What’s not to love about the southern state of Kerala? Perhaps India’s prettiest state, it’s tranquil backwaters, endless coconut groves, green-face-painted Kathakali dancers and seafood define the region.

In Chakala (Andheri), a restaurant with an unassuming appearance attempts to bring the flavours of Kerala into Amchi Mumbai. ‘Just Kerala’ is located close to the Bisleri Factory, inside Hotel Samraj and serves delectable, vibrant south Indian fare.

AMBIENCE
just kerala restaurant

While it doesn’t appear so at first glance, the hotel has valet parking with cordial staff out front. Once in the lobby, make your way to the restaurant on the 2nd floor. On entering, you’ll find that the restrained white décor is refreshingly different. Floor to ceiling windows with strategically placed potted palms give the place an instant bright appeal. The décor is coherrent – having a large, polished bar with a textured white finish and matching white chairs, table runners and ivory sofas. A traditional lamp somewhere in the centre is the only stand-alone object you will find.

SERVICE

I was very impressed with the service at Just Kerala. The waiters were knowledgable, courteous and well spoken. They recited complicated dish names like Lobia Ulathiyathu and mezhukkupuratti with ease, as I struggled to get the spelling right on my notepad. Food, not only on my table, but also on tables surrounding mine came promptly and they were attentive to even guests sitting in the corners of the restaurant.

FOOD

For me, an unfamiliar menu is great fun as I love to figure out what’s what. This one was well written and while the names of the dishes are long and complicated, the descriptions are well written providing enough explanation yet leaving a little for guesswork. Also, it is worth mentioning that this is the only restaurant serving Kerala cuisine and possessing a liquor license.

Parippu Vada

There’s nothing sadder than soggy vadas! And this one set the tone absolutely right for the rest of the meal! Super crunchy on the outside and soft + tasty on the inside, they are made with a coarse paste of soaked chana dal, onions, ginger-garlic and spices! These once used to be my morning snack before work, since there used to be a seller just outside my office – and I could never resist that rustic texture and hearty flavour, especially on rainy days!

parippu vada just kerala

Surmai Fish Fry

Being Goan, fried fish is something that swims in my blood. Surmai, being a flavourful fish doesn’t need much added to it to make it a knock-out side-dish. While in Goa, we like it crumb fried, Just Kerala fried it after coating it with some awesome traditional spices and chillies, ginger-garlic and showered it with ground pepper. The red masala infused right through the fish and it was deliciously tangy and delicate!

surmai fish fry just kerala

Chicken Malabar Curry

The thing about the coastal area is that even though all communities use the same ingredients, the style of cooking and spices used give it a while new dimension. This vivacious spicy chicken curry was finger-licking good and had that typical South Indian flavour thanks to the addition of luscious coconut milk and complex spice mix. I enjoyed it with some traditional rice chapatis, called appams!

malabar chicken curry just kerala

Coconut chicken

This was my favourite of the lot. I love coconut in everything and the coconut here was so strong that I just couldn’t stop eating it! It was a semi dry dish packed with spices that were softened with the gentle touch of coconut. It was a little too oily for my liking, and if it wasn’t for that, the dish would have been heavenly!

coconut chicken just kerala

Long pieces of fresh coconut was amply added in with small chunks of chicken. The meat was so juicy and coconut flavour was so intense, it made me feel like I was on a tropical vacation to Kerala! And the best part is that it wasn’t sweet – like most coconut based dishes are – but had the powerful backing of ground spices. Don’t miss this addictive dish for sure!

Thali /Sadhya

You can’t go to a Kerala restaurant and not order a traditional thali served on a banana leaf! The amount of food on these always leaves me overwhelmed – but it’s more to do with the variety than than the quantity. Just Kerala is the only restaurant to serve Sadhya and it is interesting to note that they even deliver Sadhya to offices nearby for lunch – however, not with all 13-15 items – but with 5.

