Tamil Table’s reputation as one of Goa’s culinary hotspots is well deserved.
As I leave the decibel-busting sounds of giant speakers from packed beach-facing restobars behind and drive down the quieter bylanes of Para, the only lights for miles are blinking Christmas lights from Goan homes that dot the next few miles. Windows down, fresh crisp winter air streaming, Spotify gives way to hummable Christmas carols, Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé from passing Goan homes. We are on our way to one of Goa’s culinary hotspots — Tamil Table.
The first table to be seated, getting in early has advantages — you can request a table shift depending on lighting, aircon draft, audio speaker positioning, extra bum space and book a chair exclusively for Chanel and her siblings Prada, LV and Gucci (handbags, darling). Given that we are a noisy chattering lot, we decide on a corner table on the veranda.
A slim veranda lined comfortably with six tables and a similar number in an air-conditioned indoor setting leads to a courtyard beyond, which houses a tight, well-stocked bar with a bartender serving really interesting cocktails from the classics to Tamil induced. Fitted into this one-level eatery is also a small Pondicherry influenced shop for the ’holics.
My family, all foodies, are a mix of strict vegetarians, no holds barred carnivores and each one as fussy as they come!
Our waiter, a young Tamilian, spoke impeccable Tamil and excellent English, knew his menu and his cuisine. He settled us in, passed the clip-board menus, announced the specials of the day and melted away.
After studying the bar list and dissecting every cocktail, our order for the evening was rather plain Jane but with some challenging instructions…
1 x Woodford Reserve Manhattan, had to be chilled but with no ice inside. Must be repeated as soon as the liquid is nearing its bottom.
1 x Remy Martin Hot Toddy, had to be hot but not so hot that the glass could not be held.
1 x Monkey Shoulder with mineral water that was just a trifle cooler than room-temp.
1 x house-made Ginger Beer to be mixed, stirred with lime and served chilled.
1 x Water for the table that was bottled by Himalaya and to be opened at the table with that ‘crrrk’ sound (to make sure the seal worked!).
Our unfazed waiter noted every detail with a gentle smile, repeated our order exactly as we had placed it, and sent it off to his bartender. Then he stood silently at a distance as we excitedly debated our entrées and main courses, interjecting only if he felt we needed some help.
The restaurant started filling up and as our drinks arrived every table was taken…After a burst of loud laughs and cheers, we placed our orders and settled into juicy gossip.
We start with Spinach Dal Vadai — crisp on the outside, soft as cotton inside, to be eaten hot and doused in a lightly spiced tangy chutney served on the side. Delicious.
Long Beans stir fry — crispy in a coconut mix. I found them too chewy and bland. Not to be repeated.
Beetroot stir fry — a concoction of red plump beetroot chopped and rubbed with sesame seeds. The flavours were a bit too out of this planet for me. But the vegetarians thought it was a tour de force.
Sweet Potato fries — can never go wrong but what lifted this to surreal was how each thickly cut fry had been dipped in their ground spices and tossed very lightly with kari patta leaves. Yummm.
Between courses I glanced a reviewer’s eye around. The lighting was perfect — you could see but not necessarily be seen. The music played at a non-intrusive level and the play list was carefully curated — swinging Tamil Jazz, pop and other familiar tunes.
Tamarind Aubergine Curry with Black Eye Beans — my eco-friendly daughter loved it. And considering she has a very evolved palate, that is saying a lot!
Mixed Veg Sambhar — served piping hot. I drained the veggies and soaked small bites of my crisp dosa and slurped away. If anyone knows how to get their dosa and sambhar right, the Tamilians do. God bless them for that!
Mixed Veg Avial — a lightly spiced and aromatic stew that you must try.
Mutton Sukkha — a disappointment. The meat was not tender and each bite meant tangled threads in my teeth. Also, the chef had shot dead every spice by adding a double dose of salt!
Crispy Fried Fish with Tamarind Chutney — Fish is my wife’s dining table bestie. And this spicy tangy fella sent her taste buds to heaven.
Dosas — c’est magnifique.
Chapatti’s — tough.
Coconut Milk Pulao — worth a spoonful…make that large spoonful.
Lemon Cheesecake — This is where the Pondicherry influence showed up! Light as a feather yet creamy and lemony on top, crispy crunchy below.
Chocolate pot — Hearty or not, this is a challenge worth taking. The chocolate and bourbon flavours complement and the jaggery adds just the right alternative flavour.
Espresso — Nah! We were bursting.
The chef’s many big hits won our palates. The service was unobtrusive and consistent throughout (our glasses were refilled attentively!). The ambience was perfect. Take a bow, Tamil Table.
And as we sauntered out to the car park, discussing each one’s favourite dish of the evening,we heard a guitar strumming and a local group of Christmas carollers approaching. We stood on to listen to a Konkani version of Bing Crosby’s “I am dreaming of a white Christmas” ….in perfect harmony. What could be more fascinating than standing under a star-filled night, having just had an excellent meal and being serenaded with a carol? Only in India, only in Goa!
Tamil Table, House No. 261, Socolvaddo, Assagao, Bardez, Goa 403507; Reservations: +91-7499922517