Goa Garnishes Upper Crust in the latest edition! 

Read all about the quarterly round up of restaurant showcases in and around Goa- from Far East Asian Cuisine to Mediterranean Nostaligia in the latest edition of Upper Crust. Grab your copy today. 

Miguel Arcanjo: Dining with Legend

Taj Exotica, Calwaddo, Salcete, Benaulim, Goa 403716 Phone:0832 668 3333 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.2000/- + taxes

Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends.”- Legends of the Falls. 

Touted as one of the most exclusive restaurants in Goa named after the maestro first Indian executive chef in 1939 at the Taj Mahal Mumbai- this restaurant is an ode to his legacy. A place by reservation and exclusively dedicated to the art of pampering, this establishment is situated on the lobby level of the Taj Exotica. Stately refined with an aura of luxury, a fountain in the center for company- one gazes at the open interactive kitchen set against bay windows in the distance. This is a perfect destination of special moments and events. 

A choice of air conditioned comfort during the day one can opt for sitting in the verandah overlooking acres of lush green lawns, the restaurant provides a perfect arena for the maestro’s gastronomic delights that have been painstakingly researched and restored by the chefs. Start off with the Forest mushroom cappuccino with drizzled truffle oil to get the meal underway and carry in tune with the chef’s interpretation of Masci’s favourite preparation- the Chicken Liver pate en encroute with toasted brioche and garnitures. 

The Chorizo de Goa was a beautiful mélange of cured pork sausages with a delicate infusion in a croquette and phyllo chorizo parcel and a carefully balanced Chorizo terrine cake. For a more Mediterranean flavor- try the Atlantic Black Cod which lays claim to the experimentalist ahead of his time in the way Masci would blend flavors to create a ‘Nouveau’ experience for his diners. Fish baked with fermented soybean, wilted young spinach with a brush of stewed rhubarb soy soil and lemon balm. 

For the dessert lover in you, we would recommend a spectacle the folks at the restaurant lovingly call the ‘Grand Dessert Opera’. A sinful interactive play of swirls and whirls- raspberry, chocolate and dried fruits. Wait for the end, it sure will get a response out of you.

 Koi : The Art of Zen on a plate

Gauravaddo, Behind Snip Salon, Calangute, Goa 403515 Phone: +91 98118 25551 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.1300/- + taxes

 Named after the enchanted fish – the koi, that swims across many waters of Asia, Shefali Gandhi & Aziz Lalani, have conceptualized a ‘style’ of dining that many may wish to experience. The Art of Zen on a plate as referred, the duo has endeavored to capture the tantalizing flavors of Far East Asian cuisine with interpretations of delicacies from Vietnam, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, to name a few.

 Enter the Jade walls that compliment herringbone styled floors, the Buddha bust sets the mood for a perfect fine dine setting and allow them to you’re your mind of ‘expectations’. Start off your evening in style at the Martini bar with a wide array of signature Martini cocktails that would appease anyone fancies. The Silver Bullet Martini is a showcase with a cooled stirred martini poured over a Mont Blanc pen in a frosted glass. 

For the mains- the signature lies in the Burmese khow-suey and is a meal in itself. A slice of Japan makes way in the sashimi and sushi counter. Or simply indulge yourself in the Korean pork ribs succulently marinated to perfection, a gastronomic treat indeed. One of the only standalone fine dining restaurants, to host a Teppanyaki counter, do try the theatrical experience in the ‘Seven Deadly sins’. 

 This is Supper Theatre Live with a special 7-course menu curated by Shefali Gandhi and seats 8 by reservation only. We were amazed to bear witness to old school traditions in the Gueridon trolley for their signature Mandarin flambee crepe dessert that signed off the evening with aplomb.

 

 Sheela’s: A Landmark in Goan cuisine

Opposite St Jacinto Island, Sancoale, 403710 Phone: 0832 2555675/ +91 9049158277 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.900/- + taxes

 This story dates back nearly three decades when Nicolua D’Souza, a tailor by profession, started this venture. It had begun as a simple styled ‘taverna’ where the lady of the house Luiza would cook for the locals who worked on the barges in the vicinity. 