Just kerala chakala andheri

You can opt for an unlimited vegetarian Sadhya or go for the non-veg one, which is basically the same thing substituted with chicken or fish curry instead of veg curry. A jaw-dropping amount of Kerala boiled rice was served with Sambar Rasam, a watery, tangy-sour curry of sorts made using tamarind, tomato and pieces of drumsticks.

sadhya thali just kerala

A Sadhya isn’t complete without the quintessential Kerala classic, avial, or mixed vegetable seasoned with coconut oil and curry leaves. And apart from that, it also featured a veg dish made of suran (yams), Thoran (vegetable stir-fry), mezhukkupuratti (long beans), travancore chicken curry, a dish made of roasted black beans (lobia ulathiyathu), a delicious raw banana-curd side dish, ghee, banana chips, papad, pickle and buttermilk. A small bowl of vermicelli sevaiyan was served too. Like normal thalis, the items served differ everyday, however, the plethora of items, each with its own distinct taste, keeps it interesting.

To say this was filling would be an understatement. But Sadhya is an all-round healthy meal and although it leaves you stuffed at first, it gets digested pretty quickly and doesn’t leave you feeling sluggish.

Asda Payassam

The dessert menu comprised of a fair amount of Indian desserts such as Rasgulla and Gulab Jamun. In terms of authentic Kerala desserts, there were only Seviyan Payassam and Ada Payassam. I had already tried the former when it came as a part of the thali, so I ordered for the Ada Payassam – comprised of jaggery and flat rice in sweetened milk. I’m not a fan of jaggery so I wasn’t raving about this. I wish the menu had a bit more variety like maybe Unniyapam, Chatti Pathiri and Bonda.

asda payassam

Just Kerala so far hasn’t got the attention it deserves and except from the office-goes around it and the mallu community. If you’re wondering whether they serve the meat that must not be named, not exactly, but they do serve meat from other members of the bovine family.

Here’s where you can find them:

Address – Hotel Samraj, Chakala Road, Chakala, Mumbai

Cost for 2 – Rs. 900 for 2 (excluding drinks)

Get a true taste of God’s Own Country at Just Kerala and if you do happen to go, let me know what you think by dropping me a line on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Bye!

While Ratnagiri is not someone’s first choice for a vacation spot, it has a lot of what makes it a good one. Delectable seafood, proximity to Goa and Mumbai, more greenery than you can imagine and virgin beaches. Probably the one thing that sorely lacks here are resorts – and all that comes with one – a swimming pool, spa, lounge and the like.

The district does have a handful of budget hotels that provide a good pit-stop for bikers, family road-trippers and those looking for a quick weekend getaway. Among the best hotels in Ratnagiri, I came across this budget hotel, Sangam Regency that provided a peaceful interlude on a tiresome journey. It was so far above my expectations that I decided to share it with you.

GETTING THERE

Possibly the best part about Sangam Regency is its proximity to Ratnagiri Station. On exiting the station, it is a mere 2-3 minute walk, or 30 second drive. While it is so close to the station, it is absolutely silent from the minute you enter the spacious, air-conditioned lobby.

THE HOTEL

Pleasant and understated, Hotel  Sangam Regency offers travelers two things that they are seeking the most – comfort and cleanliness. The hotel’s large lobby has sofas on either side and a reception desk at the end.  A door leads to the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Soul Curry.

On standing in the reception and looking up, you’ll see all the 26 rooms around the periphery of each floor, with a glass barricade from where you can stand and look down at the lobby.  The hotel also has wi-fi, which wasn’t working when I visited. Apart from that it has a banquet hall and conference centre.

hotel sangam residency room

Among the main attractions, Thiba Point is 7kms away, Black Sea, Suru Ban Bhatye Beach and Patitpawan are at 9kms, and Ratnadurg Fort is at 11kms away.

THE ROOM

I didn’t expect to find a hotel of this standard and was quite thrilled with the find. The room has a huge cmofortable bed to sink into and also comes with cable TV, refrigerator, dining area, electric kettle and private bathroom with toiletries.

sangam residency ratnagiri

The view from the window is nothing to speak of and faces one of the lanes around the hotel.  The washroom was extremely clean as well with a large sink, Western toilet, strong shower and hot and cold water. Like many hotels, it didn’t have a partition door or shower curtain between the shower area and rest of the room, so as always, once you’re done with a 10 minute shower, you walk on the wet floor for hours. Oh, well.

hotel in ratnagiri

hotel sangam

The hotel has a choice of Rooms ranging from Deluxe (Rs. 2200), Supreme (Rs. 2700) and Suite (Rs. 3500). An extra person can be accommodated on a matteress that is placed on a sturdy cot.

