This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
A sampling of Vaduvan Spice-Crusted Snapper, with Lime Butter Crab Bisque, Bok Choy, and Candied Carrots
After much cajoling, chastising and admonishing about not having made my way to Lucio, a restaurant at Radisson Blu in Cavelossim, I finally made the trip down south with a few friends, to see what the fuss was all about. The buzz, in gastronomic circles, was something that I had already heard of: the culinary prowess of the property’s Executive Chef, KS Mahesh. I had sampled the chef’s work at a couple of events, and when quizzing my host about where the food had come from, I was told that it was the handiwork of ‘Chef Mahesh’ in not so hushed whispers, and things were left at that.
As I walked into the very upmarket and colonial looking interiors of the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was a mini platter of ‘Baba Ganoush and Smoked Aubergine Puree Dip with Pita Bread Crisps, Pickled Lemon and Minted Yoghurt’. Given the time of day, and the fact that I had had an early morning, I reached out for some, but my attempts were met with disapproving nods, as the company I was in had tasted Chef Mahesh’s food and were suggesting that I should make as much space as possible for the treat that he had in store for us. I duly complied, post chewing and gulping down the pita crisps I had already helped myself too. And it was a spectacular call on the friends’ part.
Within seconds I was served an amuse bouche of ‘Mirin Battered Cheddar, Feta Crumble, Ribbon Veggies, Candied Bacon, and Warm Picante Papaya Marmalade’. The cheddar, coated with panko crumbs is (true to its nature) great textural relief to the ribboned veggies, which are soft and flavourful. The crisp and sweet bacon, also adds contrast of its own, as it clashes favourably with the saltiness of the cheddar.
Acting as a palate cleanser was the potage; a ‘Ham Consommé, with a Ham and Chicken Roulade’. The clarification of the consommé was absolutely perfect, enhancing the smoky flavour of the ham, and yet restraining it, with a hint of tomato. My only critique is that perhaps the chef could loosen the leash here a little and let the ham’s true nature spring forth. Though understandably, that may not be a pleaser to all palates.
I think what is interesting about Lucio is that the menu, isn’t just the menu, if you catch my drift. It is more; it is greater. The team that works there, under Chef Mahesh’s eagle eye, is only too pleased to be able to deviate from the plan, in order to feature dishes from highly regarded specialty restaurant styles from across the world. Their aim, in Chef Mahesh’s words, is to “shape dining experiences, so that diners can gain new insights into, and appreciation for, the fascinating world of cuisine.”
There are also some who are more health conscious, and others who suffer from various ailments and conditions, and there is a contingency plan for those patrons too. Team Lucio has what it refers to as ‘heart healthy cuisine’, which is a result of no added salt, brine or added fat; and utilising only healthy cooking methods, such as oven roasting, steaming and poaching.
But now, back to my meal. Chef Mahesh then pranced forth with a series of three appetisers. The first was his take on the classic combination of watermelon and feta cheese. He presents his interpretation as ‘Watermelon, Feta Cheese, Papaya, Toasted Sunflower Seeds, and Extra Virgin Lemon Oil’. With a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar, you can’t really go wrong with this classic. However, Chef Mahesh, through the introduction of the papaya (which is something I haven’t come across before) enhances the flavour, with the sunflower seeds adding a bit of crunch to a dish which is otherwise very soft. The Lemon Oil, I find, does more for the olfactory senses than the taste aspect of the dish, but is a very welcome addition too.
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
The amuse bouche of Mirin Battered Cheddar, Feta Crumble, Ribbon Veggies, Candied Bacon, and Warm Picante Papaya Marmalade
The next in the series of appetisers, was a ‘Hot Smoked Snapper Fish Cake, Béarnaise Sauce, Apple Remoulade’. The good chef has spent a large chunk of his career overseas, where he has developed this dish. In his opinion, the dish is best represented by haddock, which is unavailable in India, and as such he chooses to replace it with snapper, which he finds is a close enough replacement. When it tastes as good as what I was served, I can’t really find much room for critique or for wondering how close a replacement snapper is for haddock; but grant full marks for a dish that is impeccably done.
The last offering on the appetiser course was possibly the best of the lot. Here I just want to pause for a second, and point out, that this is saying something, because I am very categorically NOT a chicken fan; quite the opposite. However, Chef Mahesh’s ‘Baked Buttermilk, Garlic and Parmesan Ciabatta Crusted Chicken Tenders, with Spring Onion Salsa, and Guacamole Dip’ are spectacular. I absolutely love them. The chicken is crisp on the outside, but delightfully moist on the inside. And it pairs so well with the guacamole dip. I would be a very happy many with 50 or so of those tenders, on a beach, with a book, and an espresso martini…
But enough dreaming; let us get to the heroes of any chef’s repertoire: the entrées. The first of two offerings was a ‘Vaduvan Spice-Crusted Snapper, with Lime Butter Crab Bisque, Bok Choy, and Candied Carrots. I was not in the know until the dish was placed in front of me that the Vaduvan spice is native to Pondicherry and an integral part of the local fare, much like Goan masalas play their massive role in food here. Chef Mahesh uses a restrained version of the spice, as he believes it can overwhelm certain palates, but I will say this. Spiced or not, the flavour of the snapper rings through. It isn’t masked by the spice at all, and the sweetness of the carrots is complimentary rather than contradictory.
This was rapidly followed up by a ‘Pan Roasted Duck Duglere, on a bed of Risotto Purée, with Rosemary Praline and Split Peas’. Okay, I love duck, and as such, was always going to be partial to this dish. However, I’m even more partial to risotto, which made the task of loving this even easier. The sweet reduction on the duck, cooked to a perfect medium rare, with just the right amount of fat to complement the meat, just bounced off the chalkiness of the risotto to absolute perfection. I can’t say anything more, except that I’m drooling thinking about it.
The last course of the afternoon was a mini dessert platter that held ‘Darjeeling Tea Panna Cotta, Gulab Jamun Cheesecake and Chocolate Soil’. Yes, it’s very easy to get distracted by the words ‘gulab jamun cheesecake’, but as intriguing an idea as it was, its greatest fault was only being served beside the panna cotta. I’m such a massive tea person that the idea itself already had me sold. However, the end product definitely sealed the deal, with the glaze on the panna cotta oozing much pizzazz, and looking deliberately clumsy, which always is a winner.
All in all, is Lucio worth a visit? Definitely. Hands down. No questions asked. For every diner in the southern half of Goa looking for that dinner fix, you now know just where to go. It’s near home, upmarket yet well priced (bearing in mind that you’re dining in a five star property) and the food is absolutely spectacular.
Radisson Blu may seem like an unlikely place to head to for a meal, but Lucio is a well-kept secret that a few locals have been known to exploit, for a quiet meal involving some stellar food.
All preferences can be worked into the existing menu, given that Chef Mahesh loves a challenge and is only too happy to accommodate.
The average cost of a meal for two, minus the libations is ₹3,000 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
Near Cavelossim Beach, Salcette, Goa 403731
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.