Full of twists, turns and dramatic camaraderie, A Reverie personifies Goa and its charm with its eccentricities and delicious dishes
By: Vinay Arora & Asha Chaudhry
Images by: Siddhanth Sheorey at The One School Goa
Posted on: May 28, 2015
LF Says: ★★★★.5
Everything at A Reverie comes with a twist. Or as Aakritee Sinh, the effervescent and madly passionate foodie-chef-owner playfully avers, it’s all about Goa with a twist. And the twist drama is never ending.
If you get aam papad, you get it in an edible wrapper.
If you get over that, you get ambushed by some rechado foam.
And then you get hauled over the coals by a cute little bhangra (mackerel) done to perfection tucked in hay.
Just when you get back to terra ferma, you are taken back to fantasyland with Feni ice cream.
These culinary bubble-explosions go on and on, while the sea breeze wafts in, and the stars twinkle overhead and the moon plays hide and seek.
Drama Queen over Drama Cuisine
Aakritee, not only manages to introduce each course (we were privy to a 15 course tasting menu), but also holds a side show of elegance in chef fashion. She sports a variety of ‘DQ’ aprons (with love from Indian designer Ritu Beri), an apt symbol for Aakritee who claims she was always a Drama Queen. Her partner in crime, Virendra (Veer), is no less of a showman, with his dazzling and deft skills in making us feel at home, patiently attending to our every query, as Aakritee dashes to the kitchen and unleashes another masterpiece.
The Culinary Broadway curtain raiser was a beautiful bowl of delectable coconut shavings, inspired by the muse of all that’s Goa and Goan, the Coconut. The presentation of A ‘Muse’ Bouche was so well sculpted, that none of us had the heart to reach out and dig in. We gingerly did and demolished the edible installation, one shaving at a time. Addictive. Surprisingly, you’re left with just a hint of coconut flavour in your mouth, begging for more!
Welcome to Goa is a Feni ice cream greeting topped with Limca Urak snow! For the uninitiated, Urak is the first distillate from the Goan cashew before it transforms into the more potent feni (cashew spirit). Be warned, it hits you at the bottom.
No prizes for guessing what’s next because what can be more Goan than the Poder (local bread seller on his cycle). This one is devoured and gone before you can spell P-o-i. Quite a twist on our daily butter bread, as The Poder’s Cycle sports truffles.
Now the twist drama express picks up speed, with dry shrimp balchao, coupled with prawn mousse noodles, and curry leaf tempered Tom Kha. Bal Chow Mein was inspired by midnight cravings for chowmein! Delicious isn’t the word for it, because the taste is such a sharp contrast, shouting aao twist karen.
As enchanting Anika’s music touches a new high, so does our culinary odyssey. On a wing and prayer we tuck into what can best be described as a metamorphosis of chicken. Everything at A Reverie is a first, and The Birds and the Bees is a classic twist: ‘boneless’ chicken wings, with vindaloo masala, Japanese soy and honey lacquer. The chicken, we are told, is slow-cooked over granite for 12 hours. As it delicately falls off the bone into your mouth, you die and go to heaven. And come back for some more!
Fun-dining in Fine-dining
Now comes the fun part…. Horn OK Please! There is a lot of hard work – and one dare say – early morning pain - in a chef-restaurateur’s everyday life. The idea of getting up at 4 am, and trudging to the local market is romantic and idealistic, but for braveheart Aakritee it’s an inspiration of sorts. In zooms the taco truck, which not only elicits oohs and aahs from kids and adults alike, but has beer battered kandha bhajiya (onion fritters).
Every presentation includes a playful prop. You can’t help being enchanted by Aakritee’s “playground” - the way she experiments with food techniques, presentation, fusion of cuisines and the wordplay she uses to name each dish!
Up next is ‘Papad Aam & Aam Papad’. By now it’s been well over two hours and we are on the cusp of getting drunk on food. Never ever in our life could we have imagined having mango and coconut curry mousse, but imagination is best left to Aakritee in her kitchen avatar. We moan in pleasure as we dip into the tapioca starch papadam and the mousse. It explodes in one’s mouth. For our daughter, the high point of discovery is the aam papad (dried and seasoned mango strips) in an edible wrapper!
Looks can be deceiving
As the culinary juggernaut rolls on, we re-discover simple earthy sweets with a savoury twist! Cripsy & Tipsy are Neureos in & Churros in an unexpected version. The crisp Neureo is nothing like the Indian Gujjiya – it’s filled with cheese. The Churros are jeera (cumin) flavoured. You taste them, then dip them in equally astonishing flavours - brandy cafreal aioli and vodka spiked bloody mary salsa. We savoured each sinful bit to the last crispy crumb.
