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. 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

Inspired by the ‘daily’ or the morning newspaper, The Daily Bar and Kitchen (formerly known as simply ‘The Daily’) used to be a popular watering hole just behind Shoppers Stop in Bandra. Since they’ve undergone a renovation late last year, there’s been a lot of changes taking place at this restaurant – the latest being that they’re open for lunch all week long!

Bar comes before Kitchen at the Daily and that’s because they’ve got their drinks down to a science. While experimenting with classic drinks like Sangrias, they’ve also got refreshing cocktails and mocktails and an impressive range of alcohol!

the daily bar and kitchen

The new menu is fresh, healthy and downright delicious! Vegans will find plenty of options here –salads like Three Watermelon, Herbed Quinoa and Poached Pear & Baby Arugula is just the tip of the iceberg!

AMBIANCE

While there’s no dearth of bars and eateries in the area, the Daily Bar and Kitchen has been a long-time favourite thanks to its ability to stand out with quality and consistency. This monochrome themed restaurant has an alfresco section that’s slightly larger than the a/c section. The theme of the restaurant is upheld by posting various news articles all over, similar to the viral ones you see on Buzzfeed. Overhead as well, you’ll find sheets of news hanging from the ceiling. They have a great choice of upbeat music too.

SERVICE

The service was particularly slow on the weekend that I visited. When I entered, the place was empty and our first dish came to us quickly. From there on, the place filled up and service lacked in almost every aspect but politeness. The staff seemed a little scattered and dishes took painfully long to arrive. At one point, we were so bored that we ordered French Fries. After having main course (which again took an eternity to arrive), our French Fries arrived along with dessert.

the daily bar and kitchen menu

I will give them full marks for their recommendations though. A couple of times, we went with their selection even though we had mentally crossed it off and it was spectacular!

FOOD

Price-wise, the menu centres around Rs. 300 to Rs. 450, which is quite reasonable for the quality and quantity served. But like I said, the food took forever and a day to arrive but in most cases, it was definitely worth the wait!

Mocktails

I ordered the Midas Touch (super sweet) and Tiffany Twisted (pretty good!)

Haloumi Cheese and Watermelon Bites

I LOVED this dish and it was one of the better starters of the day. It was pretty to look at, fun to eat and was an explosion of flavour and texture. The figs give it a fabulous meat-like, yet nutty taste; the cheese was flavoursome and watermelon was sweet and juicy. Decorative dots of various sauces all over the plate and mango salsa made it visually appealing and added more flavour.

haloumi cheese and watermelon

Pan-Seared Tofu Stir-Fry

I didn’t like this one! It had a weird after-taste that was off-putting but we ate all the yummy baby bok choy on the plate.

pan seared tofu stir fry

Slow Roasted Pork Sandwich

Loved everything about this sandwich! The bread was buttery and toasted to perfection. The pork is said to be imported and I must say it was spiced wonderfully! I wouldn’t have thought that pineapple paired well with pork but it added a whole new depth of flavour. Every bite of this home-cooked-like sandwich was a pleasure!

slow roasted pork sandwiches

Buerre Noisette John Dory

I hadn’t even considered ordering this but did so on the strong recommendation of the wait staff. This was the best one at the Daily Bar and Kitchen. A Pan Roasted Australian white fish served in plum tomato and kafir lime risotto with a butter-line sauce! The tanginess and tartness of the sauce was complimented by the delicately seasoned, perfectly cooked fish. The perfect crispy skin on the fillet was brilliant and we couldn’t stop digging in. Highly recommended!

Buerre Noisette John Dory The daily bar and kitchen

Nutella Sea Salt Pancakes

The pancakes looked like more of a cake than a pancake and had more flour than nutella. It was delicious, nevertheless and I could get the saliva-inducing taste of sea salt mixed in with the chocolate. Only, after a large meal, a heavy dessert like this one was a struggle. I’m not sure if it was the long wait time or the hot pancake, but the whipped cream on top melted into a puddle of milk by the time I got it.

nutella pancake the daily bar and kitchen

Dark Chocolate Chip Waffles

The dessert selection is limited to 4 heavy items namely waffles, two kinds of pancakes and French Toast. I’d have loved to see something cream or chocolate based on the menu such as a cheesecake, sundae or panna cotta. Anyway, the waffles were decent. Could have done with some chocolate sauce!

waffles the daily bar and kitchen

Drop in for a Sunday Brunch or weekday lunch and you’ll have the place all to yourself. If you drink, you’re bound to love it!

