17 Nov 2019  |   04:21am IST



This is a story of two Goan boys who moved out of India. One of them is back to look after his ageing folks in Siolim and has turned the family compulsion into an opportunity to create two work of art restaurants.

The other from Divar, is arguably the rock star of Young Indian Chefs to have emerged from Goa, literally carved a reputation across India, Australia and Germany, opened and revamped menus of iconic restaurants and chains, has opened a Vietnamese beer garden with eclectic oriental cuisine.

Last week, the meandering paths of this column, that lead to places and people who keep Goa’s tryst with all things culinary alive , arrived at the doorsteps of these Goan boys, ‘at home’, each having brought the world to them.

Both are fine chips of Goa’s old culinary block, where the kitchen was the sanctum sanctorum of Goan homes, where moms and aunts ruled home and hearth, and bound families and friends together through what they cooked. These boys are from homes where long dining tables were the platforms of not just food, but life.

Through their journeys across continents and cuisines, in kitchens in corners of the globe, they whipped a bit of home” into their culinary assets making food talk, creating identities of not just their preparations and dishes, which became iconic and served as their signatures but for themselves. The fact that one chose to come home and the other decided to spend significant amounts of time here, running one restaurant just opened and another signature one is indeed heart warming.

Savio Noronha awakes in Panjim or in his ancestral home in Siolim each day to check on his fresh produce. He does check if the fresh bacon and other pork produce is ready, all grown locally and organically, to be served fresh each day at his Route 66 Restaurant in the heart of Panjim’s Rue De Ourem. Though Route 66 has been in operation for a while Savio’s recently launched breakfast spread, is a part of Panjim’s tradition of starting the day with a good breakfast, But Savio’s spread is big. It’s America on a breakfast plate. And the best of his farm and other sourced stuff is served, a medley of pork beef and eggs, with freshly baked bread and decent coffee. At the other end of town in Anjuna he runs Tin Tin very close to where he grows all his produce, another go to place for tourists and locals for years.

The other boy, Picu, is from Divar. And like many Divadkars who have moved and spent most of their lives abroad, he has held on to the flavours and aromas of home, even as he has expanded his international repertoire manifold.

Picu is formerly known as Rahul Gomes Pereira and one of his uncles Aloo Gomes Pereira or ‘Aloo Uncle’ to yours truly, has been one of the architects of Goa’s travel trade and one of the most prominent resident of Sao Tome- Fontainhas. And that connects Chef Picu to even closer home.

However, little known to many in Goa, he is indeed one of India’s top ten young chefs, with an ivy league equivalent career portfolio. Head Chef of Delhi-based Pass Code Hospitality, Sazerac, Jamun and the bar PCO of the group have been run by him. But Delhi and arguably India really noticed him when he revamped the menu of the very high end private dining club A Ta Maison, in Delhi or ‘ATM’ for short. What followed was phenomenal. Stand out international dishes had his signature and stamp like the duck confit served with millet risotto and a red-wine jus and his Scallop ceviche- fresh carpaccio of scallops with kombucha and capers. And to those chefs and remarkably well exposed diners, mention the dish saffron and tellicherry pepper risotto and you’ll hear Chef Picu. But he didn’t leave his Goa behind even here, with his Chorizo crepe, with fresh chorizo sent to Delhi from Goa Apart from his continent blazing international career, and across the Oberoi group in India, which is where he was chiseled from a talented chef to a master and hailed by some of the best known world chefs like Chef Alan Passsard, Rahul Gomes Pereira is indeed one of Goa’s gems. In Goa, off the main CHOGM road at Sangolda, there’s a sharp turn to the fields. Right there in an old home with a garden ( formerly the venue of the Mustard restaurant) is Chef Picu’s latest love, the Pings Bia Hoi. It’s a mix of a beer garden, in a laid back whacky setting and a stand out bar designed, we are learnt by legendry bar designer Anirudh Singhai’s, Speedx. Here the menu is oriental, with a lot of Thai and Vietnamese, riveting in the street flavours of the orient. While we shall delve into the details of the menu in another space and time after a few more experiments, here’s a sampler. The Philadelphia cream cheese with water chestnuts, the wok tossed guylian (goan water spinach) with mushroom garlic chilly and soy and the Edamame and corn dimsum are vegetarian specials. And if an absolute meat and seafood aficionado like this columnist, lingers and harbours over a vegetarian medley like this, the Chef is truly special. And he’s preparing to launch Jamun, another high end Indian style restaurant in Assagao, which is a mini extension of Delhi anyway.

It was a midweek afternoon. As one left Pings Bia Hoi, after a meal, Chef Picu, was on his scooter, laughing and joking with his mates before he sped off into the fields and the palm trees of Sangolda. As he vanished into the lap of nature, he looked like just another Goan boy who had conquered the world but was happiest at home


Idhar Udhar