This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture Courtesy: Kishore Amati
The Chimichurri Filet Mignon at Maracas
Only recently, I returned to a haunt of old. A place I once frequented as though it were a second home. And there always seemed to be a reason for me to do so. I was never found wanting when I needed a reason to visit Maracas in Porvorim. Back then, when its doors were first thrown open, the ambience highlighted a host of comfy couches, photographs unevenly graced the walls, and the music that rang through the walls that enclosed the indoor portion of the little restaurant ranged from a host of genres from the 1940s to Latin American folk. And for those whose preferences were more attuned to the outdoors and a hint of quiet, the establishment’s little garden area poised along a wooden deck, with its soft lighting by evening seemed to beckon ever so coyly.
While it would not be fair to refer to Maracas as the pioneers of the Tapas concept in Goa, back then, they certainly seemed to have cornered the market on that front. To (bitter)sweeten the deal, Maracas’ proprietor and conceiver, Ralph de Gouveia Pinto managed to acquire the services of one friend, comrade and feeder of the huddled (m)asses, Vasco 'Vasquito' Alvares. Having only recently shut his joint venture, Ernesto’s, he now dished out the fare that much of Goa had clamoured for at Maracas. And I count myself amongst said masses.
For the uninitiated, the ‘Tapas Culture’, refers to partaking of delicious little ‘bites’ that linger over good drink and even better conversation. At that time, my blind recommendation to dive into a long-drawn lunch or an ever-lasting evening, were the dates stuffed with spicy Goan chouriço or choris. They just set the tone and seemed ever so ‘weirdly’ delicious.
Where one can count Maracas as pioneers is their introduction of ‘Sliders’ to the state. They are an item on the menu that were hitherto unheard of at the time. For those less familiar with the term, sliders are nothing more than mini burgers. From the ‘Plain Jane’ (Ketchup, mayo, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions), to the ‘Baconater’ (Bacon, melted cheese, BBQ sauce, tomato, caramelized onions), to the personal favourite and recommendation of the Sunny Side Up (fried egg, hollandaise, crispy bacon, cheddar cheese), Maracas seemed to have something for everyone.
Then came the mains, and I had my personal favourites there too. The chefs at Ralph’s beckoning seemed to have mastered the ability to sear a steak, and snuck in just the right amount of goodness on the side. My personal favourite was always the Chimichurri, which consists of a Filet Mignon marinated in red wine and glazed with a sweet and spicy rub. This was in turn accompanied by a side order of cheesy mashed potatoes and some vegetables that I will choose to write off, because well, they are vegetables and as such, I simply must.
Having said that though, I will give Ralph credit for this much; he is the only restaurateur that has gotten me to voluntarily order a salad, repeatedly no less. His Watermelon and Feta Salad with a Balsamic Reduction is to absolutely die for.
But in all of this reminiscing, I forgot why I began venturing down this long drawn path. Oh yes! I had returned after ages (definitely over a year), and once I sat myself down, I could not, for the life of me recall why it had taken me as long as it had to do so. Perhaps it is the fact that one needs to brave far more traffic than ever before. Perhaps it is because the bridge that spans 150 metres, that one needs to cross to get there, requires a good half hour journey in peak traffic. Perhaps it is because over the last couple of years, Panjim has seen more restaurants pop up in its vicinity that serve similar cuisine. This is clearly not just something that has influenced me, but many others too, clearly as the numbers that now turn up would suggest. The restaurant that once reverberated with laughter and merriment seems not quite a shadow of its former self; yet, diminished somehow.
However, what one CANNOT fault Maracas for is the end result that is delivered on one’s plate. The food was as good as I remember it being when I last frequented my old haunt. I ordered the aforementioned salad; and between the freshness of the watermelon, the sour-cream-esque nature of the feta and the gooey balsamic reduction, I delved into 50% great food and 50% nostalgia. What followed undid all the good that the salad did: the Filet Mignon with the Chimichurri sauce on the side. With a blackened and perfectly peppered crust that belied the several shades of pink that lay beneath, I tucked into my meal while the Gods watched in envy.
I have never been a fan of the dessert on offer at Maracas, to be fair. In days of yore, Vasco’s legendary Serradura (a Portuguese sweet offering named after the Iberian language’s term for sawdust) made from condensed milk topped with powdered digestive biscuits, haunted Ralph’s ‘chiller’. And that I could still go for. Yet, my rapidly expanding waistline recommended otherwise, and for once, I listened.
As the evening wore on, I took in my surroundings, realising that the reason I had returned after ages, primarily, was to watch a friend perform live, a gig that was promptly cut short by the protests of the temple in the vicinity, but that is a rant for another time. However, all things considered, I do hope that the beat just picks up the tempo a little, that the rhythm stops being its current humdrum self and that Maracas rattles like it did back when.
The food at Maracas still speaks for itself, but has less of a familiar feel than when Vasquito ran the kitchen.
The logistical hurdles involved with getting to the establishment could well be defining factor when it comes to choosing it as a viable dining option.
The average cost of a meal for two (minus the libations) would be an approximate of ₹2,500 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
Near PWD Water Tank, NH-17, Porvorim, Penha de França, Goa 403512
Food is a huge part of any culture and for me, chancing upon a good meal is synonymous with having a great day. The What’s On My Plate series of posts is where I discuss food, great places to eat, and anything gastronomically moving. This could be anything from a great place to eat, to an obscure kind of food, to an origin story. After all, there is no love like the love of eating.