Price for 2 – Rs. 2000 with alcohol

Address – Ground Floor Behind Shoppers Stop, SV Road, Linking Road, Bandra West

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After opening two restaurants bearing the same name in Dehradun, husband-wife duo Manoj and Ekta recently launched Best Buddy’s Café, close to Mega Mall in Oshiwara, Andheri. Here’s a look at the sunny café from my perspective!

best buddy's cafe

AMBIANCE

A large picture window allows streams of light to flow in, but that’s only the start of what makes me feel warm and happy inside. The adorably quaint restaurant has interiors that are a mix of wooden finishes, colourful thread cushions, white chandeliers and blackboards all around with motivational phrases written on them.

best buddys cafe

To add to the mix, there’s a neon sign that flashes ‘bla bla bla’ and a ‘naughty corner,’ both of which brought a smile to the faces of everyone who visited. Even the tables have a colourful mix of glasses with various condiments in bottles of various shapes and sizes. To add to the laidback-vibe, there are a board-games like UNO and Jenga to ensure you keep your phone aside and enjoy some quality time with your friends and family.

best buddys andheri

best buddys cafe

SERVICE

The service could definitely be improved. The waiters weren’t very attentive and seemed to be engrossed in each other’s company. However, the restaurant is very hygienic and the owners do make small talk with patrons whenever they can.

that goan girl best buddys cafe

FOOD

I was pleasantly surprised to see the variety of food offered at Best Buddy’s Cafe. Hot and cold drinks, coolers, slushes, shakes, smoothies, pancakes, eggs, salads, soups, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas, small bites, meaty dishes and more feature on their menu.

Kit Kat Shake

Kit Kat, like Nutella, is wonderful on top of anything! This incredibly irresistible milkshake is a creamy, smooth concoction that pairs so well with cheesy conversations with old friends.

best buddys kit kat shake

LAD Sangria

I’m not sure what LAD stands for, but this fruity drink is a great substitute for those wanting to skip indulgent shakes and coffees. It comprised of pink lemonade with a melange of fruits and herbs.

LAD Sangria Best Buddys Cafe

Peanut Butter Shake

All through childhood, I detested peanut butter. Thank God I got over that because I wouldn’t have missed this delicious shake for the world! It was so decadent that one would need a nap after drinking it. A great guilty pleasure, I must say!

Peanut Butter Shake Best Buddys Cafe

The O-Ring Shorty

After French Fries, Onion Rings are my second favourite munchies! I had given up hope of finding another place that served them after Pizza Hut took them off the menu. The only other place I’d found them at was Cream Centre, which was oily and bland! On the other end of the spectrum, Best Buddy’s Café’s Onion Rings were even better than Pizza Hut! Wonderfully spiced, so crispy and not a drop of excess oil! They were served with thick sour cream. Don’t they look good enough to make you want to lick your screen?

O ring Shorty Best Buddys Cafe

BBC Chicken Wings

These Chicken Wings in BBC’s signature BBQ sauce were sweet, smoky and sticky enough to make me very, very happy! Chicken wings are usually difficult to eat with a fork and digging into them like carnivores are the preferred way of getting all the meat. Surprisingly, these were so tender that one cut made with the fork was enough to get all the meat out. That’s saying something!!

BBQ chicken wings best Buddys Cafe

Texas Toast Sandwich

Substantial enough for a mid-day snack, this Texas Toast sandwich comes in three variations – paneer, chicken tikka and BBQ grilled chicken. I tried the Paneer one that came loaded with fresh, lightly-spiced paneer, cheese and fresh veggies. Very wholesome indeed! The golden potato wedges that came alongside were seasoned and fried to perfection too!

texas toast best buddys cafe

Chicken Shawarma

I’d say the Chicken Shawarma was one of the average dishes of the day. Not because it had anything wrong with it, but because the other dishes set the bar high! While it was creamy with a generous amount of chicken stuffing in the grilled pita roll, I missed a few things that traditional shawarmas have. The garlic taste coming through in the sauce and pickled beets inside, to name a few.

