Tamari: The Good Life
I am not the nitpicky foodie that most food critics are. That does not mean that I am easy to please. I can drive miles to have the humann my wife prepares, because I live to eat. So, I dragged my partner in crime, Rajiv, to Tamari at Vivanta. Because everyone seems to be talking about it these days.
I knew Tamari was going to be an interesting experience when I realised that Chef Gyanendra Gupta is a hardboiled Lucknawi, grown up on real Awadhi street food. And when he insisted that we try the Japanese dishes.
I’m glad we followed the Chef’s dictates. Gupta makes an interesting study. Having graduated in botany, he chose to follow his heart, stomach actually, and get a hotel management degree. He trained at one of the best of all hospitality labels in India – the Taj Mahal in Mumbai. After working there for half a decade, he went globetrotting. One significant stop, besides Dubai, was the Caribbean, where Gupta learnt the tricks of using local spices and condiments to cook up continental wonders. He finds Goa a lot like the West Indies, minus the pace bowlers, of course.
We try the starters. Awesome sushi, vegetarian and not vegetarian, just melts all the way to your heart in one bit bite. That’s because the way to my heart is through my stomach! The tangy wasabi sauce makes a great partner to the sushi, which is delicate to the point of remaining untouched. The Thai Wok Chicken, another starter that we order, is great too. Nice and crisp. You lose count of how much you have eaten.
You wonder what it is about South East Asian cuisine that makes it so deliciously enjoyable and yet does not make you lethargic like the Mughlai that the wife drags you to eat every time. “The spices,” we are told. Tamari brings in authentic condiments and spices from various corners of South East Asia. The sake wine comes only from Japan. And a word of note here –they do not use any MSG (monosodium glutamate, or ajinomoto for the uninitiated).
Both Rajiv and me, not opting for the ‘drinks’ offer, settle for fresh juices. One must say the Taj knows how to present itself even when it comes to ubiquitous stuff like orange juice. Just looking at the tall glasses with rich orange and a fresh slice makes you feel refreshed.
We aren’t done yet. There are dimsums. Try the prawn variety. You will ask for more. The sauces accompanying the dimsums are equally tempting. You will want to dip hot bread into them and eat. Dimsum, which means ‘a bit of heart’ in Chinese, will make your heart go fonder about Tamari. And did I mention the chili padicorn that is continuously poured into your plate? Small bundi-like things, peppered to perfection. You can have truckloads of those.
By my eating standards, I am what you may call satiated bt the end of the starters stage. But the Chef will not listen. I’m glad that he did not. Because the main course was just as exciting. Try the sticky rice. I know the sound will not do justice to the taste. But take my word for it. And have it with Thai Green curry. We had ours with chicken. And it was so yum! At this moment I stopped all pretense of small talk and kept my eye on the bowl. The curry was too good to be shared with anyone.
We declined desserts, but friends say that their fried ice cream, date pancakes and toffee is worth it.
There is more to Tamari than just food. The entire Vivanta experience is nice and warm, businesslike yet leisurely to suit the Goan habit. We also bump into the General Manager, Vishal Singh, a suave young man whom I know from his days at the Fort Aguada Beach Resort. He takes personal interest in every minute detail at this swanky new Panjim property.
Well, this wasn’t actually an ideal power lunch. But there couldn’t be a better lunch on a Saturday afternoon. I swear, I did get back to work. And one thing that will remain with me is what Vishal said about Vivanta. The brand name is derived from bon vivante, which means ‘the good life’. Amen to that!