O’Aido is an intimate cocktail bar in an al fresco setting in Anjuna. And Chef Ruben Pinto’s Indo-Portuguese menu is splendid.
O’Aido means courtyard in Portuguese. This garden café is a part of one of Anjuna’s oldest café-hotels — Om Rose Garden that was set up in the 1960s when the world started discovering Goa — and serves Indo-Portuguese cocktails and food. They are claiming to be an intimate cocktail bar in an al fresco setting, and also have cosy seating upstairs with a delectable menu.
A cocktail menu created by Evgenya Prazdnik — who was previously associated with the award-winning Goa restaurant Gunpowder, as well as Tamil Table, Roboto, Mustard and more — pays homage to the historical Goan hotel re-discovering Chorizo, Bebinca and Orchata in a boozy form. Get your local twists on the classics including a Chorizo Bloody Mary and a Bebinca Old Fashioned, served with a slice of bebinca. Signature cocktails include the Marigold Gimlet and the ‘Pommo’ Café, a unique concoction of rum coffee liqueur and fresh pomegranate juice.
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Filled with macramé plant holders and bamboo lampshades, O’Aido is brought more to life by Chef Ruben Pinto whose culinary skills were inherited. Most of the dishes are his family recipes and have been an integral part of family meals and special occasions. The aim is to serve well-balanced meals with locally sourced ingredients for a modern take on Indo-Portuguese cuisine, says Mayuri Nigam, whose search for a quality life led her to set up this café in one of the oldest haunts of Anjuna.
Local ingredients are given interesting twists like the spice-infused coconut milk used in a broth for the vegan Caldin risotto and served with honey charred and crisp garlic flakes and pickled cauliflower or the smoked baby potatoes stuffed with garlic butter and topped off with parmesan cheese and served with a slow-cooked spiced onion. Chef Pinto has meticulously re-interpreted various family recipes to appeal to a modern palate while staying true to his Goan Portuguese roots. Also on the menu is a modern twist on the humble bitter gourd which is stuffed with a mushroom foogath (a vegetarian stir-fry) and served with an amaranth salad and red bell pepper coulis. All of this presented in warm white and with a feeling of home.
It is only obvious to honour the pescatarian that Goa attracts and the perfectly crispy dill & coconut-infused boneless sardines served with house-made radish-infused mayonnaise as well as the Prawn Balchao — where succulent prawns are tossed in a home-made rechead masala (flavoured with dried prawns) and served with a cucumber and grated coconut salad — are delectable must haves.
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Needless to say, meat has a special place in every cuisine and O’Aido has used it completely to their advantage by serving the house-aged pepper-crusted beef tenderloin steak served along with beef lengua ravioli, sautéed vegetables, whipped potatoes and carrot puree, as well as a chimichurri & red wine pepper sauce. Not to forget the perfectly spiced, char-grilled boneless chicken cafreal thigh, served with grilled cabbage and whipped potatoes that will melt you in the wraps of food coma.
O’Aido’s humble beginnings and the historical location is already making it an adorable little spot for pre-gaming drinks, intimate dinners, after parties, brunch and everything in between. O’Aido must be on your list if you want to undertake the gastronomical adventure that is Goa, especially the grand vibes of Anjuna. This was the first village to have travellers residing after days of rock and roll on the beach. If nothing you can paint a pretty picture from yesteryears with Om Rose Garden proprietor Peter D’Souza’s tales.
Om Rose Garden, Mazal Waddo, Anjuna, Goa 403509; 0832-2273861