This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
The Mutton Top Hats, which are an absolute 'must try' dish at Malaka Spice
There’s just something about Pune that brings out my nostalgic side. I spent a significant chunk of my college days there, and they were filled with shenanigans. They were also filled with great eating, from tiny joints to more upmarket restaurants, and plenty of old favourites. One such favourite was, of course, Malaka Spice, in Koregaon Park. However, in time, my association with Pune decreased, and much to my dismay, the restaurant which branched out to other parts of Maharashtra (including setting up an outlet in the Valloné Vineyard) never seemed to make its way to Goa, until recently.
A little while ago, Malaka Spice threw open its doors at Hotel Delmon, in the heart of Panjim. This, of course, thrilled me to bits, as the restaurant does some undoubtedly interesting food, and for those who gauge things by the VFM or ‘value for money’ equation, there isn’t much room for argument as to whether Malaka Spice manages to nail the brief.
The story as far as etymology and origins goes, says that in the 14th century, the original historical site along the straits of Malacca was built by a host of legends, all stemming from the courage and bravery of a mouse deer. This cuisine left its mark on Praful Chandawarkar, who along with his (now late) wife Cheeru, brought his South East Asian chain to the palates of plenty since 1997.
Malaka’s menu in Goa has a few additions, which aren’t truly present across their Maharashtran menus. For instance, they work more liberally with beef and pork in Goa, as opposed to elsewhere (Malaka Spice is now launching in Hyderabad too). The menus here, are well crafted, and are designed to take diners on a literary journey as well, and it is because of this, that even dining alone here is never really a lonely affair. But let us now dive into the food.
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
The Lotus Stem Tango, which makes for a great ‘bar snack’
My honest recommendation is to dive right into the starter section with the Mutton Top Hats. Straight from the city of Malacca, this dish is presented on a wooden rack that houses gracefully moulded baskets of rice crisps, with a filling of spiced mutton mince, topped with an assortment of sprouts. While the jury is still out on the flavour of the sprouts, for me, the texture that they add is lovely. For those with greater vegetarian leanings, one must try the Cambodian-styled Lotus Stem Tango. It consists of thin slices of lotus stem, tossed in a sweet, sour, spicy honey chilli sauce. I see it as a great ‘bar snack’, or ideal for a pass around on ‘movie night’; but it’s also a good way to start off a dinner experience.
There are a couple of dishes that, in my opinion, need a little fine tuning on the starter front. One of these is the Pork Ribs, which are flambéed in a barbecue sauce. You can’t really go wrong with the sauce, but the cuts of meat could possibly be better marinated to absorb the flavours of the marinade. Another dish in this category, for me, is the Mackerel Satay. While satay doesn’t necessarily have to come on a stick, it is a huge part of the appeal. The texture of mackerel though, does not allow this to happen. The flavour of mackerel is also a tad strong and perhaps not ideal for a satay. But all of the above being said, if one were to take the word ‘satay’ out of the equation, it would work as a standalone dish.
The main course segment of the menu completely floored me with the Malaka Kari Kapitan, a rich gravy with a base of cashew and coconut milk spiced with chilli flakes (think, yellow curry). The generosity of the good people at the restaurant at Malaka Spice also knows no bounds, as it was virtually home to an entire school of shrimp. I partook of this alongside the Roti Jhala, that are crispy net crêpes of flour and coconut milk. Supposedly a Malaysian Roti similar to the Malabar paratha, this dish is ideally eaten by placing it in your plate, before pouring the gravy on top, in the centre of the roti. Similarly, the Beany Beef is another absolutely outstanding dish, with mild flavours that enhance the meat by itself. A footnote that must be added is that Malaka Spice makes Nasi Goreng, which is my marker for authenticity on an Asian menu. The brief isn’t completely nailed, if I’m being honest, on the Nasi Goreng front. However, on the front of it being a great rice dish in itself, let’s just say I eat it at least once a week, on my carb cheat day.
Dessert-wise, once again, like the pork ribs and the mackerel, there is great potential and scope for improvement. The Date and Coconut Roll is a dish that I like, and should it undergo a few changes, I would love it. Think of it as Alle Belle and an oriental date pancake having a baby. However, the coconut is desiccated, rather than fresh, and in a state abound with palm, for me that’s a huge no-no.
All in all though, do I like the restaurant? Absolutely. Do I recommend it? For purposes of nostalgia as well as great food, without a doubt. It’s a great place for oriental food, and one which isn’t steep, for the spending conscious; a win on all fronts, without a doubt.
Malaka Spice is a refreshing face to see on the oriental menu front, with much being offered that isn't available on other menus.
The Goa-based outlet is conveniently placed, in the heart of the city, but it is not as picturesque as its Pune counterpart.
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
Caetano de Albuquerque Road, Panjim, Goa 403001
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.