This exciting word in the world of food is at best, a celebration of creativity and a well travelled chef. While the trend doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, Goan food has so far, has remained untouched by trendy mash-ups.
On the other hand, we have another revolution – the ‘farm to table movement’ – that advocates eating what’s grown around you, organically and in season, to which we, Goans are no strangers.
And then we have Sarah Todd, a familiar name in the culinary scene ever since she contested in much-loved reality TV show Masterchef Australia a couple of years ago. Her restaurant, Antares has quickly jumped to being one of the sexiest restaurants in Goa. Being perched on a cliff in Vagator, it offers gorgeous views of the sky and sea as well as fresh, simple fare that packs a punch.
Sarah Todd, in collaboration with Nolan Mascarenhas, have now curated a menu that merges the best of both worlds. The new Cocktails and Tapas menu features items that are an ingenious marriage of a global trend with ingredients that are grown in Goa’s own backyard. But rather than tweaking Goan food that’s popular in restaurants around the state, the new dishes and cocktails feature the food that the locals eat at home – red spinach (tambdi bhaji), zavoichi bhaji, kismoor and the like – all of them presented in unrecognizable avatars.
Says Sarah, “Goan food has become quite a global cuisine, but at the same time that that’s happening, funnily enough, people are actually becoming a lot more nostalgic to the food that they grew up with. And so that’s what our new menu additions are about.
Our evening at Antares unfolded with an innovative spread of tapas being bought out along with a cocktail to match.
A peach hued, fizzy Java Jamun Bellini, served in an elegant flute with a black plum bobbing at the bottom was the first drink to come out. From then, a heady mix of drinks such as Jungle Juice (urrak served with green chillies, Limca, rock salt and lemon), Port of Call (Antares’ rendition of port wine sangria) and Midnight Prowl (sugarcane juice with dark rum, a dash of fresh pineapple, ginger and lime) followed, each with an accompanying appetizer.
Interestingly, the tapas pay tribute to all the culinary influences on Goan food – the Portuguese, the Hindu and the Christian. From the very first bite of that oxtail bruschetta, topped with fried onions and a slice of baby tomato, I could see that the food would be unusually different.
Tambdi bhaji, a simple, everyday side-dish cooked in most Goan homes was served on a tiny, crispy malai bread. I liked it much more than the next – a Cafreal bao. While it was stockier in comparison to the other dainty starters, it was served in a poee of sorts, and not in a freshly steamed, spongy bao as the name suggested.
The next set of tapas included a chorizo mussel paella – while deliciously tangy and fashionably presented, it was quite difficult to eat, having been served in a hard mussel shell.
Zavoiche bhaji, served in a crispy canopy, like the ones we eagerly look forward to eating as starters at a Catholic wedding were served next. Topped with pomegranate and fresh coconut, the crispy canapé and creamy filling did manage to bring out quite a lot of nostalgia, as was Sarah’s intention. The last item was a tad odd and featured a crispy, deep fried kismoor-infused (dry prawn) curry rice arancini ball with teflan. In my opinion, it would have been better if it were stuffed with prawn chilly fry or recheado prawns, instead.
Goa’s own King’s beer wasn’t left behind – it appeared in a cocktail alongside Limca, making it a great cocktail for a hot summer afternoon! One of the most curious cocktails featured bimbli and absolute, with this unexpected flavour casting a smile of recognition on guests’ faces. Kokum, another popular condiment in Goan cuisine made an appearance, too, in a margarita with cardamom and tequila.
The novelty of it all did manage to spark a lot of conversation around the table. While a few tapas were a bit of a confusion and can be improved, there were some genuinely intriguing fusion dishes that played with Goan flavours brilliantly. While Sarah can conquer the Masterchef Mystery Box challenge on screen, she proves that she aces it off-screen as well.
Hope you enjoyed reading this post! Stay tuned to ThatGoanGirl for my best picks of food and lifestyle in Goa.