Where modern dining is concerned, Goa is showing serious promise! The newest entrant to the food scene in Anjuna, Goa, Mahe takes coastal cuisine beyond the regular (but much loved) seafood thalis and coconut based curries. The restaurant is the brainchild of Chef Sandeep Sreedharan and Parth Timbadia, who have a refreshing and thoughtful approach to coastal cuisine and local ingredients.
Located at walking distance from Cream Choc, a well-known gelato spot in Anjuna, Mahe focuses on providing an elevated dining experience by giving home-grown recipes a global spin. In fact, Mahe itself is the hometown of Chef Sandeep and is located along the coast of South India, near Pondicherry.
The gorgeous renovated Portuguese Bungalow in which Mahe is housed has an exterior that’s painted a shade of charcoal grey, an atypical choice of colour for Goan homes. So at first glance, you know that this restaurant in Anjuna does things unconventionally and with a touch of drama.
Mahe has a choice of outdoor and indoor seating – but since it was too dark for food photography in the garden (the restaurant wasn’t open for lunch, at the time of writing this post), I headed inside, where the soft light glowed invitingly.
The entry passage is bright and austere, leading to the bar area on the right – spacious and artfully decorated, with its marble floors, high stools and tables on one end, with the bar, occupying most of the space in front of it. Further on, the villa opens up to a dining room, a tad moodier in appearance than the bar, but with much comfier seating. Lastly, Mahe houses a boutique, Kassa, selling a classy selection of bags, wallets, jewellery and garments, so you can shop while you wait for you food.
The concise menu at Mahe attempts to do justice to India’s diverse coastal cuisine – right from Konkan-inspired dishes, to luscious Kerela cuisine, Bengali, and even Sri Lankan fare. Timeless recipes have been given a contemporary twist so while the food is familiar to an extent, it is also wildly unique.
Take for example the Preserved Aubergine Recheado – similar to the Brinjal Pickle we relish during homely lunches. Here, full baby aubergines, stuffed with fiery red recheado masala are served with a dollop of cream to soothe the taste buds. Served with poee, one can’t help taking yet another pinch of this silky appetizer.
I also tried the crispy okra with pickles (finely sliced ladyfinger with ivy gourd) and this ‘chatpata’ snack is light and binge-worthy. It would definitely pair well with drinks. Speaking of drinks, this restaurant in Goa does have an extensive array of spirits, cocktails, smoothies and even Kombucha! The servers are well versed with the drinks and dishes and offer valuable suggestions on both fronts.
Moving on to one of the best dishes of the night –mackerel with finely diced plums – slow cooked for so long that even the bone crumbles gently between your fingers. We noticed how the fish retained it shape beautifully and flaked at the slightest touch of a fork. While we all may have eaten plenty of slow cooked fish, I can bet that none of them come close to this one in terms of looks or taste.
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Kerala Beef Fry is a must-have at an Indian coastal restaurant and Mahe did a spectacular job, again, with tender meat and a spice mix that showed off the complexity of coastal flavours.
I was a little partial to the ‘bar bites’ and ‘small plates’ sections of the menu as they all had excellent food pairings, and I’d have loved it if my dinner comprised of items from those sections alone. But it was time to move on to mains. The ‘Grills’ portion of the menu was particularly interesting as one could pick a protein of your choice and it would be served with sauces from 3 regions – the West Coast, East Coast and Sri Lanka!
Upon the chef’s recommendation, we picked Pork Amsol and Sri Lankan Mutton Curry with string hoppers. The Amsol was authentically done – complete with the watery curry, hints of kokum and fatty pieces of pork. But the Mutton Curry was a clear winner among the two – the depth of flavour, rich taste and excellently cooked meat were sublime.
Only 2 desserts feature on the menu and we picked the Pradaman Panna Cotta. As we didn’t know what the word ‘Pradaman’ meant at first, we racked our brains to pinpoint that distinct taste – until finally narrowing it down to Puran Poli! We later learnt that the key ingredient in this unusual dessert was moong (gram)! The taste of Puran Poli is pronounced, though – all with the texture and smoothness of a Panna Cotta. Very novel indeed!
Mahe quite literally blows coastal cuisine out of the water – and a meal here is an experience in itself. Give it a shot and let me know what you think. You can get in touch with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to let me know what you think of the place.
Price for 2 – Rs. 1400-Rs. 1600