THE FOOD

The a-la carte menu is vast and features an array of veg, non veg and seafood items. I had the Mutton Rogan Josh and naan for dinner which was delicious!  In contrast, the buffet breakfast the next morning was absolutely atroctious. It featured south Indian staples of idli-sambar, uttapam, and others, none of which looked good, let alone taste good. I settled for coffee and buttered toast. The boiled eggs at the next table looked so over-boiled that I didn’t bother ordering eggs either. On the plus side, the service is quite quick and prompt!

That wraps up my short review of this budget hotel in Ratnagiri. Don’t forget to check out all the details of my road trip from Mumbai to Goa and back as well as of Mandvi Beach in Ratnagiri.

Heading back to the food in my next post! Until then, let’s keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

A great thing about living in Mumbai is the fact that you’re 600 kms away from Goa, which means you can get there in 10-11 hours, depending on how many stops you take. The bad news is that the horrendous state of roads in our country make driving as pleasant as getting a root canal.

MUMBAI TO GOA

Sukhjeet and I departed from Mumbai by road at around 5:30 am one rainy morning on our maiden roadtrip from Mumbai to Goa. Our goal was to take advantage of the open roads in our otherwise choc-a-bloc city traffic and get out of Mumbai by 7 am. We had the option of two routes:

NH 4 – This route takes you through Pune and Kolhapur

NH 66 – Formerly known as NH 17, this route takes you through Ratnagiri and the Western Ghats.

For our drive from Mumbai to Goa, we opted for the NH4 Route for 2-3 reasons. The roads are wide and straight, fit for fast driving. Until you reach the border of Goa, the highway has 3-4 lanes. They have proper dividers and lane markings, making it more comfortable for the driver.

And thirdly, but most importantly, this route allowed us to skip the winding roads of the Western Ghats. The Western Ghat roads are steep, narrow and at a high altitude with no barricades on the sides in most places. As it was our first drive and we weren’t a 100% confident we could tackle it, we decided not to risk it. However, most Volvo buses take this route.

road goa to mumbai

The downside of this route though, are the numerous toll booths you will come across, 1 in almost every 100 km stretch. You will need to shell out at least Rs. 500-600, but it is still better than other options, as you will see later in this post.

We zipped through the city while it was still dark and reached Lonavala just as the sun began to rise. At 7 am, we were already in Pune and made our first stop for a breakfast of pancakes and coffee at McDonalds, just off the highway. I always prefer stopping at McDonalds because the food is safe and restrooms, clean, both important aspects to consider on a road trip. We were thrilled at having covered so much distance in just two hours and hoped that this head start would see us in Goa by 5 pm.

roadtrip mumbai to goa

Once we crossed Pune, we clocked in our kms with no hassles whatsoever. The surroundings were scenic and there was very little traffic.  At one point, we saw the road in front of us gently slope upwards and on looking up, saw cars winding their way around a hill ahead. That did cause a little panic, but turns out, we shouldn’t have worried because on climbing that hill, the road sloped back down again and it wasn’t the dreaded ghats we feared.

We stuck to NH4 and zipped passed Satara, Kolhapur and finally, Belgaum at around 1 pm quite uneventfully. It was here that we took one wrong turn that caused us to drive nearly 2 hours more. While we should have taken a left and stayed on the Belgaum Highway, we saw a giant board saying ‘Welcome to Goa’ right in front of us. Naturally, we carried on straight and into that narrow, but very scenic lane. A couple of kms in, we saw a darling little restaurant with seating in the verandah and a lawn out in front and that was where we took our second stop for lunch.

