Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Café Xavier

It was a Friday that day. And whenever I get to be in Goa on a Friday, I never miss the Friday Market at Mapusa. Walking past and through the makeshift stalls that sell everything from furniture to fruits to clothes is a thrill not to be missed.

One of the jewels I found while on one of my previous visits to the Mapusa market is this place called Café F Xavier. For those familiar with Goa, this name is sure familiar. But for those who are not, I’d suggest you add this to the list of places to eat while at Goa.

Café Xavier is one among the many stores in the crowded Mapusa Market (that’s if you are there on a  Friday). Given the numerous stalls lined in front of it, you stand a good chance of missing it too. The best way to find your way here is to ask around.

This café is a humble eatery and serves as a good stop for a quick snack or lunch while shopping. The blue and yellow mosaic décor on the walls adds a creative touch to the place. The same colour scheme is followed for the tables and chair, partitions as well as the waiters’ dressing.

The blue & yellow decor

The menu has a mix of Goan as well as other Indian delicacies. The place also has a bar counter and serves simple liquor and does not have fancy cocktails. Nothing like having a chilled port wine in the sweltering Goan heat. That’s what we ordered. At 20 bucks per glass, it well worth it. The best part about Goa is that you can sip on a glass of port wine at any time of the day. Vinod had a second and a third helping that day.
Port ine chilled to perfection

Café Xavier has an interesting practice. As soon as you take your seat, they place before you plates full of samosas, cutlets, patties, croissants and other spicy snacks. You pay for what you eat. Not only are these super scorers on taste, they are also light on the pocket. We emptied a plate of beef cutlets that best appealed to us from the spread. Minced beef with onions, chillies and spices rolled into cutlets melt in your mouth. Keep eating these snacks and you don’t even have to look at the menu. Sorry, we have no pictures to share because we were busy eating.

We were not too hungry when it was actually time to have lunch and hence chose to stick to a simple order.

I am a fan of the Chicken Cafreal at Café Xavier’s. It’s the one thing I order every time I come here. No change this time around either. You taste it and you’ll know why. The Cafreal is one of the very famous Goan dishes. Chicken cooked till tender in a thick paste made of onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, chilli and coriander leaves. The paste is tangy and spicy and leaves both the eyes and mouth watering. But the dash of sweetness in it, balances it out completely. The Portuguese must be thanked for leaving this recipe behind.

Chicken Cafreal

The colour is a dark brown almost a shade of black and screams out every ingredient that has gone into its making. The cafreal was served with some buttered veggies, potato wedges, tomato cooked in the sauce and a small helping of salad.

The mood called for a traditional Goan Prawn Curry with steamed rice. It felt like home. A not-so-thick coconut based gravy ground with red chillies and other spices was light and not very spicy. Interestingly, the gravy had ladies fingers (okra) with the prawns. Not a great combination to try at home. I’m still wondering if that’s an original recipe or a variant. This meal came with a dry prawn balchao, pickle and some vegetable curry. It’s a complete meal and works well if you are in a hurry.

Prawn Curry and Rice

Apart from the distinct flavours we got to taste at Café Xavier, a meal for two cost us just over 300 rupees. Not bad at all!

Pay by : Cash, not sure about cards
Restroom : Basic, not too clean
Average meal for two : Rs 400 (with wine)
Mel’s overall rating : 3 out of 5

Location: No 141, Mapusa Municipality Market, Mapusa, North Goa

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Viva Panjim

Viva Panjim! Literally. To say the least, this restaurant is a blessing to food lovers in Goa. If you enjoy Goan cuisine, this is the place to be. We found this place on the net listed amongst the numerous restaurants in Panjim but since it had a mention of local cuisine, we decided to give it a try.

Viva Panjim is located in a very small bylane close to the Panjim Church. We called the restaurant for directions to reach the place and the owner very politely guided us. A tiny board shows the way to this place we call heaven. In front of us was a beautiful orange and white heritage house. I do not know the style of architecture of the house, but to me it looked like one that you see in those nice paintings. There were small tables and chairs outside the house for those who like to enjoy their meal outdoors. But since we were keen on seeing the house, we opted to sit inside.

The beautiful exteriors

There is an A/C section as well as a non-A/C section. The hall where we sat had a bar counter with a huge antique mirror. Most of the furniture around were (or at least looked like) antique. The owner of the place Linda De Souza spent a good ten minutes chit chatting with us about everything from the history of Goans, its connection with Mangalore, to the kind of fish that is available at the markets. Felt quite at home I must say! Chef Linda De Souza has won many awards for her cooking and her restaurant, most of which are displayed at the restaurant.

A view of the interiors

The menu mostly offers local Goan and Portuguese cuisine, and Linda is around to help you choose in case you are in doubt. It was my birthday lunch that day and I decided to treat myself with a little extra than I do everyday.

It was a sunny afternoon and to beat the heat, I ordered a Gimlet which is gin, lime juice and lime cordial. The freshness of the lime and ice was very soothing. Vinod ordered a Goan Rumba, a cocktail made with Goan fenny, rum and pineapple juice. To go with it, we ordered a plate of rava fried mussels. During this trip, we’d fallen in love with mussels and hence you’ll see them in all our reviews. At Viva Panjim, the mussels were fried to perfection. Mildly spiced, this dish went very well with our cocktails.


Goan Rumba

Crumb fried mussels

The next interesting thing that caught my eye in the menu was the Pigling Torradinho. This Portuguese dish consists of delectable pieces of meat sautéed with onions, black pepper and spices that melt in your mouth. This dish is something you just can’t get enough of. We recommend this to all pork fans. Given the extremely good taste, the quantity could have been better. Well, there’s no harm in ordering a second plate/ helping.

