Nobody expects Delhi to have better Goan food than Bombay and you don’t have to look further than geography and demographics to see why. And I’m certainly not going to make that counter-intuitive and provocative claim here. The fact is Delhi barely has any Goan restaurants. However, on this trip to Bombay and Delhi I ate better Goan food in Delhi than I did in Bombay. I hasten to add here that when I speak of Goan food I am doing so in the stereotypical sense of the Christian food most associated with Goa. After all, Highway Gomantak is also a Goan restaurant and I’m not making any comparison with my meal there. No, it is to my meals at O Pedro that I am comparing my lunch at Viva O Viva and ruling in favour of the Delhi establishment. And this too should probably not be a surprise as Viva O Viva is the restaurant at Goa Niwas in Chanakyapuri, the official (very large) guesthouse of the Goa state government in Delhi.
It is a far more formal establishment than Samridhi at Kerala House; it is not a canteen but a restaurant proper, with table service. I don’t want to give the impression, however, that it is a fancy restaurant because it is not. The aesthetic is one you might generously call crowded. Indeed, it was very reminiscent of childhood visits to the homes of some olde relatives who seemed to have everything in the house crammed in one room, more stacked and piled than arranged. This was exacerbated on this visit by the fact that it was Christmas season, and various signifiers of the holiday added extra surreal and occasionally menacing hints to the feel of the place. The food, however, was uniformly excellent.
I met a childhood friend there who I hadn’t seen since the one year we overlapped at Delhi University in the late Triassic. He’s now a bit of a mucky muck in the Indian bureaucracy and the meal was given some extra tang by his insights into the working of the current and past governments. But since I can’t talk about that without potentially getting him into trouble let’s just focus on the food. There was a special Christmas menu up on the wall. I’m not sure what relationship it bears to the regular menu, and in any case one of the things recommended to us wasn’t even on it.
What did we eat? Since it was just the two of us and my friend was going back to work and it would be dangerous for me to take leftovers back to my mother’s refrigerator—she being already resentful of the fact that I was eating one meal out every day—we could not order as much of the highly enticing menu as I would have liked to. The manager helped us out by saying that he would be happy to give us half portions of some dishes so that I could try a lot more. This is what we ate:
- Goan sausage chilli fry. We got a half-order of this and it was just dynamite: hot, tangy sauce clinging to the fatty, slightly funky sausage.
- Tiger prawn balchao. This was not listed on the menu—though I suppose it might be the same as the listed prawn chilli fry—but man, it was excellent. As much as I had liked the balchao at O Pedro the previous week, this blew it out of the water. Also a half portion.
- Sea fish curry. This was recommended by the manager. I forget now what the fish was but it was fresh and the curry was excellent: balanced, mellow with coconut milk but not mild. This was excellent with rice.
- Pork vindaloo. Another half portion, this was bloody good as well.
We mopped up the above with a combination of pao and rice.
For dessert we got their bebinca (very good) and the manager also pressed some of their Christmas brownies on us (good but nothing very special). You may have noticed that we did not get any vegetable dishes. Well, as you’ll see in the menu in the slideshow, they barely have any.
For pictures of the chaotic space and the excellent food, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much this all cost and to see what’s coming next.
Service was very friendly—though there were not very many people there at the time. All of this food came to Rs. 1800 before tip, or just about $25. Excellent value for excellent food. I cannot understand why my friends in Delhi don’t eat here all the time. Oh, I should say that if you go here as a visitor from outside India make sure to carry cash with you: their machine can only accept Indian credit cards. And, of course, as at Samridhi, I’m not sure what the protocol is on non-Indians eating at the state bhawan canteens/restaurants. Even if it’s prohibited, it not going to be a problem getting in with the missus on my next trip, thankfully, as she will just be taken as being from one of the Northeastern states. I can certainly tell you that I will be trying to eat there again.
Alright, next up from Delhi, a return to Cafe Lota, a restaurant I have reported on twice before (here and here). Is it still as good as it was a couple of years ago? You’ll have to wait till next week for my answer.