chicken shawarma best buddys cafe

Pizza Chicago Style

Thin Crust. Crispy Edges. Loaded with meat and cheese. The trio that makes a pizza great! Check out this one – ticks all the boxes, doesn’t it? It was loaded with chicken ham, sausage and salami, tender onion rings and bell peppers, olives and a few leaves on top to take away that guilty feeling.

chicago style pizza best buddys cafe

Alfredo Style Pasta

In my opinion, this dish was a bit of a let-down. Perhaps I’m more of a “pasta-so-rich-and-creamy-it-will-stop-your-heart” kinda person. I felt this one needed more cream, more garlic and more cheese.

pizza alfredo best buddys cafe

BBQ Chicken Steak

An outstanding dish right at the end. This succulent chicken breast was stuffed with olives and jalapenos and is the kind you don’t want to share. I personally loved the creamy spinach sauce at the side and would eat it like soup if I could! The mashed potatoes could have been way better – along with the plating.

chicken steak best buddys cafe

WHAT I LOVED:

The ambiance and games! Definitely a great option to hang-out with friends!

Affordability – Best Buddy’s Café seems to have got the pricing right. Most of the items are very affordable and offer value-for-money in terms of quantity.

Apart from one or two dishes (which were above average), the plating and taste of most of the items were wonderful!

french fries best buddies

WHAT COULD BE BETTER:

Better service

A washroom in the premises

I didn’t get to sample any of their desserts, but since none of them are prepared in-house, I didn’t feel like I missed out on much. I definitely recommend you give this place a visit when you’re shopping in the Lokhandwala area or passing through Andheri West.

Cost – Rs. 800-1000 for two

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There’s a sudden surge of terrace restaurants opening in the Lower Parel Area. From 1Above to Asilo and Grapevine, all of them offer an uninterrupted view of Mumbai’s concrete jungle. However, it’s not often to come across a restaurant that, at barely a month old and with over 40 tables, still has people waiting for a seat at 11 pm on a Thursday night.

That distinction belongs to Sheesha Sky Lounge. Located in Raghuvanshi Mills, a few steps away from Palladium, the restaurant is an instant hit among hookah lovers despite serving no alcohol. Sheesha Sky Lounge is known for their sheeshas (of course), massive array of Mughlai food and long list of kebabs.

AMBIANCE

The ambiance at Sheesha Sky Lounge is casual, friendly and unpretentious. The buzz and laughter that greets you as you enter makes you feel like you’ve entered the restaurant as a big, family party is underway. The restaurant provides the options of dining indoors in a non-a/c section and outdoors in the open, both of which are smoking areas.

Outside, there are four long rows of tables starting with high backed chairs and sofas towards the wooden walls, metal chairs and tables with lovely tan brown cushioning in the centre and turquoise blue half-moon chairs towards the end. The brightly coloured floor tiles interspersed with black ones, coupled with vibrant seating gives the restaurant an unconventional look. Right down the middle is a huge cage-like structure made of chains that hold a row of tables inside!

To the right of the entrance, you’ll find a glass partition behind which is the indoor arena – smaller and slightly cramped as compared to the outside space. The highlight is the massive sheesha bar that stretches from end to end in black and white, complete with bar stools!

SERVICE

The service is simple, pretty quick and smart. It was good to see wait staff being proactive and offering mocktail and food recommendations. Don’t miss the sinister looking man in a long black robe and red fez hat. He goes round the restaurant, giving every table a hookah and refilling coal in them. The guy really plays the part!

FOOD

Sheesha Sky Lounge serves some of the richest and most elaborate Mughalai delicacies like Biryani, Kebabs, Chicken Tikka, Korma, Rogan Josh and lots more. Other than these, you’ll find soups, seafood, Mughlai flavors like Koftas, Makhanis, and mouth-watering preparations of mutton. Interestingly, they also have a section of Nawabi cuisine such as Rann Sikhandari and Ghost Irani Pulao as well as Arabic dishes such as Mutton Khepsa rice. It doesn’t end there – you’ll also find a lot of Indo-chinese food, pastas and sizzlers!

Melony – Being a teetotaller, I love exploring the world of mocktails. I randomly picked this off the menu and was more than pleased with it! A great, refreshing summer drink, it comprised of a soothing blend of fresh watermelon and mint muddled with passion fruit and topped with pineapple juice. Bright red, vibrant and punchy, it’s basically sunshine in a glass.