An hour later, we got back into the car and carried on straight. The scenic beauty here was absolutely stunning and I definitely want to go back and explore. On following the road further, it led up, higher and higher until – you guessed it, GHATS!  Thankfully, it was a short stretch, but thick with fog and rain pouring down. We were caught between two trucks for over half an hour and didn’t dare overtake as there was no barricade and a sheer drop down.  On finally finding our way back at ground level, the road worsened and GPS led us through the most narrow pathways. Some stretches were mud-roads riddled with potholes. At 5 pm, we emerged on a decent road somewhere in Pernem but were so exhausted and disheartened that our incredible roadtrip turned into a disaster. Not to mention, Sukhjeet’s knees began to hurt terribly with the constant brake-clutch-accelerator pedal-pushing on these terrible roads. An hour later, we entered Mapusa and by 6:30, I was home.

The bottom line is: Blindly opt to drive on NH4 on a roadtrip from Mumbai to Goa  and carry on the Belgaum Highway until you find yourself at Panjim. It is quite a painless journey if done right. You will need two tanks of petrol for the entire journey (and there are ample fuel pumps to fill up). I won’t mention the cost of fuel because we all know how uncertain that is.

GOA TO MUMBAI

For the way back, I decided to try out Route 66. From my home in Saligao, I headed towards Pernem and further on towards Sawantwadi – Kudal – Kankavli – Rajapur – Ratnagiri. If you’ve travelled by train, you’ll probably realize that all these are Konkan Kanya train stops! It was a two-sided road, 4 lanes and beautiful scenery. There were minor slopes and the journey took me around 5 hours. It would have been shorter, but this time, I was on a motorcycle and the freqent rain spells made me seek shelter every now and again.

roadtrip goa to mumbai

I spent the evening at Ratnagiri and checked out the beautiful Mandvi Beach. I stayed at a very comfortable 3-star hotel, Sangam Residency, just minutes away from Ratnagiri Station (more on that in my next post)

We left Ratnagiri at 10 am the next morning and continued on NH66, passing through Hathkamba, Navadi, Dhamani, Khamathe, Chiplun and Khed. On craving some of my morning caffeine, we stopped for some fabulous coffee (about the best I’ve had on the road) at this little restaurant in Chiplun at around noon. Sadly, I don’t remember its name.

coffee road trip goa to mumbai

Lunch was above average as well, and I relished some dal, tandoori roti and bhindi fry (ladyfingers) at Hotel Annapurna in Poladpur. Both places had lovely views and were extremely hygienic. I was able to work for about half an hour on my laptop as network was strong. Sigh.. the life of a digital nomad!

hotel annapurna NH66

hotel annapurna poladpur

Until here, we were driving in the wilderness amongst hills and fields, but in about an hour, we passed through dozens of villages. These busy, narrow roads, traffic and pedestrians slowed us down to a great extent. While that was completely manageable for the next 3-4 hours, at around 7:30 pm, it all went downhill! The last 100 kms, the roads were nothing short of a nightmare. The road was unpaved, there were trucks crawling along by the dozen and the dust in the air was so thick, it was difficult to see 100 meters in front of us. In fact, we could taste the dust at the back of our mouths and the journey was nowhere near complete.

It is for this reason that I’d advise you to completely stay clear of this route. There were no toll booths whatsoever, which is probably why the roads are neglected and can’t even be compared to the roads in Rural India, let alone be fit enough to lead to the financial capital of the country. Entering Mumbai saw us amidst insane traffic and in order to dodge it, we took every in-road we could find. Our long, looong journey finally ended at 11:30 pm.

Hope you enjoyed this post! Got questions or comments, leave me a line below and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Bye!

If someone says ‘Konkan Coast,’ it is almost certain that your mind will jump to Goa or Kerala. You wouldn’t think of Alibaug or Ratnagiri unless you’re in Mumbai, looking for a quick weekend getaway. However, just a hop away from the border of Goa, or 270 kms to be exact, the welcoming beaches of Ratnagiri are a sight to behold.

ratnagiri konkan kanya

Until recently, I’d only had a glimpse of Ratnagiri as the train from Mumbai to Goa chugged past its railway station. Even while peering out through the rusty window grills of the Konkan Kanya express, the district looked pristine, down below. Winding narrow lanes, emerald paddy fields and a multi-hued landscape permeated with red earth.

