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A giant repast of fish

There are few things that would rouse the ‘Goenkar’ out of his sussegad lifestyle, and a good non-vegetarian ‘fish’ lunch is one of them. All roads then lead to a small, shack-like almost non-descript eatery called ‘Wood’s Inn’ in the midst of the residential area of Porvorim. Head out on the Chogm Road, and take the first left where a sign board of Wood’s Inn greets you. Why, you ask? Well, because this is where all your fantasies of a humongous fish thali would be fulfilled.
AMBIENCE: a faux bamboo roof, and bamboo lanterns, complete with the no walls concept are quintessential to the Goan shack atmosphere. What immediately catches your eye is the larger than life statues of Ganpati and Laxmi, complete with the ‘undir’. Milind and Manisha Naik, owners of this homely joint believe in carrying out their work under the watchful eye of Lord Ganesha. The rest of the restaurant is simple, if not spartan, with plastic tables and chairs, and a tiled floor.
FOOD: On every day of the week and on Saturdays, Wood’s Inn serves a simple thali to satisfy your hunger. But on days when you are hungry enough to slay a giant, the ‘giant killer thali’ is what you need. The giant killer thali promises to kill even the most ravenous of hunger giants, according to Milind. With 16 different dishes apart from papad and pickle, this is a Goan fish thali like you have never seen before. The amount of care and thought behind the conceptualisation of such a meal is testament to Milind Naik’s passion for food. Served for lunch on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, the dishes in the thali are subject to availability of different types of sea food on that day, and no two days have the same dishes. Even sweet dishes change every day.
The sheer size of the thali is a visual delight. Such extravagance on a plate, in such simple surroundings, in itself was a delight. There was the omnipresent rice and prawn curry, tisryo and sol kadi which pretty much comprise the basic Goan fish plate. The fried fish unlike the popular but rather predictable rawa fry fish was an inspired Kathmandu fry pomfret. “Every place in Goa makes fried fish in only two styles – masala and rawa fry, here we make it in eight different styles”, says the owner. And true to his word the Kathmandu fry with a marinade of ginger garlic, red and black pepper, and curry leaves is delicious. Goan fish thalis across the state are a staple and although extremely satisfying, can be repetitive and predictable, but here was a thali which tickles your taste buds, as well as excites your imagination. Every sea food dish was done in a different Goan preparation. The crab sukke was in a coconut-based xacuti masala, the bangda was in ambotik masala, the prawns in gravy with tangy ambade. There was even a creamy chicken fry with a continental twist. A salted sun dried fish so typical of Goan cuisine and yet noticeably absent from most fish thalis graced the bowl of basmati rice. An egg preparation as well as a French beans dish brought in the non sea-food variety. Another twist to the traditional fish thali was the presence of not one but two sweet dishes. In most places you would be happy to end your meal with the sol kadi, but this is not a simple meal for sustenance, this is the ‘giant killer thali’, a delightful feast, and all feasts deserve a sweet ending. The cut fruits were served with sinfully dense fresh cream. The gulab jamuns were dry and a tad out of depth considering the rest of the meal was of such high standard. The owners informed us that Goan sweet dishes are served on many a day, including shrikhand, kheer, and they even had patoleo around nag panchami.
To have a 16-course Goan meal is an experience in itself, be it for a travelling tourist or for a born and bred Goan. We loved the idea, as well as the execution of this grand meal. If you are in the midst of a Shravan fast then this is something to look forward to after a month of fasting, and if you are not on a vegetarian diet, then this should be on your ‘must do’ list.
There are no beaches around here, nor is there a fantastic view, or posh malls, or even a tourist sight nearby. If you do make the journey to this little place off Chogm road, then it will only be a pilgrimage for the food. If your motto in life is ‘live to eat, rather than eat to live’ then you will most certainly not be disappointed.
SHORTCOMINGS: Served only for lunch on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, it’s not available for dinners, or on Sunday. Since all the food is freshly prepared and served, there is a significant waiting period but be patient, because it’s worth the wait. Wood’s Inn is in a residential area and finding it can be an issue, and so is the parking.
GO HERE FOR: the giant killer thali on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday lunch.
Price: Rs 199 per thali
Rating: out of 5
Ambience: 2.5 plates
Food: 4 plates
Service: 3.5 plates

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