Today that very ‘taverna’ is a landmark thronged by a line of cars parked on either sides of the rode opposite the picturesque St.Jacinto Island. Run by Sylvester D’Souza, the proprietor’s son and in its 28th year of operation, the buzz is still alive with customers waiting for a quick meal before they head off to catch their flight.

The restaurant has two sides for seating but one has to sit on the deck to view the scenic beauty of the river. During lunch, waiters scurry around with moderately priced thalis, the local lunch favorite. We asked for the signatures, which were highly recommended and we were not disappointed. 

For starters the Chonak Raechade Masala (local goan fish) and Sylvester’s famous Stuffed Crabs. These are alive and snapping when brought to the table for one’s selection. A seafood lovers haven with the daily produce being hauled off the trawler live and fresh, the Rawa fried prawns go well as finger food snacks and the portions are wholesome. The seasonal Fried Bombay duck (bombil) is a crowd favorite with portions selling out and ordered from the morning by local patrons. 

If however the old favorites tickle your palate, order the Xacutti with Goan bread. We tried something unique in a special chicken preparation made by Luize, ‘Chicken Luizmarie’ with a three-flavor masala. It goes famously well with drinks and is highly recommended. 

Dinners are popular, the view out there is so impressive, especially in the night when the church across on the island is lit and its reflection is mirrored in the water.

Baba’s Wood Café ‘Da Maria’ : Ciao Goa

Shruti Resort, Next to Little Italy, Gaurowaddo Holiday Street, Calangute, 403516 Phone: +91 7264946643 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.1500/- all-inclusive sans alcohol

 An oasis of calm on one of the most bustling streets of Goa, would be the best way to describe this restaurant. Off the main road of the ever-crowded Holiday Street in Calangute, Maria Grazia has brought a little piece of Italy to Goa with her ‘unique’ flavors of Italia cuisine. A quaint ‘trattoria’ styled establishment in an open courtyard fringed with palms with a small pool that catches the reflection of the canopy of stars overhead is calm and borderline unnerving as the silence deafens ones senses despite the fact that this is one area patronized by the boisterous holiday maker. 

An inner area showcases apparel on display, the warmth of the lighting and the slatted tables on the cobbled floor. Its warm, its cozy and it bears the ‘Da Maria’ stamp. The menu is true blue Italian with a wide variety of soups, starters, pizzas, pastas and salads to choose from. Start off with the all time Margarita, Salmon and sour cream thin crusted 13” wood fire pizza baked in the kiln in the courtyard. 

Follow through with the Parmigiana- aubergine with basil Parmesan and tomato sauce. For the carnivore in you look no further than the Beef Carpaccio- delicately shaved and thinly sliced with rocket salad and pomegranate spelling heaven on a plate. With a slight nip due to a cold dewy night, we requested for a bowl of hot soup. Maria in her Italian affable nature suggests the Mushroom soup with croutons, which became our flavor for the night. Mind you the portions are huge and filling and can easily be shared. 

The Spaghetti a la Carbonara will be served with a warning chide by Maria stating that it has to be consumed in under ten minutes flat to avoid it becoming like bubble gum. This is an old favorite and has her signature attached to it since inception. The desserts are urban legend and have patrons travel from afar to sample the Afogata al Café or whisky version for the proverbial nightcap. 

A must have with the home made gelato on offer. A multitude of varieties to choose from she recommends the hazelnut. The Eat and drink desert ‘Copa Mangiabevi’ a fruit salad-brandy-ice-cream concoction or the seasonal Strawberry tiramisu are some specialties on offer that would wish you hadn’t had such a heavy meal an hour earlier. ‘Da Maria’ is sure to appeal ones senses.

