Massive Restaurant’s first outlet in Goa, Bo-Tai is a buzzing party space offering beautiful sunsets and delicious Asian fare.
It’s the glass we could carry home with us. A round glass bowl, with a circle, cut off at one side, inside of which are hibiscus flowers floating on a strawberry-red liquid. This Full Moon Festival, a signature cocktail, is just one of the many standout elements at Bo-Tai, the newest restaurant to surface at Goa’s buzzing Vagator stretch.
The restaurant marks the debut (“first of many”) of Zorawar Kalra’s Massive Restaurants (known for Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, Pa Pa Ya, Farzi Café, etc), in collaboration with Aman Anand (producer and creator of Indian Nightlife Convention and Awards or INCA). This is the fourth Bo-Tai in the country.
On the day of its launch, there’s no full moon but a crescent moon in sight, its reflection lighting up the dark waters of the Arabian Sea. Bo-Tai has what many restaurants dream of a good location. It sits on the Ozran hill, overlooking Little Vagator beach. This view is the focus of the restaurant: it is visible from the 80-feet-long rectangular bar in the centre, from the different seating zones, and is the first thing to greet us as we enter.
Kalra saw the place in February and liked it instantly: it matched with the Bo-Tai concept of al fresco dining with a great view. “The sunsets here are epic,” says Kalra. We’ve just missed the sunset but there’s still that magical golden hour.
Service is quick and friendly, and within minutes of sitting down, we have our menus. The entire cocktail menu isn’t on offer. F&B manager Indrajit Suryavanshi mentions they are still finalising their infusions, and talks us through the process of how they infuse their vermouth.
Every cocktail has a long list of ingredients and a short story. The Full Moon Festival, for example, is inspired by Loy Krathong where people take colourful baskets filled with herbs and flowers and float them on the river. The tiki-style gin cocktail is zingy with nice notes of strawberry and a lovely balance of sweetness. Temple of the Lion, which tells the story of why chinthes (lions) guard the entrances of pagodas and temples, comes in a golden goblet. It is punchy, with mellow sweetness from strawberry and pomegranate and that familiar sourness of tamarind. The Naga Fireball is a production: smoke suffuses the glass, which is hidden under a glass cloche — the drink is a play on the Old Fashioned with nice heat from chilli cacao bitters.
Bo-Tai’s food doesn’t have the flair of its drinks but satisfies nonetheless. Chef Durgesh Tyagi has created a menu that is modern Thai with an Italian touch (hence the ‘Tai’ in the name). This is the only Bo-Tai to serve pizzas, which are the thin crust, cheesy pizzas promised in advertisements but rarely delivered. There’s even a pizette, a thin pizza tartlet with creamy topping of avocado, mushroom, and edamame.
The Crispy Lotus Stem is crunchy with a sticky sweetness. There’s a salty freshness to the YellowTail Hamachi Nigiri. Our Shao Mai Chicken and Chestnuts are packed dim sums with a nice bite and lasting flavour of basil. The standout is the Caramelised Crispy Prawns, which marry fresh seafood with a crispy coating, some kaffir lime, and garlic, to create a delicious morsel. The attention to quality ingredients comes to the fore in the Chilean sea bass, which is a perfectly cooked fillet of fish, with a spicy vegetable ragout offsetting the creamy beurre blanc.
There’s a short dessert menu. We try the recommended Coconut Crème Brûlée, which comes in dry coconut shells. The burnt sugar topping cracks satisfyingly, and the custard is adequately creamy. It is only as we scrape through the bottom of the coconut that we get some of that flavour. We would’ve preferred a more pronounced coconut-ty note, with less wastage.
Bo-Tai has big plans for the tourist season. Wednesday will feature live music, performed by Goa’s famous bands; first up is Tidal Wave. There will be sundowners, and special events for Christmas and New Year.
Kalra believes Goa has the right ‘happening’ vibe for a Bo-Tai. It’s why the Goan space will turn into a party zone past 10pm: the lights will dim, and the music will get taken up a notch. If not to party, go there for the view, pretty cocktails, and some good food.
Little Vagator, Ozran Beach, Vagator, Goa 403509. Call 9145232322. Timings: 12pm-1am. Instagram: @botai_goa