The elderly folk in Goa may not have heard of a ton of new fangled resorts in Goa, but you can bet they’ve all heard of Cidade De Goa.
Situated at the end of the Miramar stretch, on turning left at the Dona Paula Circle, Cidade De Goa is one of the oldest luxury properties in the state. It stands tall on the side of a hill, overlooking a private stretch of beach. The resort is at a fair distance from the buzzing beaches of North Goa but great for those who like being pampered in a peaceful atmosphere.
Through the years, this famed resort has cherished and promoted the cultural traditions of Goa’s past. Noite de Fado or Fado Night is one such tribute and is held on the first Tuesday of every month at one of the restaurants, Alfama. While I’m a lover of art, music and culture, I’ve only heard of this Portuguese style of music in conversation, but never experienced it. Mandos, Dulpods and Dekhnis on the other hand, are far more common.
Alfama Restaurant evokes comparison to the era gone by and is a befitting location for the event. From the moment you walk in, you are transported to a Latin square in Lisbon, with it’s Portuguese styled balcaos, whitewashed pillars, intimate alcoves and bright murals. Just sitting here makes you feel like you’ve taken a trip to Portugal several decades ago, listening to a live musician playing on the street, entertaining passer-bys and diners overlooking the square from various cafes.
A special 4 course menu is prepared only for Fado night, and as you’re seated, a waiter takes you through the choices you have. You pick one out of 2 soups, one of two salads, one of 4-5 mains and there’s only one dessert option available. They bring you your drinks and a bread basket with flavoured butter and are off into the kitchen. Before long, the lights dim and all eyes are on the musicians who walk out.
Sonia Shirsat, one of Goa’s most famous fadistas begins the evening with a short introduction to the soulful music. She explains how Fado, these Portuguese songs, are mellifluously haunting and centre around the sea, sailors, ships, love, loss, guilt, passion, sorrow, yearning, death…
A Fado, she explains, was sung by the families and lovers of sailors who sailed off on voyages to discover new lands. As they are left behind, they don’t know whether they will see each other again and so, these expressive, satirical songs capture all the emotion. They leave you in what can be called ‘Saudade,’ which means ‘in a state of longing or nostalgia.’
Three other fadiastas sing at every Note de Fado here, notably, the Cotta Family, a family that has been preserving the art for generations. Minguel Cotta, his daughter Chantalle and yet another fadista, Nadia Rebello. The Cotta son, Franz Schubert Cotta accompanies them on the Portuguese guitar while Reniel Costa plays along on the guitar. Before the start of each Fado, the fadista gave listeners a two line brief of what the song was about. It’s hard to say who sang the best – we marvelled at the power of everyone’s voices (all of them sung without a microphone and each drew us in, even though the words were foreign.)
The lights come back on between each of the 4 sets and every time, one course of food is brought out. During this time, the fadistas walk around individually, visiting guests at their table.
First off, Mum and I tried the salads – Trilogia de Mariscos, a trilogy of deep blue sea crab xec xec, butter poached prawns and calamari wheel, as well as Salada de Alcachofra, Ervilihas e Mesclun com Tapenade de Azeitona (spicy artichoke, olive tapenade, green peas, mesclun parmesan shavings with cafreal dressing). These weren’t conventional salads, but were small, beautifully plated dishes that looked better than they tasted.
We picked both options of soups, too. The Sopa de Frango (chorizo scented chicken and roasted pepper) one was quite delicious and the smell of smoky chorizo was apparent. The Sopa de Tomate e Manjericao was a milder, lighter veg option made up of tomatoes and basil consumme with a parmesan red croute.
There were a handful of mains to choose from. The frango recheado com Congumelos (mushroom filled xacuti chicken, cumin mash, carrot confit and xacuti jus) was intriguing! Sesame coated breadsticks jutted out from between two pieces of juicy chicken laid on a bed of mash. And those carrots were deceptive! They looked just like cheeseballs!
My Mum had the Peixe Assado which was a large, beautiful slab of boneless fish on bean ragout with wilted greens and balchao butter sauce. This was a truly harmonious dish and was way better than my chicken.
Not one, but 3 desserts arrived on a platter to end the show. A petit sized piece of moist almond cake, some rice pudding and tender coconut ice cream! All 3 were great but the cake was the clear winner. Delicate flavour combos and seriously nom nom!
I’ll say one thing for the food – it was unexpected in every sense. All the dishes were innovatively presented, and the pairings were unconventional. Taste-wise, some were better than others and there is scope for improvement. I’m not sure the fare would appeal to everyone, but if you’re up for trying something new, you may enjoy it!
Would I recommend Noite de Fado to everyone I know? Most definitely! If you’re a culture vulture visiting Goa, make sure to reserve your table on the first Tuesday of every month at Alfama. I guarantee it will be a memorable night!
Catch you later!