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

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

AMBIANCE

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

gusto tamarin goa

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

SERVICE

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

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

FOOD

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

Gazpacho + Beetroot and Mint Soup

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

gusto goa

Lebanese Beef Kibbeh

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

lebanese beef kibbeh

Mushroom Kebabs

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

gusto candolim mushroom pesto kebab

Israeli Sauteed Chicken

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

israeli chicken gusto goa

Mutton Biryani

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

mutton biryani gusto goa

Rogan Josh

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

Wangun Ruwangan

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

wangun ruwangun gusto goa

Phirni

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

phirni gusto goa

Coconut Ice Cream

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

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

Meal for 2 – Rs. 1500- Rs. 1800

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

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

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

Hey Guys!

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

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

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

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

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

AMBIANCE

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

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

goan stories taj vivanta goa

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

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

kunbi weave taj vivanta goan stories

SERVICE

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

The bartender makes a pretty good martini!

vivanta taj goan stories

FOOD

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

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

Flavoured butter!

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

flavoured butter goan stories taj vivanta

thatgoangirl goan stories

Beef and Fish Potato Chops

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

snacks goan stories taj vivanta

Rissois

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

potato chops goan stories vivanta taj

Goan Sausage Chilly Fry

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

goan sausages chorizo goan

Crab Xec Xec

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

crab xec xec goan stories

Chicken Xacuti

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

chicken xacuti goa goan stories

Sera Durra

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

serra durra goa goan stories

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

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

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!

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

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..

—-

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!!

Let me know what you think and keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Bye!

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

The Rajasthani Food Festival is underway at Grand Hyatt, Goa and ends on the 16th of August. It was my first time visiting the property, which is funny, considering I’m sampling the fare at Grand Hyatt Mumbai every second weekend! I was lucky to have made it to the bloggers table during this visit home and not only sample some decadent Rajasthani food, but also catch up for the first time with some other Goan food bloggers I’ve been interacting with in cyberspace.

grand hyatt goa rajasthani food festival

The Indian restaurant, Chulha was decorated keeping in mind the Rajasthani theme, with standing umbrellas and decorative fans made of colourful fabric. Little dolls dressed in bandhini + mirrorwork sarees hung everywhere and there were dozens of flower streamers for added ethnicity.

We sampled on some vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters. I loved both the chicken starters, with a slight bias towards the Banjara Murgh Tikka, having a rich cashew base with a little crunch.

banjara murgh tikka

Although, how delicious does this one look!

chicken tikka hyatt

Bikaneri wadi aur subz ke seekh were looked cute and I couldn’t help but notice how consistent they all appeared. They were melt-in-the-mouth goooood!

shammi kebab

As we relished the starters, the mixologist gave us a live demo as he prepared our cocktails, explaining to us why he paired ingredients together and the inspiration behind them. Since the upper class folks of the Mewar region of Rajasthan enjoyed their whiskey, the Royal Mewar cocktail was made keeping that in mind. It was strange to see cardamom paired with whiskey in this cocktail, but those who tried it, absolutely loved it!

grand hyatt goa cocktails

I was torn between ordering lassi and a ramgarh milkshake and ultimately chose the Rose Milkshake. I’m glad I did because the Hing and Chilli Paneer Tikka proved too fiery for my tastebuds and a fragrant milkshake was the perfect antidote!

hing aur mirch ke paneer tikka

pithod ke tikka

All the Rajasthani classics featured in the main course of the menu and it was indeed fit for a Maharaja! In order to let us sample everything on the menu in small portions, the chef smartly presented it to us in the traditional thali.

We learned that though 75% of Rajasthais are vegetarian, the non-veg food is so legendary that those who eat it, devour it!

One such crowd favourite is Laal Maas (or red meat) – bright red hot gravy made with red chillies and mutton pieces. It was no-doubt, one of my favourites on the menu.

Another dish that had everyone singing its praises was the Maans ka Soweta – lamb chunks cooked in Indian spices, corn kernals, capsicum, red chillies and spices. The meat was so tender and well flavoured that we could tell it had been marinated for a long time! The gravy was amazing and thick too!

rajasthan food festival hyatt goa

What Chole Bhature is to Punjab, Dal Bati Churma is to Rajasthan – a classic with a history that’s as extraordinary as its taste. I loved this quintessential three-in-one-treat with baked bhaati/little dough balls in a spoonful of ghee, spiced dal and sweet, crumbly churma – it’s as fun to eat as it is to mix up!

Other things on the menu that featured in our thali included Ker Sangria (wild beans and local berries in mustard oil), Papad Methi Aloo Mangodi (potato, papad, fenugreek, dry lentil dumplings), Rajasthani Dal Dhokli (mixed lentils, chickpea flour and hing) and jodhpuri kabuli (saffron basmati rice with spices).

Desserts – the section to which my eyes are instantly drawn held only two items, to my disappointment. The Malpua, a deep fried pancake made of khoya and soaked in sugar syrup, served with rabdi, a condensed milk based dish is too delicious for words! I love mine slightly crispy, like the ones they have at Bhindi Bazaar and Mohammad Ali Road in Mumbai.

malpua and rabdi hyatt goa

We were also given a serving of badam ka sheera (a semolina based sticky dish with almonds) that was literally swimming in ghee! While ghee is an essential part of Rajasthani food, it was too rich for me to handle and I couldn’t eat more than a spoonful. I’d have loved to see some more desserts on the menu though – perhaps jalebi, dilkushar or rabri ghevar? Ooooh!!

Make your way down to Grand Hyatt Goa for a taste of Rajasthani Cuisine! We don’t really have restaurants in Goa that serve up authentic regional fare, and if you don’t plan on travelling to Rajasthan anytime soon, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a culinary trip there instead.

There’s a lot more of my Goa adventures to share with you guys! And God, so much food!

I love interacting with you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – so come over and say ‘hi!’

xoxo

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