By Kuheli Bhattacharya Rane
It’s truly getting to be the season to be jolly in Goa what with the film festival, and the music festivals and art and literature festival. Il Camino, the fine dining Italian restaurant at the Taj Vivanta Fort Aguada decided that they wanted to do a festival as well, thus was born “The great steak festival.”Ambience: Situated facing one of the landmark architectures of Goa , namely the Fort Aguada, as well as having an unobstructed view of the beach stretch, Il camino at the Taj Fort Aguada truly has one of the tenants of a great restaurant location. They have a beautiful interior with wide windows, and warm glowing lighting, as well as an outdoor seating by the pool. The décor is minimalistic and does not detract from the food.
Food: Chef Mayank, who worked in Australia previously, had done a similar festival in the land down under. He was enthusiastic to be able to bring the same experience to the Goan shores and they had actually flown down the beef cuts from Tasmania, Australia as well. A young chef, with lots of innovative ideas, he decided to do the traditional as well as the inspired. So we had a menu with tofu steak and a paneer steak cleverly coined the ‘sirloin cottage cheese steak’.
The meats were paired with the complementing wine selection from Fratellii.
We began with the tofu steak with the chardonnay. The beautiful bar grillings on the tofu looked absolutely smashing. Marinated in eastern sauces and served with a Java island sauce, the tofu would make any vegetarian /vegan a very happy person.
We next had the chef’s award winning ‘chicken chops’. He explained how chops were traditionally not associated with chicken. He had an inspired version with a ricotta cheese stuffing, and we couldn’t wait to try them. The chicken chops looked deceptively simple but beautifully crafted drums of heaven. Crispy grilled outside with succulent chicken with an interesting stuffing. This is definitely a winner.
The chicken had raised the bar as far as culinary expertise went and the lamb chops, and the beef steaks had a tough competition. A number of cuts were on offer. You could choose from the tenderloin fillet, sirloin, rib eye or the T bone. These then would be done to your preferred doneness. The steaks are humongous in size! No doubt about it, if you came for a meal at the steak festival, you indeed, as the tag line reads, would go away extremely full. We sampled the T bone and the rib eye. The red meat indeed was of a superior quality, and had been treated with the respect for produce that it deserved. Served with a secret dry rub, which Chef Mayank guards possessively, these meats don’t need too much done to them; it’s enough to let them shine through just as they are. Juicy medium rare steaks, served with the cabernet Franc Shiraz a deep red wine, what more could one ask for?
No great steak festival is ever complete without the starches and the sides, and you get to choose your own combinations. The mashed potato with truffle oil dotting, or the French fries with parmesan and again a touch of truffle oil were what we chose and both were great. But, the sides pretty much blew us away. The peppery rocket served with crumbled blue cheese and sweet caramelised walnuts, the roasted zucchini with generous amount of bacon with melting parmesan, and then the surprise of the evening, the roasted curried pumpkins with feta. You come to a steak festival expecting great steaks, but what you are not expecting is some inspired side dishes, especially one which elevates the humble pumpkin to its true Autumnal potential. Salty feta, along with the curry spices marry well with the sweetness of the roasted pumpkins, and this is one dish worth making the trip for. In fact chef was kind enough to give us seconds of the same.
A wonderful dinner experience, on till the November 23, served with an endearing hospitality by enthusiastic and knowledgeable chefs.