 

 

 

 

Dining with ‘Legend’

I admit. I have procrastinated over this article for over 2 weeks. I have scribbled and scratched paper (the old fashioned ink to pen) tossed it in the garbage – had a cuppa more than needed and still run short to deliver what I thought would be a befitting article to what I ultimately penned. That’s when the realisation hit me. This article was never going to match up to anything in my head for two primary reasons- the gentleman written about was a Legendary Chef of the Taj Group of Hotels in his time and the more discerning fact of him being my grandfather who I never had the chance of meeting in person. Welcome to the Miguel Arcanjo @ Taj Exotica Goa.
Miguel Arcanjo fondly known as ‘Maskie’ Pic courtesy: Mitter Bedi Photography 
They say Legends are what one makes of them. Passed on thru time immemorare, it’s the build up which makes them larger than life. I happened to chance over his accolades (4 scrap books and counting) way back in 2006 when my mother decided to pen a biography about ‘Masci’ – as he was fondly known, which eventually won her the Special Jury award at the Gourmand World Cookbook awards in 2008. If your wondering what’s that? It’s the same award Julia Childs won a few years earlier. That book Masci- the Man behind the Legend is a short documented snippet of his life interspersed with a few management lessons and a few forgotten recipes of the maestro for company. It has been out of circulation since its award and is scheduled for a second edition sometime soon- back by popular demand!
It’s an lovely feeling sitting with people who ‘claim’ to know my grandfather over the years. I’ve heard multiple accounts of his life from a few people who are alive. All the stories percolate to two distinctive traits that shine through- him being a stickler for discipline in his kitchen and a maestro in everything he put his hand too. Genius is a word never used lightly however in his case use effortlessly by one and all who met or interacted with him. He cooked up a storm for dignitaries, celebrities, heads of state and rock stars alike and what grabbed headlines eventually was somewhere in the 70’s the Taj gifted him a kitchen worth a crore. Do the math it’s close to a Rs.55-60 crore kitchen in today’s day and age given inflation rates. 
Let’s focus on the task at hand though. The restaurant is revisited by me for the third time- however this time with the daunting task of me being settled into my writer avatar. No pressure, I assure myself as the specially crafted menu makes its way to our table. This is a tasting menu for the season ahead and has a revisit of some of Masci’s old documented recipes. 
I shall shed a spotlight for this post on ‘Nostalgia‘ which was his signature love for all things Portuguese and Goan. A simpleton at heart- Masci was known to relish his wife’s Deoniza cooking. He would head home for his afternoon siesta in between working hours for his power nap and his fish curry rice at my grandmothers hands. And just as he laid command over the kitchen at the Taj Mahal hotel he willingly handed over the same to his wife back home. It was her domain and that was the end of it. While the whole of Mumbai and the world were his ardent fans he had mad love for her and her cooking. 
The Taj Exotica Goa has painstakingly documented and researched his works and menus extensively and with their own twist have recreated some masterpieces from his hand written menus. Known for his Chicken Liver pate en encroute with toasted brioche and garnitures to the Chorizo de Goa– home cured pork sausages they came up with a delicate infusion of his famous Chorizo terrine, croquettes and Phyllo chorizo parcel the team as recreated magic all over again. Master class indeed- Would Masci have approved? I sure hope so given his soft corner for his home cuisine. 
Chorizo de Goa  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

Let’s not forget a few exotics that made their way to the table. Masci known to experiment back in the day would be pleased. The Capesante- Canadian scallop with a sinful plum relish, sauce vierge sweet pea purée & angel hair crisp leeks was stelar. It took me all of 5 minutes to just admire the creation let alone contemplating eating it. 

Capesante  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

The beauty of a course menu, is one gets to know what’s in tow and I waited in anticipation for the Atlantic Black Cod baked with fermented soy bean,wilted young spinach with a brush of stewed rhubarb soy soil and lemon balm. It begged my mind to demand second serving. Table manners prevailed and I refrained. The infusion and blend of flavour is hard to describe. It’s a must try for sure. 
Atlantic Black Cod   Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

A set menu is never complete without a single origin Jamaican Mountain brew. Exquisite and well balanced. It complimented the Opera perfectly. What is the Opera? Click here to find out more. 

As I sign off with a huge sigh of relief, I feel like Po from Kung Fu Panda having attained a glimpse into the enlightened gastronomic world of delicacies and Master Shifu being none other than the legend, the man, my grandfather who I fondly knew as ‘Papa’- Miguel Arcanjo Mascarenhas or to the culinary world ‘Masci of the Taj’.

Thank you for this schooling time and again.