This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
The Chicken Quesadilla at Habanero is an outstanding meal opener
Okay, so as a rule, I don’t like driving to Baga. I don’t; and I make no excuses for it either. I think I’ve got about half of Goa on the same page as me, on that front. I mean, by and large, who would want to wade into an area that, on the basis of a weekend’s natives, is the love-child of Andheri and Gurgaon? However, all of the above being ranted, here’s one good reason to do so: Habanero.
The restaurant is the fifth of its kind in India, and is the first time in its history that the chain has ventured into a more casual vibe in terms of space and setting. If good food wasn’t reason enough of a reason for you, here’s another side benefit: parking, plenty of it. No more parking askew in a dingy lane in Baga and praying to all the gods that it was in the condition as when you left it, when you returned. Lastly, the doors here remain open till 1 AM. So again, good food amidst partying hours in Baga; seems like it’s all points in Habanero’s favour thus far.
But enough about why you should go there; let’s assume you already have, and get to the food. I knew this was going to be a big meal, and so turned up with two companions in tow. We began our meal with the Chicken Quesadilla, a soft tortilla stuffed with chicken and served with blackened chipotle house salsa; Coconut Prawns, which featured generously-sized prawns coated in coconut (which was toasted upon being fried) and served with coriander sauce; and lastly Grilled Chipotle Skewers- tender chunks of chicken grilled over an open flame, and glazed with a spicy and sweet chipotle sauce. To be fair, the starters that we ordered were all good, though my biggest grouse was that my inner Oliver Twist could have done with a little more to eat. However, I later learnt that this was intentionally done after feedback from many diners suggested that the initial sizes were far too large.
The night rolled on, and with it, so did the courses. Our mains arrived, in the form of the Tampiquena Beef Steak, which comprised tender, marinated beef stuffed with Serrano chilli, and then slathered with cheese and ranchero sauce; and Carne Asada- beef tenderloin rubbed with robust Mexican seasoning. Through the years, I’ve learnt this much, all the flavour in the world can’t save a poorly cooked cut of meat, and at Habanero, they KNOW HOW to cook it. Our medium-rare cuts were on point, and had additional flavour to boot. We also ventured into ordering a Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, which I will skate over, because as good as well-cooked pork tenderloin may be, it paled in comparison when it came to the other two mains at our table. At this point, I think it’s necessary to point out that all mains come with generous sides, and are massive.
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
The Snickers Chimichanga, loaded with plenty of sugary goodness
Anyone who knows me for as little as five minutes knows that dessert is my favourite course of a meal, and can easily tilt me towards the negative side of the scales, should it not go the way I like. We started with the Churros Con Chocolate, a Mexican street snack of Spanish origin, designed to resemble a stick-shaped donut, rolled in cinnamon sugar, with a dark chocolate sauce for dipping. I can say with ease that these are by far the finest I’ve eaten, and I’ve eaten in some of Barcelona and Madrid’s finest Churrerias, which specialise in the fan favourite, and Habanero still comes out on top, for their texture, be it of the churros themselves or the near ganache-like dip they come with.
To add to this we also ordered the Tres Leches, a buttery sponge that is soaked in milk-three-ways (conventionally evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream) and eaten as a pile of sodden goodness; and the Snickers Chimichanga, which diners who’ve eaten a deep-fried Mars bar, should think of as the same thing, except with Snickers as a replacement. For those who haven’t, no text will do it justice; you must Google images. My only critique of both these, despite their being immensely well-made, is that they both come with strawberry compote of sorts. If as a diner you order both, you begin to question the love for strawberry which isn’t mentioned on the menu in the case of the Tres Leches.
If you don’t like Tex-Mex, which the corner that Habanero aims to capture, they’ve managed to ‘Indianise’ the menu in certain segments, but I implore you not to go down that path, as the straying out of the comfort zone yields great results here. There’s also a kids menu, which is handy for diners with littler companions. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; there really is something for everyone here, and I sometimes hate not being able to fault a place, but this time, I just can’t.
Tex Mex is something that the people of Goa have been missing for far too long, on a culinary front. Habanero aims to put an end to that.
The service here is excellent- courteous and prompt, and the portions are well-sized.
The average cost of a meal for two, minus the libations, is ₹1,500 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
House No. E181/B, The Milky-Way Road, Opposite De Baga Deck, Khobra Vaddo, Baga, Goa 403516
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.