For those who love wandering to lesser known spots, the coastal shoreline of Ratnagiri is truly astounding in terms of natural beauty. With the Sahyadri ranges on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other, it’s fair distance from Goa and Mumbai have allowed it to keep its scenic beauty intact. There are little pockets of ‘town’ between the greenery and it is here that you will find yourself amidst honking traffic, busy marketplaces and commercial centres for a few minutes.

ratnagiri mandvi beach

But the beaches! Unlike Goa, where the beaches are teeming with tourists, those in Ratnagiri offer undisturbed views of the sea. No shacks blaring loud music, no hawkers coaxing you into getting a henna tattoo, no shouts of joy from tourists as they ride off on their jet-skis. Just plenty of shady trees, the sound of the crashing waves and the opportunity to do absolutely nothing.

Ganpatiphule, Malgund, Arre Waare and Bhandarpule are a few of the blissfully secluded beaches in the area. I wish I could have explored them all, but I was only in Ratnagiri for one evening and Mandvi Beach was the closest to where I was put up for the night. (More on that lovely hotel, Sangam Residency, in my next post).

that goan girl mandvi beach

This particular beach, Mandvi, did have a handful of tourists in places but it wasn’t hard to find quiet spots to sit and relax. There are no food options around, save for a couple of vendors selling chaat off their carts. Don’t expect to find white sand here. While it is lustrously powder-like, the colour is as black as coal, darker than even the monsoon clouds overhead.

If you’re looking for a beach to spend the entire day at, and maybe have a picnic, it is best to overlook this one. An hour or so here would be plenty.

Ratnagiri is home to some popular ancient temples and has some marvelous Konkan cuisine as well and maybe I can stop by on another road-trip to check it out. Let me know if you’ve ever explored this area or this beach! Would love to know what you think.

I visited another gorgeous beach in my home-state of Goa recently. You may like to check out my post on it – Grandmother’s Hole Beach. Also, stay tuned for all the details on my road-trip from Mumbai to Goa.

Until then, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Ciao!

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

The beaches closest to my home in North Goa are congested, chaotic and suffer from a serious overdose of people. Luckily, (or unluckily) for me, and in fact, my entire village, when people think of Goa’s sun-kissed beaches, the ones that immediately pop to mind are the ones that are a stones throw away from us.

So when I want to escape Lucifer’s heat, cool off and gaze at the beautiful Arabian Sea, I head away from the commercialized coastline in search of more subdued spots.

grandmothers hole platform

I happened to visit Grandmother’s Hole beach quite by chance. I was headed for a work-related meeting in that part of the state and when it ended, decided to go check it out. I hated the fact that I wasn’t wearing anything remotely close to beach-attire and didn’t click any pictures on the sand or in the water.

Anyways enough about my wardrobe!

To get to Grandmother’s Hole, GPS will guide you through Vasco, past the airport area and onward through Baina. It is quite accurate up to the last 500 meters or so, which is when the straight path suddenly turns into a maze of lanes. Stop and ask someone for directions or wander around and find it yourself – you will get there eventually as there’s no other place the roads can lead you to. They are either connected to each other or are dead-ends so you won’t be led further away.

grandmothers hole cross

By looking at the images, you’d think that this beach in South Goa is located at the end of a long walk through thick vegetation, but it is in fact, quite developed. You’ll pass an incongruous oil/petrol refinery-storage-unit in the sea as you drive past. If you see it, you’re on the right track.

Parking is available on the top of the cliff and on crossing a small park, you’ll have to make your way down 222 steps to get to this picturesque little sandy strip. I actually counted the steps on the calf-strained walk up the steps again. So unfit!

grandmothers hole vasco steps

grandmothers hole stairs

If you have older people amongst you, it’s better to let them enjoy the view from the park on top. Alternatively, the steps down are wide and even, making it a good place to sit up high and look at the palms swaying in the strong breeze down below, without a soul in sight.

grandmothers hole beach vasco goa

On your way down, you’ll come across a fort-wall through which you need to pass a little doorway, or “hole” after which the beach is named.

grandmothers hole south

grandmothers hole fort door

Grandmother’s Hole is a narrow sandy beach with jagged rocks on the shore as well as jutting out of the water. It is beautiful and almost deserted, which is one of the reasons I was tempted to visit and enjoy the tranquillity. I wouldn’t say it is safe to swim here, one, because of the rocks that can hurt you underwater, and two, because should you be in trouble in the water, there isn’t anyone around to help.

