It’s far from a sedate neighbourhood spot, but Vivanta by Taj, close to the Panaji market, is home to some elegant restaurants. I visited one of them, Goan Stories, in the same property last year and was struck by the amount of detail, thoughtfulness and work put into the ambience and food. I keep telling everyone who asks, that the fare served there is the closest I have tasted to Grandma’s Goan cooking.
That aside, Pan Asian Food has always ranked among my Top 5 favourite cuisines and so, it was natural that I find myself at Tamari in Vivanta by Taj at one point or another. When Mum and I finally visited for lunch on a weekday, the restaurant was almost empty, save for a couple of hotel guests. We basically just walked in, selected a table and seated ourselves – strangely, the restaurant didn’t have a host/hostess at the door.
Tamari has simple, unpretentious interiors – comfortable for family style dining. But choosing one or two dishes for lunch from such an extensive menu would have been an overwhelming challenge. Lucky for us, the chef suggested some of their signature dishes and bestsellers, and we were tasked with simply eating it all. We started our meal with a clear Lemon Coriander Shrimp that had clean, bold flavours, a little heat and a fragrance that smelled like springtime. While we were merrily slurping, our appetizers arrived, and they were each better than the next!
The Chilly Mountain Chicken was a tantalizing traditional Sichuan appetizer. Tender chicken in crispy batter, tossed with dried chillies, sesame seeds and Chinese wine simply exploded with delicious smoky flavour.
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Just as fabulous was the next appetizer – Crispy Fish Nha Trang Style. Personally, when I visit a Pan Asian restaurant, I choose dishes where the name of the dish lets you know what to expect on the plate. Having never heard of Nha Trang Style before and not seeing a description of the dish on the menu, I wouldn’t have ordinarily ordered it. Thankfully, the chef sent it out and oh-my-Lord! This Vietnamese dish of crispy fried fish was glazed with a distinct sweet and savoury flavour, delightful enough to take you to the gates of paradise! It is leagues ahead of what your neighbourhood Chin-dian joint can whip up!
The last appetizers we could down before our mains arrived were the mildly spiced and juicy grilled chicken skewers and a sample portion of sushi. The sushi platter had salmon, tuna, crab and prawn tempura varieties on it, and since Mum is not a very experimentative eater, she was wary of trying one. On finally giving in to my insistence, she ended up eating two prawn tempura rolls!
A couple of spoolfuls of sticky Jasmine Rice paired with a luscious Vietnamese red chicken curry ‘Ca Ri Ga’ was all I could manage for main course! But the chef bought out another signature dish with a crazy, complicated name – say it with me – Khao Phad Nam Prik Pao – Thai fried rice spiced with roasted curry paste and sweet basil, and we had a taste of that too, alongside a mushroom, tofu and broccoli stir fry.
By the way, I should mention that while my meal preferences are skewed towards non vegetarian food, vegetarians will find excellent eating here, too!
A curious looking dessert wrapped up our experience at Tamari in Vivanta by Taj. I make my dessert choices pretty well known on Instagram – the more indulgent, the better! However, I just didn’t have the space to tuck into a gooey dessert, and this light n’ airy lemon mousse with a coconut sorbet left sweet enough last notes.
Note – My meal at Tamari was sponsored, however views, as always, are my own.