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ISSUE OF MAY 2003  
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Mumbai To Goa - A Culinary Cruise!

I do not review restaurants. Why ? Because I feel that if I walk into any restaurant I would definitely get preferential treatment. Would the same courtesies, service, food and treatment be extended to everyone else who walks into that restaurant? I am not sure! Still here I am attempting to write, for the very first time, about restaurants. I feel that the information through this column would definitely be beneficial to the readers and also help them better in decision making when it comes to eating out. Like everyone else I also want to be adventurous but at the same time want to feel happy about the whole dining experience. Life is very short, therefore allow me to do the job of finding good eating places from all across the globe through well-researched methods which are essentially is based on Hit and Trial. For you I am willing to be the guinea pig.

(Top) Proud owners Suhas and Deepa Awchat, (Below) Goa Portuguesa restaurant interior, Culture Curry restaurant

Here is Goa sans the sea and sand. At Goa Portuguesa, Mahim, a restaurant par excellence, one could go ga-ga over the food especially when you know that this popular Mumbai restaurant has won a hat trick of awards in the year 2002. Be it international recognition by the New York Times, the ‘Best Indian Restaurant Award’ from H&FS and Tourism Department Government of India and the ‘The Outstanding Gourmet Restaurant Award’ in India by the International Tourism Council. The proud owners have every reason to beam for recently the `Udyogshree: Businessman of the Year’ award has been awarded to their twin restaurants Goa Portuguesa and Culture Curry. And frankly, smiling comes easy to the smart couple Dr Suhas Awchat, MD and his ever smiling wife Deepa, executive chef and CEO, Goa Portuguesa for their labour of love has borne fruits by the bushel. Is it all hype? Let’s find out.

Let me begin with the story. Sorry, the love story. What happens when a staunch Maratha meets a Goan senior customs officer. The former did not want to follow his medical profession and the latter had an undying love for Goan food, and of course the former has an undying love for the latter so now history is made. Goa Portuguesa is designed as a small Goan cottage with stained glass and arched windows, the music system replete with sweet Goan melodies, all traces of this place formerly being a clinic gone! Says Deepa, “Our cuisine consists of both Goan and Portuguese food, the difference being that the latter is less spicy, lighter and uses a lot of olive oil. This food is mainly from Goan Catholics, whereas the Goan cuisine is from the Hindu Goans”. And adds in Dr Awchat, “It is a myth that Goan food is synonymous with seafood. We have researched well and can dish up to two hundred vegetarian dishes!” In the recent past I have been noticing that Doc has been consistently trying to push his vegetarian fare. Vegetarianism is in, I guess.

Well, as the table is set, so are we…to taste the best that Goa Portuguesa has to offer. We start with chicken caldo verde, creamy soup with spinach and chicken. Do order garlic bread. Local Mumbai pav with generous portion of garlic and butter. grilled tiger prawns with the masala being perfect, or it is that the prawns were so very fresh. I am told Deepa takes personal interest in buying of fresh produce. Whatever, supreme is the word. With the pomfret recheiado in all its glory of red Goan masala on the fiery side, we also asked for a chicken xacuti with its exotic Goan spices in coconut gravy. And if the theme is Goan can Goa sausage be far behind? There are a number of incarnations being offered but the sausage chilli fry sharpens the palate with red hot chilli fumes! Phew! For veggies, the tender coconut cashew sukke replete with julienne of tender coconut and cashewnut cooked with onions, tomatoes and Goan sauce is worth writing home about. I have fallen in love with this dish so much that in my home it is cooked very often now. I ended my meal with Goan fish curry - a must have. Kingfish was perfectly cooked with just enough flaky texture without turning tough. I soaked the curry in steamed Goan brown rice. Simply divine. If I forget to mention the best solkadhi in town I would be committing a blasphemy.

Desserts were forced on me. I can’t blame anybody but myself because to do full justice to a review I must try! Bibinca with its layers and layers of gooey sweetness was satisfactory. Frankly too sweet and heavy for my liking. Inspite of being full to the brim, Jyotsna (my sis-in-law) and I dug into the caramel custard. Nice and chilled, creamy and silken. Alyona, my wife, was away in Delhi with our daughters Rachita and Kriti. In the last ten years this was the only time when I went out to dinner without her. I missed her. Deepa and Suhas made each of the guests feel at home by meeting and talking to them. Best way of getting correct feedback. Spot on.

Now that the palate has been taken care of, let’s look at the pocket! A couple could well enjoy the drinks, two starters, two main course dishes, breads and a couple of desserts for approximately a thousand rupees. And yes, if you are there on a lucky day of your life, there could be one of those multifarious discount schemes on!

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