Old Monk Pork Chops and other surprises at Ida

The Ida Boutique Bar & Kitchen in Vagator offers trendy, homestyle fare and a bar with lots of surprises
Ida's casual, socially-distanced vibe
Ida’s casual, socially-distanced vibe

“This is Sean.” A voice from the other end piped over the phone. 

“Shawn Mendes, Shawn? Or Sean Connery, Sean?” I was trying to decipher the spelling even before I met the DJ/owner of Ida Boutique Bar & Kitchen. (I confess I am a spelling snob!)

“The Sean Connery, Sean.” The voice from the other end piped again with an added chuckle. 

Sean and I laughed. We had spoken two sentences but the ‘chill vibes’ that Ida proclaims on its Instagram handle got rolling. 

A few evenings later, I opened a not-so-tall brown gate and walked into the 14-month-old, 52-cover Ida Boutique Bar & Kitchen with a handful of Thai basil and fennel sprigs from my garden for Sean Connery Sean. He was not there but the spelling snob that I am stood corrected about the pronunciation. Ida is not Ida with an ‘i’; it is pronounced with an ‘e’ — the Sanskrit word ‘eda’.

Amaranthus spaghetti (left) and parma ham at ida
Amaranthus spaghetti (left) and Parma ham at Ida

The ground beneath my feet had pebbles, dry mango leaves had gathered on the transparent plastic sheet cover of the garden area and a 100-year-old tree was leaning merrily. A 20-feet-long abandoned boat metamorphosed into the bar counter and driftwood doubled up as lamp stands. Discordantly upholstered chairs, interestingly, did not look anomalous, neither did the distressed tables with jute rope circular adornment. Nothing matched, yet nothing looked odd. In the totality of its inconsistency, an innate harmony lay in Ida. 

Suddenly, the solitude of the yet-unopen bar (it opens at 7pm) was interrupted by a warm hello. That was Anushree Thapa, the owner/chef of Ida. Anushree has no formal training in culinary skills, but she has been in the kitchen for nearly three decades, the last being Comida Caseira, her first restaurant with a Portuguese-Goan cuisine in Vagator. 

“The food at Ida is eclectic. Various influences tossed together to create the menu. Growing up in a Maharastrian family, I picked up cooking details from my mother and grandmother and, as an army man’s wife, I was exposed to varied culinary traditions,” says Anushree. 

Summer cure (left) and coco negroni at ida
Summer Cure (left) and Coco Negroni at Ida

And then one day, the pork chops bathed with Old Monk happened. “A friend walked in with a large slab of pork. I was in a God-forsaken place where not many spices were available. I did not know what to cook until I noticed the Old Monk sitting on a shelf. I marinated the pork chops in Old Monk, cooked in Old Monk, flambéed in Old Monk and the drunken chops turned out so delish that it became a staple in my kitchen,”Anushree laughs about her chop-invention. 

That happened 30 years ago but of the nearly 50 dishes on Ida’s menu, the drunken chops (Old Monk Pork Chops) continue as the all-season favourite. So does the Blue Pea Rice bowl made out of blue pea (aparajita) flowers and garnished with fresh blue peas from the garden. 

The hot sellers also include crispy poi bites stuffed with four different kinds of cheese, Goa on a Plate, Coastal Fish Bowl, Beef Steak and Grandma’s Coastal Curry that’s a direct replication of Anushree’s grandmother’s recipe which comprised fresh coconut milk and not the usual ground fresh coconut. For the vegetarians, the best choices are Amaranthus spaghetti, raw banana nuggets, and eggplant hummus wraps. 

Classic mango cream (left) and sea salt, cheddar and chocolate bar at ida
Classic mango cream (left) and sea salt, cheddar and chocolate bar at Ida

Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of blue on the menu. Not only is there Blue Pea Rice Bowl but also Pear, Beetroot and Blue Cheese Salad; Potato, Onion and Blue Cheese Soup; and the Blue Cheese Pesto Crusted Fish.

With sustainability writ all over Ida, I was curious about how much of the sustainability mantra is actually practiced in the kitchen. “There is no waste — almost no waste — out of the kitchen. Nothing is prepared and stashed in the refrigerator. We cook on order, grow our own micro greens and have reduced the carbon footprint by sourcing all ingredients locally,” says Ajay D’Silva, Ida’s Sous Chef. 

The bar at ida
The bar at Ida. Image: Preeti Verma Lal

Bar: The food is scrumptious, but it is the bar that brings Bacchus’ clone to the Ida yard. There’s no sugar syrup in the bar. Think about that! Fresh juices lend sweetness to the 16 cocktails. Add to it the joys of homemade liqueurs, schnapps, plum shrubs, kaffir lime-infused gin, and bacon-infused vodka (yes, vodka with a smokey bacon flavour).

Bartender Sharan Shetty is ready to Surprise You. Yes, ‘Surprise You’ is the big surprise at Ida. At Rs 600 a cocktail, you can have Sharan create a drink that your palate yearns for. “The first thing I ask the guest is their choice of primary spirit — whisky, gin, vodka. And then their primary flavour — citrusy, saccharin, tangy…Each Surprise You is different,” says Sharan, who shakes nearly 150 cocktails a day. 

You'll fall in love with the restroom at ida. Image: preeti verma lal
You’ll fall in love with the restroom at Ida. Image: Preeti Verma Lal

Restroom Recommendation: Who recommends a restroom peek in a restaurant review? I’ll do. Walk into the Ida restroom even if your bladder doesn’t require it. Designed by Anisha Thapa, Anushree’s daughter, who also doubles up as a bartender, the restroom is built around a tree that has dug its roots in a pebble patch and raises its head out of the white roof. The fat trunk is used to hang the tissue paper holder and fat jute ropes serve as door and drawer handles. The artificial flower is a pretty pink but I wish it were real. 

Good to know

Address: Ida, No. 562/1, Vagator, Anjuna, Goa 403509

Phone: +91-9326746848

Timing: 7 pm to 12 am. Closed on Wednesdays

Minimum age for entry: 18 years

Meal for two: Rs 1,200 (without alcohol) 

Entertainment: Live music on Thursdays. Bar night (Disco/DJs) every Saturday 

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