This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
An absolutely stunning dish of Gambas Pil Pil
One of my favourite parts of my exploration of Madrid has always been the Mercado de San Miguel, a covered market located in Madrid, Spain. Originally built in 1916, it was purchased by private investors in 2003, who renovated the iron structure and reopened it in 2009. But what is it that makes it so special, you ask? Simply put, imagine yourself in a place that serves as a gourmet tapas market, with different vendors selling a wide variety of freshly prepared little bites, hams, olives, baked goods and other unique kinds of food, further surrounded by beer, wine and champagne to wash down said food with. When they described heaven in Sunday school, that’s pretty much how I envisioned it.
Naturally, I’d longed for something of the sort to pop-up back home in Goa, but my fervent longings weren’t met. The only person to venture down that lane was tapas stalwart, Ralph de Gouveia Pinto, with his venture, Maracas, which also shut shop. When I heard that another new venture had hit the ground running in similar form, my curiosity was definitely piqued, and a trip to Sangolda was inevitable, in order to check out the promising sounding ‘Tierra y Mar’. The restaurant is tucked away behind Paper Boat Collective, and it is this fact that is possibly its primary selling point and Achilles Heel all rolled into one. It occupies a space that was once known as ‘The Backyard’. This popular haunt had served as the backdrop for many great meetings and memories for many, but the food wasn’t always up to scratch. Now Tierra y Mar will have to outmatch its predecessor on the experience front, while also getting the message across that their food is worth visiting for, to make itself relevant.
So, what can one expect from a typical Tierra y Mar experience? Simply put, plates, both big and small that sum up a Spanish/Latin American experience, and the one-off pop-up menu. The dishes sound extremely interesting, and titles such as Porcini Parfait Brulée and Beef Involtini simply roll off the tongue. The Chef at Tierra Y Mar, Benpramar D Laitflang (he prefers to simply be called Ben) completed his culinary training in Buenos Aires, Argentina before moving to Goa with the belief that it was the only place he would want to set up operations, owing to the state’s wide range of quality produce and ingredients available on hand. His belief in what he wants to do is evident from his concept of catering to palates that are both local as well as those of a more touristic population. Having tried out what he puts on a plate, I think that the target audience will definitely be pleased.
We tried several dishes on the menu, such as the Chicken Liver Parfait Brulée, Seared Beef Chimichurri, Gambas Pil Pil, Confit Chicken and Beef Involtini. Let’s begin with the starters – I'm a sucker for liver paté, and Tierra y Mar's bruléed version, with an onion jam on the side, is a cracking (pun intended) idea. The caramelised top not only adds a little bit of welcome sweetness, but texture as well, owing to the crunch. The Gambas Pil Pil is another dish that we loved. Native to the south and center of Spain, this dish is often served in Spain's tapas bars as an appetizer. However, this dish is so popular that it's occasionally offered as an entrée. Based on what we got on our plate, I can well understand why. The Seared Beef Chimichurri is another sure-fire winner, with delicious slices of top-notch beef, being cooked to a perfect medium rare, resting on a bed of fresh greens.
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
Ben's highly recommended Confit Chicken
If you ask Ben for a recommendation for a main, one of the dishes he stands by, above all others on his menu is the Confit Chicken. Just one look at the dish when it arrives at your table will tell you why. From the French word confire, meaning ‘to preserve’, the meat is slow-cooked for a long period of time in an attempt at ‘preserving’ it. Ben slow-cooks the meat for three and half hours in its own fat, before plating it alongside some cauliflower purée and a revolving door of vegetables. I don't eat chicken legs as a rule, and even I loved it. Stepping away from France, we journeyed through to Italy, and sampled the Beef Involtini. An involtini consists of an outer layer wrapped around a filling, much like a roulade. Here the seared and braised beef is stuffed with arugula and cheese, and sits in a layer of dashi sauce. I’ve had a couple of outrageously well-made involtinis in my time, so I was particularly excited about this dish, and while the one I had at Tierra y Mar wasn’t my favourite of all that I've tried, it was still very good. It’s a hearty dish, but I preferred all my tapas to my mains.
At the end of it all, I would sum up my experience like so – Tierra y Mar is a great place for tapas and to hangout. I think that if that is the focal point of what they do, it will be a sure fire success. That is where they need to push the envelope – push diners to go the tapas route rather than the same old same old. Yes, the local audience is going to have to move out of its comfort zone and get to grips with the fact that they shouldn’t order mains and instead have a series of small plates…but hey! Who else out there has cornered the tapas market?
Tapas is a segment that is yet to be completely captured in the Goan market, and there's huge potential for Tierra y Mar there.
There are some fabulous cocktails on the menu, that are a cross between global and local spheres.
The average cost of a meal for two, minus the libations, is ₹2,000 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
House No. 248, Bella vista, Chogum Road, 403511
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.