When you are surrounded by intricately carved wooden pillars sourced from an old haveli in Kochi,and shining velakus (lamps) for company,the experience that follows is sure to have a hint of royalty to it. The new look that south Mumbais favourite coastal food haunt,Konkan Cafe at Vivanta by Taj President sports has worked well. We landed at Konkan Cafe on its third night since it reopened and were pleasantly surprised to see a full house on a weekday.
The bar from the restaurants original avatar made way for a seating lounge. Framed works of famous Goan cartoonist Mario Mirando adorn the walls,along with a frame of Tolpava koothu painting,a dying art form from Kerala. Apart from the interiors,Konkan Cafe has also made a few additions to its menu including a fabulous weekend breakfast spread. Among the familiars were the courtyard-shaped dining area and of course Chef Ananda Solomon,who could be seen welcoming his guests.
We started our journey through the Konkan belt from Maharashtra,with Taleli Paplet (pomfret),Taleli Kane (lady fish) and Taleli Surmai all from the Tawa fry section (price depends on size of catch) of the menu. Roasted to perfection,all three fish stood out owing to their distinct marinades lightly spiced for the pomfret,flour-based to add crispiness for the lady fish and the lemony one for the surmai. Our pick has to be the pomfret for the contrast that the crispy skin created with the tender flesh of the fish. The skin can be made crispier on request.
For mains,we ordered Kombdi Vade (Rs 600) chicken made Konkani style with ground spices served with multi-grain puris and Crab Masala that goes very well with idiyappams. The succulent crab meat married effortlessly with the heady coconut and ginger-based masala,making the dish the highpoint of our meal. The chicken curry,with all its usual elements such as soft meat and spicy coconut gravy also hit the right spot.
Since jackfruit is an integral part of coastal cuisine,we also called for Phanasachi bhaji (jackfruit curry) and rice bhakris (flatbread). Though the jackfruit curry was pale in presentation in comparison to the other two dishes,it stood out for its taste. Next up was the Mappila Meen Biryani (Rs 400) a must-try from coastal Kerala. The rice is lightly spiced to highlight the flavours from the fish. The fish biryani was served with a sweet and spicy date chutney,which our server explained is the traditional way of pairing the two.
We ended our meal further south,with traditional Kerala sweet preparations Ada and Elaneer (tender coconut) Payasam (Rs 300 each). The warm Ada Payasam,made of jaggery and roasted coconut,worked well with the contrasting chilled and sugary Elaneer Payasam. Lastly,a round of freshly brewed Narasus filter coffee (Rs 75) was something we couldnt resist.
Average meal for two: Rs 2,350 (without alcohol and also depends on the size of the catch)