Pigling Torradinho

Port Wine

Fresh Lime Soda

For our second round of drinks we ordered a glass of chilled Vinicola port wine and some fresh lime soda. Nothing to write home about here. For the main course, as recommended by Linda we tried the Prawn Curry and rice. Five stars for this one! The thick coconut based gravy with mild chilly was delicious. The quantity of rice though was little and sufficient for one who is not too hungry.

King fish recheido

Prawn Curry and Rice

As an accompaniment we ordered a king fish in recheido masala. This is another of our favourites. After all the places I have tried for Goan food, I can say that this was better than all of them and was closest to the authentic taste. Extremely spicy, the ingredients for this masala are ground in special Goan vinegar. For smaller fish like mackarels, this masala is often used as a stuffing.

Prawn Balchao

Since the rice was not too filling, we went in for some Prawn Balchao. This is not to be missed when you’re trying the local food. This fiery red dish is almost like a pickle but can be eaten as a side dish as well. The prawns are simmered in a smooth paste of ginger, garlic, onions and tomatoes along with a whole lot of spices and vinegar and is not for those who can’t handle spice. Since the Balchao had a thick gravy, we ordered for Goan Pav (bread). Though they look like buns, they are not as soft. It requires quite an effort to bring them down to pieces. But all said and none, it compliments the Balchao.

Goan Pav

Viva Panjim didn’t just offer us the best Goan food, but it also gave us the perfect place to relax and have a relaxed lunch. Our meal cost us a little less that Rs 800 and we’re surely going there, each time we are in Goa. Viva Panjim! Viva Goa!

Pay by : Cash or Credit Card
Restroom : Very clean
Average meal for two : Rs 800 (including drinks)
Mel’s overall rating : 4.5 out of 5

Location: Behind Mary Immaculate High School, Panjim. Ph: 0832 2422405 / 09850471363.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Coorg @ Koramangala

I am still not sure if I did the right thing. Was it worth the time and effort? After a hectic morning schedule, we decided it was going to be Coorg @ Koramangala to put our hunger to rest. Going by the review that was carried in a newspaper, I was really looking forward to some authentic Coorgi fare.

We reached there at exactly 1pm. What welcomed us was a small restaurant up a narrow stairway, just opposite Corner House and Sweet Chariot in Koramangala. The walls wore a metallic shade of purple and carried the formal corporate look. Not the best ambience to unwind and have a leisure lunch. The entire place could hold about 8 -10 tables with a seating of 4 in each.

Thirty minutes later, we were handed the menu. Yes, Thirty minutes. The restaurant was packed (thanks to the previous day’s reviews) to full capacity that everyone was asked to share tables. Now this was not something nice but luckily we had another young couple share the table with us. Its sad to know this place does not have seating for two.

The menu does not have too many options and it would hardly take any time to decide on what to have. And if you’ve tried Coorgi food earlier, you would surely know what you would want. For starters we ordered the Coorgi Chilli Chicken and for main course I was sure I wanted to feast on Pandi Curry ( the famous pork that the Kodavas boast of, and why not?). To go with it, we ordered some Akki Rottis.

On the menu they had various other Kodava delicacies too that you can tempt your taste buds with. Various Coorgi gravies and curries of chicken and pork offer enough for the non-vegetarians, the vegetarians might have to visit some other place for a full meal. There’s not much in store.

It was 2 pm and our food hadn’t arrived. The restaurant that was quiet until then, suddenly had some club mixes played in the background. Thanks to the music, the others in the restaurant could not hear my tummy growl. After repeated reminders and a stern comment, our food finally arrived. Wrong order! After the wait….you finally get a dish you didn’t order. The staff conveniently served us pork in place of chilli chicken. We were too hungry to fight and decided to eat whatever was served.

The Chilli Pork (a semi gravy) scored high in comparison with the Pandi Curry. Hot, spicy and Tangy…the flavours that best describe the dish. The meat was tender and absorbed all the masalas well. The dark brown colour of the dish spoke of the roasted spices that have gone into its making. For every piece of meat there were two chillies. The generous amount of black pepper too added to the tears that were rolling out of our eyes. Vinod cannot handle too much spice and this time we had to place the tissue holder right next to his plate. Though the taste was great, there was one distinct ingredient that stood out. I am still wondering what it was. If not for this, that dish was something I’d go back there for.

The akki rottis (rotis made of rice fried on a tawa)were just the way a Coorgi family would make them. Light and crisp and not too large. The Pandi Curry (a gravy with pork, onions and other spices) was just average. The spices were still raw and it was evident that the meat has just been added to it. I like the gravy thick as against this one which was quite watery. The taste of garam masalas along with the coriander and the chilli came out separately with each morsel. Being a fan of Kodava food, this dish definitely needs improvement at Coorg @ Koramangala.

We wanted to finish our meal with some rice and a glass of buttermilk each, both of which didn’t arrive till 3 pm hence we decided to go without it. As for the billing, the cashier didn’t seem apologetic for the wrong order and also charged us a higher price.

With all the bad experiences we had, I’d still want to think that this place can do a much better job. I’d still want to believe that they are new to the business and are having their teething problems. Well, will I go there again? …..not sure as yet!

Pay by : Cash / Credit Card ( machine is yet to be up and running)
Restroom : Unisex, clean
Average meal for two : Rs 400
Mel’s Overall Rating: 2 out of 5
Location : Above the Wild Craft Store and opposite Corner House and Sweet Chariot.
Address : #64, 1st Floor, 1st Main, 7th Stage, Koramangala, Bangalore. Ph: 080 40991191