This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
Coorg Roast Pork, an absolute must-order at South I
It was sometime last week where in the midst of luncheon’s beckoning pangs, an associate recommended driving up to Candolim for some South Indian fare. Now, when one generally says South Indian, the first thought that presents itself is ‘Udupi food’. But while this new find does all of that sort of thing and more, my focus in this tale is on the ‘more’.
Set in the midst of Zense Resort, in Escrivão-Waddo, Candolim, ‘South I’ immediately gets one’s attention right as you’re driving along the main road. There’s no concept of blinking and missing the restaurant that is the little resort’s flagship enterprise. Where South I aims to think out of the box, is its setting and ambience. Between the stone and rattan-finished furniture and interiors, this restaurant creates the visual that is more in sync with a contemporary South-East Asian restaurant, rather than South Indian. The menu however, stays as true to its roots as possible.
Run by the able hands of the extremely friendly chef, Mahesh Gowda, South I is in a segment where this only one other major player, and a huge hitter at that, is Gunpowder. This is a major advantage and a huge step back all at once. While they have an advantage in not having too many competitors, the drawback is that (simply put) they have the bar set very high for them to compete with, in terms of what their rivals have been dishing out to a receptive audience. However, all that being said, South I does hold their own rather well. It is my firm belief that happy cooks churn out better meals and Mahesh is nothing if not happy.
Now I have a few Coorgi friends, and as such, have been introduced to a little of their cuisine. Therefore, volunteering to try the Coorg Roast Pork was a no brainer; and it was one of those times when a no brainer worked out extremely favourably. The meat, which is slow cooked to perfection, is infused with pepper and cumin, and has little hints of cilantro that give it a little lift with that lingering freshness that only anything resembling coriander can do. Thus far, two thumbs up.
These South Indian meals can often be rather heavy, hence I skipped forward right to the mains, where the iconic Mangalorean combination of ‘Prawn Gassi and Neer Dosa’ beckoned. The Neer Dosa, to be fair, was spot on and absolutely fantastic. The Prawn Gassi however, tilted towards being more of a Goan curry than its popular Mangalorean gravy counterpart. Don’t get me wrong, it is delicious nonetheless, but still more Goan in texture and taste than a locally made Gassi.
Deciding to try out more of what the menu had to offer, I blindly went with one of my favourite combinations of an ‘Egg Appam and Chicken Chettinad Masala’. Again, the Appam did not disappoint, but a Chettinad dish for me has to have certain characteristics to be a roaring success. I am aware that there are many variations to this recipe, and this could well be one of them, but despite being extremely flavourful and very appealing, it was lacking the conventional coconut, onion and pepper rich Chettinad flavour of Tamil Nadu that I know and love.
The dessert though, wins hands down. The chef decided to bring forth a series of tasting portions of four different desserts on the menu: Akhrot Halwa, which is made by cooking walnuts in a mixture of rawa, ghee, sugar and cardamom on a slow fire, but at South I, it is made by blending chocolate into the mix; Belle Payasam, which to my taste buds resonates with the ever-Goan Mangane; Manappuram Halwa, which is highly reminiscent of the iconic ‘Gajar (or carrot) Halwa’, but creamier; and Kashi Halwa, which is ghee centric and is made from ash gourd. These were so deliciously rich, that I wasn’t able to get through even the tasting portions.
So yes, the verdict at the end of the day is that while South I is a work in progress, it is one that is heading in all the right directions, and has many, many positives in its favour. And while I mull over that little thought, I think I’ll make space for another serving of that Akhrot Halwa.
South I is one of two major players on the Goan South Indian food circuit. However, owing to the fact that it is closer to travellers from the southern parts of the state and for that matter Panjim, it is immediately more accessible.
South I's biggest sell is its location, which is also its Achilles Heel. Placed right on the main Candolim-Calangute stretch, it is extremely high on visibility, and extremely low on parking space, which could well be a deterrent.
The average cost of a meal for two (minus the libations) would be an approximate of ₹2,000 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
Zense Resort 1088, Escrea-Waddo, Opposite Novotel Shrem Hotel, Candolim, Goa 403515
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.