This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
The Ham Cheese and Jalapeno Croquettes are a great way to start your meal at Uzzo
It’s always good fun when the southern part of Goa decides to up the ante on any front; as it has done with the restaurant that is the topic of discussion this week. In fact, while discussing this particular place with a friend, he happened to comment, “The south has risen to lead over and over again.” As fate would have it, it would HAVE TO be that village where all things artistic thrive, that would pull it off: Curtorim. Much has been said about Macustoy Almeida, known simply as Mac, over the last few years. He has served as head honcho of his establishment, ‘Cherry Tomato’ for ages as what I myself have earlier termed as, ‘a place which dishes out American diner fare in a more eclectic Goan setting’. Now, along with his childhood pal, and brother-in-arms, Jonathan Fernandes, he has embarked on a new venture, which in my opinion offers the south a lot of promise; one that is simply called ‘Uzzo’.
The name literally means fire, in Konkani, and it’s an appropriate name, as the boys that run it believe that their intention is to stoke the proverbial fire of Goan intent, and showcase all that their beautiful home state has to offer. This intent has often been showcased in Mac’s work over the years, where in an attempt to make the food he loved creating within the financial and geographical reach of his native village, he opened up a little outlet called ‘Snack Shack’, in Maina. In fact, even the name of the establishment this time around, was drawn up after consulting with one of the village elders. I’m sorry, but it really doesn’t get more Goan than that.
But we must also talk about the food, for it deserves its day in the sun. Our meal consisted of a couple of dishes that are absolutely riveting, especially the main courses, but more on that in a moment. The starters consisted of a platter of skewers that came in two variants. The first had a marinade of cilantro and lime, while the second was crafted together with the good old fashioned recheiado masala. Another interesting dish that ‘Uzzo’ does churn out on this front is their ‘Crumb Fried Zucchini Fritters’. These are delicate slices of zucchini, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs, before being deep fried; and let’s face it, doesn’t everything taste better when it’s deep fried? Now to be fair, both the dishes are great, and will go perfectly with a cold one on a relaxed Sunday, or even at the end of a tiring (and tiresome) day. However, they were battling the starter round against a very strong opponent, who just edged it, in my opinion. The last starter was the ‘Ham Cheese and Jalapeno Croquettes’. Served with mayo and sweet chilli sauce (one of my personal favourites that I can eat with absolutely anything), this dish is absolutely lovely. All I’d like changed about it is to have the incorporation of some more cheese. Otherwise, it’s spot on. I mean the name says it all: ham + cheese + jalapeno in a croquette.
The mains were the highlight of the meal though, as I’ve said before, and were a two-part fandango. The first was ‘Spaghetti with Flavours of the Sea’, while the second was a ‘Stuffed Calamari with Chilli Risotto’. The spaghetti had prawn, clam and calamari- all blended with white wine, along with garlic and olive oil, to give it that amazing rustic flavour that makes pasta seem so homely; and when you manage to nail the brief with a beautiful al-dente pasta that embodies the coastal state that it’s being served in, what more could you really ask for?
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
The pièce de résistance - The Stuffed Calamari with Chilli Risotto
I loved the spaghetti, which was simply superb. However, the risotto dish won me over on so many fronts. It features three medium sized squids, which are neither under-cooked and translucent, nor over-done and rubbery; they are cooked to absolute perfection. These are stuffed with a filling of prawn and calamari that are cooked in a beautiful recheiado marinade. These three beauties are then placed on a bed of risotto that has been infused with feni, and has a hint of heat from the green chilli in it; both of which are normally alien to a standard-issue risotto. The Arborio grains in the dish are still a little chalky which is perfect, the flavours all come together beautifully, and if you ask me, I think that this is a dish which is such a beautiful testament to how local flavours can be showcased on an international platform.
If you’ve ever eaten at any of Mac’s ventures, you’ll know that his servings are beyond generous- they’re sometimes ‘un-finish-able’; and ‘Uzzo’ is no different. Therefore getting through five dishes, was a feat for two diners. However, before the afternoon ended, he sent out his signature dessert: ‘Chocolate Fusion Alle Belle’. The classic Goan crepes that feature a coconut and jaggery filling have been around for yonks, but they’ve been reinvented at this restaurant. Here they are additionally stuffed with chocolate ganache, dusted with roasted almonds and served with a brandied chocolate fondue sauce.
My love for all things Goan will endure, even in the face of the very extinction of that concept. These two boys, and what their restaurant stands for, embody the emotion that goes with that very concept. There is love, humility, generosity and a carefree nature to the place that words can only describe up to a certain point, beyond which they aren't doing it justice. That is something that only a visit there can fix.
Uzzo's vibe is best embodied by a lazy afternoon, rather than a night-time meal.
The portions are large, so going on an empty stomach is recommended.
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
Fatona, Colva, Goa 403708
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.