was that it was neither saucy or dry, grilled or fried – the Sekhwa was just the right mix of everything with fragrant herbs and ground spices! I’ll even go out on a limb to say that kebab’s got nothing on the Sekhwa! It’s easy to see why this is a local favourite. It definitely was mine!

mutton sekuwa yomari mumbai

Mutton over Rice – Maybe I was just a little too stuffed at this point, but I felt that the flavours of the mutton sekhwa overlapped a lot with the mutton over rice. The meat, however, was much more tender as compared to the Sekhwa and the flavours were a lot milder. Served over steamed rice, this one is a meal in itself.

Yomari – Finally! I couldn’t wait to try these fish-shaped dessert dumplings after which the restaurant is named. Available with two filling choices – dried fruit and chocolate, it is prepared to worship the goddess of grain, Annapurna during the full moon after the harvest. I tried the dried fruit one which had a mix of coconut, jaggery, dried fruits and nuts served in a warm, thickened milk. This isn’t one of those indulgent desserts, and it’s mild sweetness didn’t send me on a guilt trip – so thumbs up!

yomari andheri

Food lovers who want to try something unconventional, yet traditional at the same time, round up your friends and head over to Yomari! It wont be long before you’ll have to wait for a table at this little gem of a place!

Meal for 2: Rs. 600

Address: Sterling CHS, Sundervan, Lokhandwala, Andheri West, Mumbai

Until next time!

P.S. My meal was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own

I’ve always believed that India’s real riches are the diversity of food it offers – food that’s as multi-flavoured as the country itself.

Outsiders may generalize Indian food to be just about curry, whereas even in India itself, we write off North Indian food as butter-chicken-naan and south Indian food as dosa-idli-sambar. But food in India is more than a means to satiate hunger, it is the way to an Indian’s heart. Any Indian!

At the Marriott Goa, the kitchens are abuzz everyday from the 14th till the 20th of August 2017 to bring these different flavours, tastes and associated emotions to life! With one day dedicated to the cuisine of one region, they’re dishing up the most elaborate spread of regional cuisine under one roof! It helps that the team of chefs hails from all parts of the country, and on the day I visited, I had the richest, most decadent cuisine of all – Punjabi!!

Head Chef Pawan Chennam greeted me and introduced me to Chef Gurneet – the man behind the dinner for the day. Punjabi food is luxury, in every sense of the word and the spread of food from salads to mains and even desserts was jaw-dropping! They even went so far as to bring the vibrant madness of Punjab’s streets to the hotel, with carts selling chaat, corn on the cob, golas and chole kulchas!

AMBIANCE

Until now, I had only visited JW Marriott properties. JW Marriott is a tier higher than the regular Marriott brand that recently took over Starwood Hotels. The difference in ambiance was apparent right away. The quiet, luxurious interiors in earthy and gold tones I was used to in Mumbai’s JW properties was absent and in it’s place, loud coloured furniture in red and green. There was a lot of red and blue neon lighting which was a bit jarring at first.

marriott interiors restaurant

The decor had a ‘Punjabi dhaba’ theme that was carried through in the truck/cart styled set up and huuuge utensils of biryanis that I’ve only seen before in videos of the langar (communal meal) at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. On the other hand, the desserts were daintily placed on hanging swings.

marriott interiors

culinary journey of india marriott goa

Given the fact that the theme of the restaurant would be changed every single day in keeping with the region, the level of attention given to decor was impressive! Overall, the ambiance was super casual and noisy, more like a pub on a Saturday night, minus the music.

marriott food festival interiors

marriott punjab food

SERVICE

This was one place where I felt that everyone, from the staff to the chefs, were genuinely happy to be there, doing their jobs and giving more to it than was expected of them. The service was extremely warm and welcoming! They kept checking up on us, suggesting and bringing the next course from the buffet which was a few feet away – right to the table. I was quite surprised to find out that most of them already follow me on Instagram!

