Sangam Pai Dhungat – Voltaire
MEENAL BALE profiles this young resto-startup entrepreneur and his passion for the venture
Ask any Goan what is the first thing that comes to their mind when you say the word ‘Voltaire’ and they will very elaborately describe the typical reclining chair that depicts Goa’s ‘Sussegad’ lifestyle.
Launched this August, ‘Voltaire’ is a restaurant situated amidst the scenic surrounding of Reis Magos, a restaurant that serves authentic Goan food and is a paradigm of the distinctive Goan lifestyle as well as the signature cuisine.
Proprietor Sangam Pai Dhungat recollects how it took him over two years to build this entity from scratch. “The venture itself was more of an instinctive urge to do something different than a planned enterprise. After completing my education in engineering, I joined my father in the family-owned hardware business. I had no intention of venturing into the hospitality industry. But it happened about three years ago when I came home from work and sat down for lunch,” says Sangam. The ‘Eureka’ moment struck Sangam when he wondered aloud: “If I can savour home-made Goan cuisine and relive all the memories attached to it, then why not create a set up that would make others feel the same way, and capitalize on it? The very next day, I sat down with my architect friends Teja and Yatin Falari and began planning this restaurant that would re-create an ambience to cherish, and serve food to relish,” he adds.
We built every corner, every pillar from scratch. Hospitality being a delicate industry, I had to make sure that everything was perfect. Coming from an engineering background, I never imagined taking a leap into something completely unknown to me. But once the idea grew in my head, I had to make it happen. When we finally froze upon an outline, I realized the vast efforts that would be needed to execute this project on ground,” says Sangam
Voltaire has a widespread menu, from delicious prawn curry, to xacuti, ‘tisryanche dangger’ (clam cutlets) and a unique family recipe of stuffed squids. “Although my core idea was to serve authentic Goan food, we had to go through a process of tasting, sampling and standardizing the menu. Besides, making sure that the fish catch is nothing but fresh. My mother and sister help out in the operations by supervising the recipes in the kitchen, to make sure that the customer savours a home-like culinary experience,” claims Sangam.
Voltaire is situated in what was an old unused warehouse of the Pai Dhungat family. But there was a lot of civil and architectural work involved to bring the place to habitable shape. “We built every corner, every pillar from scratch. Hospitality being a delicate industry, I had to make sure that everything was perfect. Coming from an engineering background, I never imagined taking a leap into something completely unknown to me. But once the idea grew in my head, I had to make it happen. When we finally froze upon an outline, I realized the vast efforts that would be needed to execute this project on ground,” Sangam says. From studying the possible kitchen layouts, trying various combinations for the operations, laying out the infrastructure, hand-picking customized furniture, recruiting efficient staff and most importantly, brainstorming to create a concept that would appeal to all; the amount of efforts and creativity that has gone into the planning and makeover, has greatly contributed in making Voltaire a visual delight! And the food being delicious is definitely an added bonus. The architecture of the place is spread across two storeys. The seating is well planed and spread out with age-old wooden chairs that gives the place an old world sort of charm. There also exists a verandah in the front and one at the back, where more quiet and private functions could be hosted, accommodating from 80 to 100 guests. “I took it very slow to make sure that the end result was the best. It took me a while, but today with the final outcome, all the efforts have paid off,” says Sangam proudly.
Overlooking the riverside at Reis Magos, Voltaire draws in quite a varied crowd who are keen to sample authentic Goan food. There is also a multi-cuisine menu, should guests want to sample the same. “Being in the pilot phase, I didn’t make the entire menu public. We didn’t want any food being wasted. We kept the menu limited until the crowd began floating in,” he adds. Voltaire is yet to adopt a full-fledged marketing campaign. They have neither listed themselves on food apps nor designed a website. The only kind of marketing or advertising has been via personalized invites to friends and family. “I am surprised how quickly the place has picked up; and I am really glad that the customers are kind enough to give us genuine reviews, while simultaneously being appreciative of our efforts,” says Sangam.
Looking forward, Sangam says that for the time being, he only hopes that patrons keep coming back for more. After all, the tagline sums it all Voltaire – ‘Drink, Dine, Recline’