A feast for our senses, The Rice Plate conquers our heart and palate – it’s a la fish thali with a twist! A Goan–Vietnamese marriage of souls, the local chonak fish is regally perched in rice paper. In this band, baaja, baraat are green mango confit, local gaunti lime and papad cones filled with salad in pickle oil, and edible sand and blue waves on the side! The showstopper is the Rechado foam (Rechado is a famous Goan masala which finds its way in the local cooking).
Senor Goat Cheese and its Senoritas
Passionate foodies-in-crime like us can hardly wait for what’s next – aphrodisiac laden goat cheese. If the Anjuna handmade cheese between the sheets doesn’t turn you on, the exotic ingredients sure will, what with figs poached in local Goan wine, rocket leaves dressed in pink, and on the side there is a honeycomb made of local forest honey. A heady mélange that’s smooth as silk and slides down your throat sensuously.
Just in case you were wondering what happened to the Goan seafood, not to fear. Lord of the Rings - butter garlic calamari is rolled in, prepared on a slow coal fire, and garnished with peri peri chilli.
But if you are a true blue Goan, Choris Bao, the Goan pork sausage, delicately tucked into a Chinese steamed bun will win your heart.
The clock has stopped. The music hasn’t.
Anika’s crooning an incredible rendition of ‘All of me’. We are now in a suspended state between food spirituality and divinity, a borderline case of hedonism. Sor Patel - the ‘soft’ pork belly in local sorpotel spices kindles up all those Goan desires of the good life once again, while the rechado meringue sauerkraut fermented in local toddy can only be described as the spiciest twist of all.
A Reverie it seems has magically transformed even the local favorite, the humble bhangra (mackerel), as it is served hay smoked, along with a full complement of lip smacking mussely goodies and presented as Across 7 Seas.
Leg pulling is also part of Aakritee’s vast repertoire as we discover to our immense delight, while we gorge on The Shepherd’s Pie, which has a pulled leg of lamb mutton ‘sukhe’ style. Plus there is a sliced fillet beef, flirting with Goan pickle oil and stir-fried Goan red rice.
Is there time for more? Is there space for more? We look forward to the desserts, knowing that nothing is what it seems. So no surprises then that the classic bebinca-serradura dessert combo, is now in a salt smoked version with Arabian sea salt and panko saw dust, with palm sugar caramel ice cream.
By now, ideally, one should be just about ready to die, but what comes next is a revelation: a dodol tart, followed by a ‘coconut and mango’ egg. Only there's no egg! Aakritee now grandly announces the grand finale to mark the end of this marathon Broadway epic, as we find ourselves ‘eating’ air and ‘drinking’ dehydrated rose.
Zen & Zane
While one loves Aakritee for her zaniness and Veer for his zenness, we could not get over the fact that Aakritee is completely self-taught. Here she is, presenting cordon bleu offerings and disarmingly telling us that she just picked up the nuances because of her passion for all good things in life. The couple’s love child, A Reverie, has been around for 14 years and the creativity quotient seems to be getting amplified every day. They both love their organic ingredients, grown mostly in their garden, or procured locally.
The sprawling outdoor dining and bar space has every bit of unusualness and creativity you could ever think of. Every table has a different set of chairs. The lights and lamps tease you. True to their story mentioned on the menu, they are “unapologetically eclectic”, right from the décor to the sink and tap in the washroom!
So what of the a la carte that everyone’s enjoying? Aakritee shares with us an interesting insight. Two signature dishes have never been allowed to go off the menu, because they are always loved by all – the wasabi prawns and the chicken liver pate. Plus, there is a veggie version of this exquisite tasting menu. And for the kids, they do beautiful pastas and many such child-friendly versions of their signature dishes.
The reincarnation, be warned, is never complete. So watch out for more twists and turns at A Reverie.
LF Says: ★★★★.5
Coordinates: A Reverie, Holiday Street, Gauravaddo, Calangute, Goa, India
Open for dinner only 7 pm onwards
Open from October to May
Ph: +91-9823 174927, +91-9823 505550
Vinay Arora & Asha Chaudhry moved to Goa 8 years back, to do what they love best. Travel, reminiscence, eat, drink, read … while surrounded by nature and friendly people. They love the idea of indulging in their favorite passions and making the most of life.