Being a refreshingly virgin beach, there are no beach shacks, stalls selling food or beach beds in sight. At max, you can perhaps bring a bed sheet and picnic here or click some amazing photos of the sunset on the beach without tourists in the background.

grandmothers hole south goa

grandmothers hole beach goa People always ask me for the “best beach” to go to in Goa, and honestly, I’m never sure of what to say. Grandmother’s Hole may be boring and lifeless to some, but for those who enjoy seclusion, it is blissful. The cliffs surrounding it, a tiny white cross that’s visible from anywhere on the beach and the sound of the crashing waves and screeching birds makes pretty spectacular. I, for one, love marinating in a new locale, taking in the sights, scents and sounds with zero agenda!

chamelion

Now that I’ve shared this reclusive spot with you, I hope I can count on you to leave it as is – trash-free and refreshingly noncommercial. We need to savour the few last spots we have left!

Stay tuned as I continue with the food adventures in Goa in my next post! Until then, you know where to find me – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Cya!

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

Goa-based fashion designer Ninoshka Alvares-Delaney is one to watch! This fashion pioneer from Saligao is in the organic fashion space and was recently honored by the Union Minister of State for textile, Smriti Irani from over 1660 designers across the country for her unique use of eco-friendly products, handloom fabrics and dyes. In a state that’s always equated fashion with Wendell Rodricks, quiet, graceful Ninoshka is slowly but surely getting the attention she deserves.

ninoshka fashion designer

Apart from the fact that she stays a few minutes away from my home in Saligao, we also have two people in common – her sister, my classmate – Kim and a professor we both admired in our respective colleges – Rajesh Nambiar who taught Ninoshka during her NIFT days and years later, taught me in a subject in MBA. Strangely, the two of us had never met long enough to have a conversation until my trip to Goa last week when I visited her workshop.

I walked around the Delaney’s house to the back and through their garage till I found myself at their little office in the backyard that was buzzing with activity. A few minutes later, she led me upstairs to a much quieter, spacious room that had two tailors at work on sewing machines and another making necklaces out of fabric that anyone else would have discarded without a second thought.

upcycle ninoshka

We’re both reluctant conversation starters, but it wasn’t long before I’m poring over fabric that’s been printed with… of all things… onion peels!! The fabric and print looks so delicate that it feels as if touching it would wipe the patterns away like powder, but Ninoshka tells me that the fabric is just like any other – can be washed, dried, and worn like normal. How cool is that!

onion peel fabric

Ninoshka explains to me the whole process of how she managed to accomplish something so oddly brilliant and then opens out rolls of fabric that have been dyed with pomegranate, marigold, rose, indigo and pigments given out by beetles!

The label crafts elegantly tailored business, evening and casual fashion made of high quality, sustainable and certified materials. In fact, the brand uses a label that’s trademarked to the India Handloom Brand, meaning the quality of the materials she uses have been tested for a period of 6 months before being trademarked. Why is this important? Because handmade fabric is prone to human error and Ninoshka finds that having her fabrics certified beforehand saves a lot of hassles later on.

I didn’t ask her about what sparked her interest in fashion, her philosophy and all the accolades she’s won, because it’s all available on the internet. Here’s what our neighbourly conversation was like:

What is your personal style?

When it comes to my personal clothing preference, I’ve always opted for organic clothing. Synthetic fabric never appealed to me and I never felt comfortable in them. For me, comfort is paramount and what I others think of my attire comes second. Even when it comes to my hair, I don’t colour it or attempt to hide my greys. I let it be as it is – natural. It may be greying, but that’s something that everyone goes through. Why hide it?

