A disclaimer: this post is going to be ridden with errors as I have carried on part of a sensory experiment. I typed most of this with my eyes closed. Yes, you read correctly. After all I believe in a holistic submersive experience as was presented to me at the Alila Diwa Goa all but recently- the invite simply sent a chill down my spine ‘Welcome to Dine in the Dark‘.
As a concept, I have bared witness to this earlier, in my days of travel at Dans Le Noir in the charming area of Clerkenwell, London. This indeed was a first of its kind (to my knowledge) in Goa and I was eager as pleased to accept the invitation.
What is the concept? You eat in the dark. We all know the art of good food is primarily a hidden caveat with many eating with our eyes before the first morsel enters our gut. It’s visual appeal followed by the taste of the senses on most counts. It’s subconscious. This concept wipes clear the distraction with a pitch black canvas for visual company- the restaurant insist one eats with their hands (there goes table manners out the window….thanks for nothing mum,knew it was a waste of time) and the servers for the evening are bang on cue with the drinks being guided like Air Force One pilots with the blind vision impairment trainings regiment undergone in case of a sudden nuclear explosion- ie in short -flying blind.
I arrive at the destination- Spice Studio an elegant, contemporary setting for a dining experience centered on the authenticity of Indian spices,and am greeted by Siddharth Savkur- General Manager and Rashmi Chittal, the PR & Marketing Manager, who painstakingly shadowed my erratic schedule to get me there on a Thursday (yes this happens once a week with a prior reservation in tow…so make a note on your calendar for the next one.) Siddharth or so I presumed for a moment having only shaken a hand was an eerie feeling (pitch darkness remember) and all but suddenly hooked onto the familiarity of his voice to guide me to my seat. This is NOT his first rodeo, having done this on multiple occasions is at ease. Lest be known that this is my second time with a gap of almost a decade in between. Helped for saving face but hey who could see? Right?! evil grin.
The cuisine is inspired by a 100 mile radius of the quintessential Indian thali. I obviously was not privy to the menu. I got to know about it only post the completion where I was informed of the dishes I ate.
A short summary and sequence of events that followed…. Crunch…ah there goes the paapad (a roasted Indian bread) got that one right, only a few 20 odd items to go. My hands fumbled to the nearest dish, only to find them dipped into something squishy- a gravy perhaps. Oh wait a minute,that tasted like prawn- and enticingly so, might I add. Going in for the kill of adjusting my palate the way one is used too, I landed with a surge of sweetness on my next bite. I consumed a Rajbhog whole. It was all too familiar A sweetness that jolted me out of my chair. Do try and imagine a mildly spiced curry followed by a dessert soaked in sugar water
Get the drift? Like, Mad Max for my senses all night long. I had the salty twang of pickle interspersed with a carrot halwa all in the same gambit. An experience for the books indeed. A riot of flavor just the way an Indian thali is meant to be savored and enjoyed not in that particular order mind you. One can choose between a vegetarian and non vegetarian option.
The non vegetarian option was a zinger indeed. From the Peeli Mirch ka Murg, Rawa fried fish fillet, Rajma aur kele ki shammi (a brilliant blend of rajma beans and banana kebab) to the Jhinga masala (prawns) and the all time favorites Rajbhog and Gajar ka Halwa (Indian carrot dessert) this was one meal that devoured my senses silly. It leaves you acclimatising oneself from start to finish. One lays in suspense -prior and post, having experienced the art of interstellar travel that occurs in the midst of all this.
Oh and if your wondering when does the photograph arrive? It’s dark baby. And I’ve transitioned to the dark side. The force is strong in this one – Master Yoda save me.