If you can’t go to Goa, then Goa comes to you!
Like a vagabond, I am always on the move, seeking unexplored territories, charting untrodden paths. Whenever I’m out, it’s like a quest, to find something new. And it was one of those odysseys that I found Viva O Viva, at Goa Niwas (Chankya Puri). The actual plan was to gorge on Appam-Veg Kurma at Tamil Nadu Bhawan, but it turned out very crowded, and I detoured towards Goa Niwas. If you look at it from the road, Goa Niwas looks solitary – no cars outside, no guard or people. Yet I thought of entering, in anticipation of delectable seafood. From the side alley, there was a small door that took me inside the grand mansion. Once there, the heady aromas guided me to the restaurant.
Like the Niwas, even the restaurant was serene and grand, a far cry from TN Bhawan where even breathing seemed a luxury. And suddenly I was transported to Goa, with no extra baggage. The first thing that caught my fancy was the space. It would be considered premium if one were to compare with TN Bhawan, Andhra Bhawan, et al, in terms of decor. Green and yellow are prominent colours at Viva O Viva, and one can feel the positive vibes. Wooden planks resembling ship’s parts adorn the walls, jostling with images of Goa neatly framed. But it’s not the Goa as tourists know, but Goa as an insider would know. Images of seamen working on their daily catch, ships, docks, and the likes. Even the table mats are interesting, having illustrations of everyday Goan life by cartoonist Mario.
Once I took seat, a teenaged boy wearing typical flowery shirt came to take my order. There is no menu card. The menu is written on a board at the entrance, not an extensive array, yet, typically Goan. On being probed for a certain dish, the boy went inside to ask for his Chef – Patrick Barretto. Soon, a portly man in his 40s with thick moustache arrived. From his looks, I could never imagine that he would be so friendly and passionate about cooking. Patrick gave all the gyaan I needed to choose my dishes. After ordering, I whiled away listening to music while the chef started whisking magic!
Once I sampled the dishes, I was getting hungrier, to have more. Such was the pleasant surprise. Each delicacy was simply amazing. I started safe with Vindaloo and Prawn Curry. Vindaloo was succulent, which I hogged down with buns (Pao), and Prawn Curry was a little new to my tastebuds, as Goan cuisine is different from Mangalorean Cuisine I relish. Having Goan Vinegar as the chief ingredient, the Goan cuisine is little sour, and though it may look spicy, yet it would be classified as sour.
The glutton in me then took over the connoisseur, as I ordered more food! Had the food not been reasonable (Read: Quite cheap for fine dining) I would have certainly been on my way out by then. But then, how could I leave without having Calamari Piri Piri? As I was about to order, I just checked my wallet if I was carrying that much cash. Unfortunately I wasn’t carrying enough cash to order one more dish. So I asked one of the boys if they accepted Card. As he declined, my heart sunk. Calamari Piri Piri seemed even more premium a dish and as much delicious. My craving grew by few notches. And Patrick once again came around as savior. This time not as the chef but as the owner. He told me to pay next time. And immediately, I ordered a coke as well!
Calamiri Piri Piri was yet again, sour. But by that time I had adjusted to the flavours of Goa. It wasn’t the first time I was having Goan cuisine, as I had been a regular to Bernardo’s in Gurgaon as well. Though I wouldn’t compare the two. They both are different. Anyway, before I could realise, even the Calamari Piri Piri was over. And it was delectable. Subtly tangy, yet full of flavours.
Seeing my yet hungry face, Patrick suggested a Goan specialty dessert called Bebinca. I was two minded about Custard Pancake and Bebinca, and because I wasn’t carrying sufficient cash, I was little hesitant to order both. Patrick read my mind and brought both. Custard pudding was good, as there’s nothing much to go wrong with that. But the real find of the day was Bebinca. A multi-layered pudding made of flour, coconut milk, ghee, eggs and sugar. It was so light and melt-in-the-mouth, who would imagine while hogging it that Bebinca takes so much effort to make!
What I realised at Viva O Viva was that Patrick used fresh ingredients, be it seafood or the veggies (salads are crunchy and yummy). It really matters a lot in the science of culinary art. And that reflects chef’s passion and discipline too. Patrick is a perfectionist, and in my next visits, I got to know that Patrick himself leaves in the evening for fresh grocery shopping. Even his kitchen is one of the cleanest and organised I’ve seen. Building a good rapport with Patrick helped in two ways. A) I could brag to my friends and colleagues that I know the chef personally. B) Patrick kept me updated on fresh consignments of seafood, and seasonal delicacies like Turkey on Christmas, etc.
I have suggested Viva O Viva to all my friends and colleagues, and whoever went there went gaga about Patrick’s hospitality. He talks a lot, but never gets intrusive. On my first visit (around June ‘10) he told me, “This place is not yet thrown open to public, just for the Bhawan residents.” And I took pride in that statement, another brag point, “I had food at a place not yet open to public, dude!” Though things have changed by now, it’s peopled most of the times, yet not crowded!
It’s a casual dine in, where you can laugh aloud, listen to Goan music, or just munch on your food. Reasonably priced, it can be a good place to host parties too! To end the post on a sweet note (not sweeter than Bebinca though), I would dedicate Louis Armstrong’s – La Vie En Rose (Life is rosy): “Give your heart and soul to me, and life will always be, La vie en rose.”
You can reach Patrick at 9810132664.
Goa Niwas (Chanakyapuri) is on the lane that goes opposite Chankya Hall.
Direction: Take a left from the Chankya Hall Lane, and you will see two petrol pumps on your left. Take another left just after the second filling station, and go straight, and heaven would be on your left side after around 300 metres.