Sundowner – The Sundowner was good, just not as good as Melony! This concoction was a twist on a classic lemonade and had fresh pineapple juice and cubes, lemon juice, gomme syrup and of course, lemonade. Sweet, tangy and tropical, I could knock these back all day!

P.S. If you like experimenting, check these mocktails out!

Murgh Jalandhari – I don’t know about you guys, but extreme ‘Indian’ menus confuse me. I don’t understand the difference between Murgh Pankhudi Kebab, Murgh Seenah Kathi Kebab, Murgh Gilafi Seekh and Murgh Zaitooni Tikka – especially since the names gives nothing away! I ordered Murgh Jalandhari Kebab on the waiter’s recommendation. The description mysteriously stated “chicken marinated in Jalandhari style.”

Soft chicken kebabs were brought to the table, still piping hot and sizzling from the tandoor. It was marinated in the chef’s signature spices and the flavours were enhanced with the addition of cream. I liked that it wasn’t dry, like tandoori kebabs can sometimes be, but I’d suggest opting for something else if you’re looking for kebabs.

Stuffed Malai Kumbh – Mushrooms are one of my favourite things! So is cheese! I quite liked this rich starter comprising of button mushrooms deep fried with cottage cheese and Amul cheese, marinated with flour and pepper. They were juicy, flavourful and had a fragrant aroma. I’d have liked it more if the cheese was slightly more molten and less firm.

Nalli Lahori –Lahore draws food lovers from across the country to sample its mind-boggling variety of decadent food. When I saw Nalli Lahori on the menu, I was intrigued Firstly, because, well, Lahore!! And secondly, while all other dishes had long descriptions beneath them, this one’s description simply read, ‘Sheesha’s speciality.’

This dish blew my mind! It looked perfect – the right brown colour, soupy gravy, a thin layer of oil on top for good measure and four huge shanks of tender mutton on the bone. I thoroughly dipped my tandoori roti into it and at the first bite, that mix of dozens of spices hit me instantly – just how I like it! Not to mention, the bones had generous amounts of sinewy meat and were full of marrow which was a pure delight to eat! I could go on and on about this wonderfully balanced dish, but let’s just say it was flawless in all its Nawabi glory! We were also served the necessary condiments of sliced lemon, onions and the works. Highly recommended!

Malai Firni – I didn’t let the waiter finish reciting the desserts, which led me to missing out on the coconut rabdi, awadhi kheer and shahi tukda. Instead, I went with the first one he said – Malai Firni *sigh.*  It came in a clay ‘matka’ and looked pretty, however it had a paste-like texture as compared to the other firnis I’ve eaten. Taste wise, it was not overly sweet but wasn’t as creamy as I’d like. The firni was topped with a generous amount of nuts and I could smell the wonderful aroma of rosewater coming through. I wouldn’t order it again, to be honest.

WHAT I LIKED:

The enthusiastic staff – When I asked the waiter for his opinion on what starters to order, he was fully convinced that a certain dish was “the best.” He even had a (very good) opinion on what naan/roti would go well with the Nalli Lahori and voiced his opinions instead of merely taking the order

Ambiance – While I’ve dined in rooftop restaurants before, none of them had the feeling of sheer expanse like this one did! I also loved the variety of seating choices available!

Nalli Lahori – It was the bomb!! That is all 🙂

WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED:

Too much of going by the rule book – As we were nearing a table meant to seat 4, the wait staff promptly said – “this is a table for 4. The tables for 2 are over there.” The restaurant was at less than 40% occupancy at that time, so I didn’t see what the big deal was about. Also, as many of you know, when I review a restaurant, I leave behind a sticker somewhere that says “That Goan Girl was here. Read the review!” Till date, not one restaurant has objected to me putting one tiny sticker on the wall – in fact, they often ask me to bring one along! Not only did Sheesha Sky Lounge refuse, but when I stuck it outside the elevator, a few meters away from restaurant’s exit, they took it off the next day! How rude!

The music – It ranged from blaring loud to mid-volume, English to Hindi and even Punjabi, fast paced to slow. It was quite a mess, actually.

If you have never smoked a sheesha before, then Sheesha Sky Lounge is the perfect place to initiate you into it. It is chilled out and laid back – eons away from the shady parlours of your worst nightmares!

Meal for 2- Rs. 1500 + alcohol

Getting there – P2 Building, 4th Floor, Roof Top,Terrace Raghuvanshi Estate, S.B Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai.