FOOD

Like I mentioned earlier, I was glad to have made it for the Punjabi feast! I’m sure the cuisines of other states would have been equally fantastic, but Punjab is a state you can eat your way through. Dollops of ghee, cream and butter, soft, tender meat, rich spices, deep flavours and indulgent sweets – all of it makes for a hearty meal!

Here’s a fraction of the spread during the Culinary Journey of India food festival at Marriott, Goa

buffet marriott goa

gurneet dhaba marriott goa

Never seen a spread of pickles like this before!

pickles marriot goa

salads marriott goa

Coming to the food I actually sampled, Marriott once again leaves me torn when it comes to choosing my favouirte dish. Every time I thought I had found it, the next dish outdid the last.

We started off with Chole Kulcha, a quintessential street food item that I’ve never tried before, simply because I always run straight towards the Chole Bhature. It was a meal in itself! Masaledaar chickpeas mounted on a soft, flour bread called kulcha, garnished with onions, tomatoes and a squeeze of lime. For those who love spicy food, this is as good as it gets!

chole kulcha marriott goa

Melt-in-your-mouth galouti kebabs from the Awadhi table followed! What distinguishes this one among other kebabs is that the tenderized minced meat and mild spices are formed into patties and roasted on the tava. My favourite kebabs are Malai chicken – so heavenly!!

galouti kebab

Mahi Amritsari followed. You can tell how crispy that batter is by just looking at it, right? Inside was still piping hot and flaky Mahi fish. Love these bite-sized snacks!

atter fried fish marriott goa

What is a Punjabi meal without Dal Makhani and Naan! Rich, satisfying and so creamy, this delicious mixed lentil dal left me floored and I couldn’t get enough of that naan either!

dal makhani marriott

We tried capturing the steam on camera as we opened the flour casing over this Mutton Dum Biryani and some of you may have caught it on my Instagram stories too! Set in deep silver cauldrons, the mildly cooked mutton is added to the fragrant rice and thereafter fused together. This biryani was low on spice, light on the stomach and makes you want to keep eating it!

dum biryani mutton

My favourite dish was the Rara Ghost! If you ever go to Marriott Goa, ask them to make it for you! It tastes like ROYALTY.. seriously!! It was so good that I tried ordering Rara Ghost at 4 other places during my visit to Goa but none of them came remotely close to this one. The lighter curry in the picture is Dhaba-kukkad or to translate literally, chicken from a restaurant/stall by the highway. Pair it with that flaky Lacchha paratha, and you’ll be on Cloud 9!

rara ghost dhaba kukkad

I’m not a huge fan of kadhi (yoghurt based curry with besan doughballs) so I just nibbled this dish. While the ever-popular rajma-chawal was good, I was too star-struck with the previous courses to pay much attention to it.

kadhi pakoda

*clears throat and points below*

gajar ka halwa

How amaaaazing does that Gajar Ka Halwa look! It had a divine taste and texture of milk, carrots and nuts cooked for hours, and wasn’t dripping with ghee. The dessert spread was actually pretty vast and featured all kinds of cakes (even a gajar ka halwa cake), but I took the traditional route and tried some pinni laddo too! Pinni Laddoo is a traditional sweet eaten during winter and is made of flour, khoya, sugar and nuts. Those who don’t like very sweet desserts would enjoy this one!
pirni laddoo

Last up, Chef Gurneet got me a gola!! Wheee!

Look at that happy face after all that decadent food! Little things like these make my day!

gola

That brings me to the end of ‘Punjabi Food Day’ at the Culinary Journey of India Food Festival! One of the chefs generously asked me to visit everyday to sample every cuisine – and as much as I’d have loved to, I got to keep the waistline in check 😛

I however LOVED the concept of the food festival and it is one that will open your mind along with your taste buds. You will experience a burst of taste as you travel from one corner of the country to another with Marriott Goa. There are 2 days to go, so make your way down to Bambolim soon!

Let me know your fave Punjabi dishes in the comments below and keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Bye!

P.S. I know the pictures aren’t the best, but I did what I could given the lighting situation. <3

P.S. My meal was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own