If you eliminate the pizza parlours and the old-school (but still so delicious) triad of Pesto, Alfredo and Arabbiata sauces from Italian menus across the country, you’ll be left with a mere handful of establishments serving the perfect plate of pasta. Think about it! I can only speak for myself when I say that my orders at Italian restaurants have more or less been identical – the same old, same old.
So for those looking for a taste of ‘La Dolce Vita’ while experiencing the finest Indian hospitality, head to The Verandah, a fine dining Italian restaurant at Grand Hyatt, Bambolim.
Visit on an empty stomach as you just have to sample a little something from every section of the menu – antipasti, zuppe, pizza, risotto, gnocchi, carni, pesci, dessert, and more. The service is on point, with every server introducing themselves as they seat you and ensuring that you always have something on the table. They keep the mood jovial, removing the stuffiness that usually comes with dining at a high-end restaurant.
Elegant, without being ostentatious, this inviting, romantically lit restaurant has the delicious aromas of Italian cuisine emanating from the open kitchen, wherein you can watch the artistry unfolding before your eyes. While in the central section of the restaurant, you will see chefs roll out pasta sheets, and form individual, delicate strands of spaghetti between their fingers, reminding you of how delicate and pain-staking Italian cooking can be. Yes, the restaurants roots have definitely not been ignored.
On this, my first visit to The Verandah in Goa, I chose the indoor seating, thanks to it being an exceptionally sultry day, and was soon sipping some tasty icy, coolers, while the very personable chef, Dinesh Rana, came over to say hello and offered suggestions on the restaurant favourites.
Capesanta Mare Monti – fresh, seared juicy scallops served with asparagus on a bed of velvety pumpkin puree was a delicious light starter to rev up the appetite. It came topped with an ultra thin shard of parma ham for visual appeal and a drizzle of truffle honey for a touch of sweetness.
Calzoncini Di Tonno – Deep fried pockets of tuna is a great kid-friendly option. If you want to save your appetite for mains, you can give this a miss without much regret. They are basically piping hot, flaky tuna chunks are wrapped within a calzone-like shell and deep fried, served with tartare sauce.
Pizza Verandah – Refreshingly Mediterranean, this pizza features a handful of ingredients that work in harmony. Large slivers of parma ham, semi-soft balls of creamy, rich bocconcini, roughly torn rocket and basil, pesto and yellow tomato make up the toppings. Like all great authentic thin-crust pizzas, this one is a tad crispy with a nice bite to it and doesn’t leave you feeling overly stuffed.
Risotto Gambari e Aspargi – Prawn Risotto cooked with asparagus, onion, olive oil and white wine with a distinct taste of salty, aged Picorino is The Verandah’s signature dish. True to its reputation, it is splendid and a welcome variation of the standard risotto.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, it is natural to judge an Italian restaurant on how good the pasta is!
My favourite dish of the night was undoubtedly the Orecchiette Al Ragu Di Agnello – and if you’re a non-vegetarian, I highly recommend that you order it! Orecchiette literally translates to “little ears” which is what this pasta looks like. A meaty Australian lamb ragout sauce slathered on top of the pasta, with chunks of meat cooked for hours, sprinkled over with parmesan shavings and parsley made this a knockout dish! It was love at first bite and I couldn’t help but wonder why I haven’t seen this kind of pasta featured on any Italian restaurant menu so far. Oh well, all the more reason to re-visit The Verandah!
For mains, I tried two sample portions – one Bricuola Alla Barese, or buffalo tenderloin served with green peas and mash, garnished with herbs and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Fork-tender with just the right soft-chewy bite, this red-wine braised piece of meat is sure to be the envy of Italian grandmas. The second, Braciola di Maiale – or Pork Chop with a potato pancetta cake had a delectable honey chestnut dressing making it hard to not over-eat it!
The finishing touch should, rather, must, be Tiramisu and it is brought to the table in a large dish cradled in Chef Dinesh’s arms, containing enough to feed at least 20 people. He scooped out a large dollop straight onto my plate. The taste of coffee is an instant pick-me-up and the Baileys is stronger than in any tiramisu I’ve ever eaten. Ultra creamy, served chilled and oh-so-heavenly!
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The Verandah at the Grand Hyatt Goa exemplifies what Italian fine dining should be. Stylish, refined, elegant but unstodgy with delicate flavours and traditional recipes to suit the modern palate. Sure, you will end up paying a premium for the name, but you can be rest assured that this is quality of the finest order!
P.S. I was a guest at Grand Hyatt, however, views, as always, are my own.