This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
The Herb Crusted Mac n’ Cheese at Bottlejack Bistro, which is to die for
Over time you realise that there are some restaurants, and their chefs, who never disappoint…ever. It’s usually for a reason. Be it because of their vibe/disposition, services rendered, quality of end product, or whatever be the case…these places/people are always on point. And such is my experience with one chef in particular, Karlton D’Souza.
Just under a decade ago, my sister pointed out that there was a place I absolutely had to try out, and that the steak there was to die for: Horizon Grill. Many others, just like me referred to it by the name of the incumbent, Karlton D’Souza and simply called it ‘Karlton’s’. Taking the hint, the new and more contemporary sign for the season of 2015 (and beyond) says Karlton's Horizon Grill. I have since been a ‘regular’ at Karlton's for the last eight years, and the only thing that has ever disappointed me is the massive drive from Candolim to Margao, in terms of a return journey. Getting there has never been the issue, because at the end of the day, you have Karlton’s food to look forward to, as a part of the process. Karlton had kept promising to move a tad closer to me, and now he has.
Bottlejack Bistro is a new kid on Porvorim’s block, and how. It has all of Karlton’s supremely gifted culinary nous, but while his other establishment (Horizon Grill) is far more relaxed and ‘unwound’ in nature, Bottlejack Bistro could be virtually lifted and dunked anywhere in New York or Paris, and it honestly wouldn’t be out of place for so much as a second. Let’s start off with what some might consider a downside. The establishment is affected by the Supreme Court ruling that has had everyone reeling, regarding the vending of alcohol. Hence there is no booze being served on the premises. However, that being said, you don’t truly miss it if what you’ve come looking for is outstanding food. For those who decide that alcohol is a must, there’s a platform that’s been well explored in the metros to circumvent the level of taxation that is faced by its residents. People gather at one of the dining party’s member’s homes, and have a few drinks before heading out. That’s still an option to be explored here.
Getting to the food, this is what I had, and to be honest, whether I choose to rate it from good to bad, or bad to good, I’d be just as lost, for it was all that exceptionally well made. Hence, let’s just go course-wise. Our starters consisted of a Beef Carpaccio and an order of Vietnamese Chicken Skewers with Sambal and Peanut Sauce. Straight off the bat, the carpaccio was outstanding, with rocket that I would actually eat, as I avoid greens in general; such is the effect that Karlton’s cooking has one me. The chicken skewers were just as delectable, with a moistness that made it more reminiscent of the texture of red meat than white. While the sambal was too hot for me to handle, the peanut sauce was to die for. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t like sauces as a rule, as it eats into the chef’s craftsmanship, but I was scooping what I could find of this sauce on the plate and eating it, long after the chicken had gone.
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
The Slow Braised Beef, which is customarily accompanied by mashed potatoes, which I decided to forego
There was a soup that I spotted on the menu, which I simply had to try, which again speaks volumes, because if we’re all being honest, how often does a soup excite us really. The Chicken Dumpling soup with Poached Egg though, is an adventure in its own right. The soup is reminiscent of a consommé, but less clarified, along with a perfectly poached egg, Once you break into the egg, the runny yolk mixes into the soup which just takes its flavour to another level altogether.
The main course arrived in three parts; Slow Braised Beef, Herb Crusted Mac n’ Cheese, and a Grilled Pork Chop. The beef I recognised immediately, as it is what Karlton uses to stuff his signature pies at Horizon Grill with, and is flavourful to no end. I looked to pair it with the mac n’ cheese, and so decided to forego the customary pairing of mashed potatoes that the dish is served with. I believe that this was a good call as the mac n’ cheese with its herb and parmesan crusting was the perfect dancing partner for the beef. The grilled pork chop was accompanied by a mixed herb and chilli pesto, served with a caramelised onion jam and sautéed green beans. While the meat was good in its own right, I think that Karlton should start bottling and packaging the mixed herb and chilli pesto. Ooh, and that peanut sauce too.
I’ve said this a million times over…I love my dessert. What I’ve also said many times, is that The Laced Apron makes some fabulous stuff; and while Andrea Fernandes of The Laced Apron doesn’t have a physical counter, which means you need to pre-order, at Bottlejack Bistro you can get some of the good work done by her and the gifted Gilroy D’Souza of Baker’s Street as a part of your meal. Our dessert selection consisted of the Tropic Delight- mango caviar, passion-fruit curd and a coconut mousse, all on top of a crunchy layer; the Pear Toffee (my personal favourite)- layers of caramel jelly, poached pears, honey cremeux, topped with a light milk chocolate mousse; and the Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart, which is outstanding and needs no further description.
I’ve ranted and raved so much about this place that I’m going to stop writing and head there now for another meal. You should too. The only disclaimer that I offer is that they initially only offered a dinner service, but I haven't since been kept apprised of any developments. But since when has that stopped anyone?
Getting to Bottlejack Bistro involves a tedious journey across the congested Mandovi Bridge, but the food is well worth it.
There is a shift in Karlton's grill-centric policy at Bottlejack Bistro, something which he is renowned for at Horizon Grill.
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
Plot No. 8, Service Road, Pundalik Nagar, Alto Porvorim, Bardez, Goa 403521
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.