That’s all from me this time! Keep in touch!

Located between two party towns, Siolim and Vagator, is a convenient hangout. Soro, meaning alcohol in Konkani is fast becoming a popular live music spot for locals and tourists.

From the outside, it looks like an abandoned, rundown house – with barely any paint, bricks showing and cracked walls that would otherwise make you drive past without a second glance. What sneakily give it away are the vines of fairy lights and lamps that emit a warm glow, inviting patrons like moths to a flame.

AMBIANCE

Soro is like a throwback to an old village tavern in the years gone by – and everything from the exteriors to the galvanized iron roofing retains the old world charm of its original structure. The walls are left untouched, which gives the entire place a rustic feel, but the theme is also subtly enhanced by the cleverly conceptualized industrial-looking interiors.

The restaurant was formerly a soda factory and that look has been maintained flawlessly. Large, exposed A/C vents, heritage tiles, bald filament bulbs, vintage graffiti and shaky looking furniture adds to its quaint ambiance. The modern touch can be seen when you look at the bar – a fine mix of dull bottles and bright popping coloured ones on a shiny rack.

On the night I went, the music was nothing short of brilliant. A DJ played a mix of songs from the 90’s and each one was better than the last – giving us all the nostalgia feels! On certain nights, Soro has live music, but I’m not sure how comfortable that would be for diners. Considering that the place is small, I have a good feeling that the music would be a little too loud to allow conversation.

There are two choices of seating – either prop yourself up on old-world bar stools around a table indoors or sit on long benches and communal-looking tables outside under a canopy of trees. I chose the former.

SERVICE

I’ve read zomato reviews where a majority of people said that the service was lacking. I didn’t find it slow at all, but then, the restaurant was at 40% capacity the day I visited.

FOOD

Batter Fried Calamari – The first dish I ordered, and it wasn’t that impressive, to be honest. Calamari is a great dish to satisfy that restaurant-appetizer itch and tastes best when the batter is light and crispy. This came with a thicker, slightly soggy batter that I wasn’t a fan of.

Southern Fried Chicken- Got to love chicken with that extra craggy crust and tender meat inside! This was one of the better dishes of the evening. The seasoning was just the right kind of ‘spicy’ and it was low on grease! Potentially winning dish, right here – I only wish it came with coleslaw instead of cabbage.

Chicken Cafreal with Poi – While the restaurant has a multi-cuisine menu, there are plenty of Goan food options and I had to try one! We picked Chicken Cafreal with Poi (Goan bread) – a popular Sunday lunch dish and one that’s equated to Goan cuisine! This one was average and not the best I’ve ever had. It possessed the wonderful blend of aromatic spices but I personally love it when the flavour goes all the way into the meat – which wasn’t really the case here.

Masala Mutton – Soft, tender chunks of mutton in Indian-styled spiced tomato gravy really hit the spot. It had a wonderful smoky flavour and aroma, and went well with simple rice. One of my pet peeves is seeing wonderful dishes being garnished with thick slices of onion. If it’s not an Indian restaurant or a dhaba on the highway, why consider garnishing this way?

Pork Ribs – We have this thing in my family – whatever my brother orders for himself turns out to be the best dish of the night, and we eye his food throughout the meal until he’s forced to share. Case in point – these pork chops! Served with sautéed vegetables and Soro’s special sauce, they were lip-smacking good! It was flavourful, delicate and tasted like a delicious mix of soy sauce, ketchup, honey and garlic.

Mix Fruit Chocolate Rolls – When I ordered this, I pictured a roll stuffed with fruits and chocolate sauce on the side. However, the roll was stuffed with chocolate and came with ice cream served on a slice of pineapple. I’m not complaining, it was an absolutely delicious dessert – hot and crispy on the outside, with warm, molten chocolate paired with ice cream – yum! Got to love flaky pastry!

Banana Fritters with Ice Cream – Sweet, batter-fried bananas with a drizzle of honey sauce and scoop of ice cream – one can’t go wrong with an easy combination like that, and Soro didn’t. However, it could have been presented in far more appetizing way!

WHAT I LIKED

Ambiance – Definitely going back to chill out in here just for the ambiance! And if that epic DJ is playing again, so much the better!

The “sportsy” feel – Whether you want to shoot some pool on the table outside or watch the football game on one of their TVs, Soro seems like the perfect place to do it! Maybe it’s just the masculine-like vibe it has going on.

WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED

Presentation – While I love eating on the streets and at cheap places, I don’t like “dhaba style” garnishing and presentation at upscale restaurants.

Overall, Soro is a far cry away from glitzy clubs that dot the tourist belt. It’s uniquely Goan and appeals to the global crowd as well. Definitely worth a visit!

Meal for 2- Rs. 1200 + alcohol

Getting there – Assagaon, Siolim Road, Vagator, Goa

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The Baga-Calangute strip has recently seen a dip in splashy, upscale ‘dining experiences.’ The area is now littered with cheap rooms, cheap food and cheap everything else. It’s quite a surprise to come across a stylish-looking eatery amidst the chaos these days.

Buried in one of the by-lanes is the area’s newest entrant, Habanero, a trendy Tex-Mex restaurant. It managed to create quite a lot of buzz before the launch, a couple of weeks ago. I visited just two days after they opened their doors to catch up with school friends. Generally, I don’t usually review restaurants that are as young as this one. Being as new as it is, the kitchen and staff are still probably working through new ideas and processes, there could be service mishaps and a generally uneven experience. Then again, at first look, it did impress!

AMBIANCE

The ambiance at the restaurant stands out, right from arched entrance with the the Habanero Chilli logo and bright yellow name to the graffiti wall on the side. Inside, in the plant-filled courtyard, the ambiance is warm and vibrant. I personally loved the hanging stained glass lamps above every table and the vivid back-panel at the bar. Attractive!!

Picnic-table styled seating adds a laid back, communal-feel round a stage on which there is live music. We first sat right in front of the band and later realized that the speakers were located just in front of us and had us conversing in shouts. We had to move to a side table within 10 minutes.

The band for the day, Raagas to Riches was without a doubt, the best part of the evening. They belted one energetic track after the other and it was just because of the music that we stayed long after the point at which we felt that the picnic bench seating was getting a little too hard for comfort.

SERVICE

The servers seemed a little lost, unsure of the recommendations they were giving. I hope it was just due to the fact of the restaurant being new, and that the service bucks up in time. However, they were quick in attending to us when we arrived and brought out complimentary nachos (which weren’t great) very quickly.

FOOD

While I loved the menu’s quirky design, the options were very limited and the food itself was disappointing. None of the dishes we tried was worth writing home about. It was confusing to see Mexican Thali, Kingfisher beer cheese dip and black bean hummus in a tex-mex restaurant, but not as surprising as the absence of Mexican classics like the chimichanga and guacamole.

Chicken Wings – There are few dishes more crowd-pleasing than a platter of piping hot chicken wings. We picked the ‘mini’ portion of 8 wings instead of ‘mucho’ comprising of 18. It was one of the better dishes of the evening. The wings delivered an delicious juxtaposition of habanero spice, smoke and sweet with a fabulously sticky glaze and was served with cool ranch-yogurt dressing.

Fired Up Grill Pizza – Could definitely be improved upon. It was loaded with toppings.. chicken, zucchini and broccoli (don’t know what that was doing there), and it would have tasted a whole lot better if the cheese was stringy instead of clumpy. I wasn’t a fan of the biscuit-like base either.

Pomfret with lime and chilly – We picked the pomfret off the beach grill menu as suggested by the staff and chose the lemon dressing. Ahhh! Lemon overload! The taste of the dressing was sour and absolutely overpowering and was difficult to finish, even with five people nibbling on it. It came with veggies, rice and a flour tortilla – none of which were particularly appetizing. Maybe we should have opted for the beef instead.

Roasted 1/2 chicken – Habanero seems to pull of simple dishes better than its Mexican fare. The half roasted chicken with those oh-so-pretty caramelized char marks was succulent and flavourful.  Served with a variety of sides, this decent-sized portion managed to satisfy our hunger. It could have used a bit of gravy, though.

I really wanted to like Habaero, but it was just a bit off as the service and food missteps dimmed the appeal of the pretty outdoor restaurant. Like I said earlier, it may be due to the restaurant being new, but since it has a franchise in Bangalore already, I’d have expected the food to be even better than the ambiance. If you’re in the area, and you hear that Raagas to Riches is playing, drop everything and head over.

Meal for two (excluding drinks) – Rs. 1000/-

Address- House No. E181/B, The Milky Way Road, Khobra Vaddo, Baga, Goa

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