What’s it like running a business like yours with a child?

It’s very tough managing a business with a child. Before Daniel was born, the business was slow and I was happy at the pace it was going. For a year after he was born, it was stagnant and slowed. It’s now that he’s started going to school that I’ve decided to buck up and achieve what I want to. I have a few hours while he’s at school to do the bulk of my work. I won a couple of awards this year that quickened my growth, so that helped too!

How do you manage creativity with commerce?

I don’t like getting involved in money and sales. It stifles my creativity and takes up too much of my time. If I think about sales and price tags, my mind is occupied with thinking about what designs will sell and what won’t. So I’ve left the marketing and sales up to my husband so that all my thoughts and energy go into creating the best designs possible.

ninoshka collection

I’ve read that artisans are your biggest inspiration. Why is that?

Artisans are so content with what they have. If we have a mobile phone, we always want a better one. We want a car. We want more luxury. But I’ve worked with these people and I see how content they are with their lives. They think like children and aren’t influenced by the outside world. At one point, I worked with artisans in Gujarat and we had the theme ‘sky, water and earth.’ One lady embroidered a circle with fish inside, and when asked what it was, she said it was the well outside her home with fish swimming inside. Another person created something and I couldn’t quite fathom what it was. He later told me that it was a constellation in the sky.

All these things exist around us, but we don’t notice and aren’t inspired by them. Our thoughts are so complex and influenced by so many things. That’s why I aspire to be like those artisans.

Goans love to dress up in their finest gowns for feasts and weddings. Since you only wear organic clothes, do you find it odd to wear simple, understated clothes on such occasions?

Not really. For occasions that need formal or showy attire, I pick linen or silk garments instead of cotton. I once wore a linen skirt and organic white shirt for someone’s 50th wedding anniversary – and you know what huge occasions those are! Golden jubilees are even grander than the wedding itself! Everyone was in their beaded, shimmery clothing and I was the complete opposite. I was surprised to have got a lot of compliments that night – and even 3 orders for the skirt I was wearing!

I think Saligao is still more open-minded and accepting of organic clothing. When it comes to the south and the coastal belt, you will find that for formal occasions, everyone looks identical. All the women wear the same, tailor made suit-skirt set or a top and skirt made from the same fabric. It will have some small differences like beads or embroidery but other than that, it all looks mass produced.

ninoshka studio goa

Tell me more about your attempts to revive the Adivasi weave in Goa

My husband and I are working on marketing the Adivasi weave in Goa. We are helping Dr Rohit, a historian to market the weave which is presently being made in Karnataka, as there are no weavers left in Goa. however our aim is to get the weaving industry started in Goa again with the support of the textile ministry.

The Kunbis are aboriginals of Goa and wore the Adivasi Sari, also called ‘kaapad.’ Their way of draping the sari was basic, called ‘Detli’ and involved wrapping the sari around the waist and typing it over the right shoulder in a knot. This style of draping facilitated fieldwork. The sari ended just above the ankle and did not need a blouse or petticoat, although younger women did use blouses with puff sleeves. A white shawl called ‘voll’ was thrown over the shoulder and the pallu was tucked in at the back to form a pocket of sorts.

This weave was compact and made in Goa on handlooms but with the decline of handlooms, the weave stopped in 1985. It is one of our endeavors to get the original Adivasi weave revived here in Goa.

Which celebrity’s personal style do you admire?

I love the way Kiran Rao dresses. She’s always comfortable in sarees and kurtas. In Hollywood, they’re all well dressed, but I like Emma Watson’s style the most.

Where can one buy from the Ninoshka label?

We’re available online on sites like Jaypore, Bunosilo and Peacock Colours along with a handful of retail stores..

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It’s always a pleasure meeting people who enjoy doing what they love and whose benefit to society is their biggest satisfaction. Ninoshka’s philosophy of ‘fashion with a conscience’ is refreshing, to say the least and just goes to show that the future is definitely hand-made!

That wrapped up my chat with Ninoshka Alvares- Delaney! If you enjoyed this one, don’t forget to subscribe!!

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Bye!