Born in a middle class family. Married to a rich man. Lived the 5 star lifestyle. Husband falls ill and is bed ridden. Family gets into a cash crunch. She learns to cook to survive and starts catering. Works 18 hours a day. 20 years later, she is now invited all over the country to give 'self help' talks, cooks for banquets in 5 star hotels, runs her catering company, wins the 'Most enterprising woman entrepreneur award' from an international organisation and is role model to many! Sounds like a fairy tale? That is the story of Chef Sarita, who has been flown down from Goa by Residency Towers to kick start their 10 day long Goan Food Festival.
While I was never a big fan of the food here, my last visit to THE CROWN, which had a guest Punjabi chef was outstanding. And now, Chef Sarita has been flown down, so Residency Towers is talking the food festivals seriously. "Don't let the grilled fish and prawns fool you, that is not Goan cuisine at all. That is available in Goa due to the influx of foreigners," she says and goes on the intricately explain Goan cuisine. The splits them into 3 classes of people, belonging the various communities and how each of them have modified the Portuguese style of cooking to suit their palates.
Being the first day, there was only one starter each in veg and non veg, but Chef Sarita says that from the second day, there will be two each. We had a fantastic toastie which was a slice of toasted bread with a fish pate. It was like the liver pate on bruschetta, but Indian style. The veg florets were quite nice too.
As we heard more about Goan food and culture, we attacked the main course. The regular buffet is there with the Goan additions. In the non veg, there was this excellent crab Xac Xac which was full bodied with great flavour, an excellent beef stew, a fish Amaroti that I did not taste and a dry lamb preparation that was fantastic in flavour, but the meat was very bad with too much bones and no flesh. I wonder how it would have tasted if the chef got her hands on great lamb which led the conversation towards the quality of meat available in Goa, the role of rice and more. I was hoping there will be Vindaloo and Goan fish gravy, but Chef asked me to come back another day after checking with her.
There were four vegetarian main dishes of which the dhal is only one I tried, but my friend had good words to say about the other dishes too. From the regular buffet, I quite liked the biriyani (yes, I said it) and the honey glazed potatoes, but the others were too run of the mill for me. We had the Goan dessert Bebinca, which I love and it was just as awesome as it was in Goa, while there was another hard sweet that was new to me, but quite nice too. "Without that, no wedding will take place in Goa," she says. The rest of the desserts were very 'buffety' if you know what I mean.
Chef has given me an open invitation to stay with her family to learn more about Goan cuisine and I hope to make use of that some day. The Goan band that played along was excellent and they played at every table to amusement of the guests and so every five minutes we heard a round of applause from individual tables.
Priced at Rs. 1000/- nett, if you like Goan cuisine or looking to experiment, this is worth a shot.