Alfama, Cidade De Goa
AKIO FERNANDES goes in search for some soul-food at Alfama
Quietly tucked away in the heart of Cidade de Goa, you will find the perfect ambience for music, romance and authentic gourmet cuisine. Alfama, has for long, been trying to preserve Portuguese culture and cuisine in a wonderfully intimate atmosphere and ambience that features beautiful artwork, romantic balcaos surrounded by various elements and items from the bygone days to take you back in time. The award winning restaurant not only serves Portuguese food but also does justice to a wide range of international cuisines. The resort’s veteran Executive Chef Sunit Sharma is the man at the helm of this nostalgic experience that the Alfama creates and also the man who curates every set menu for every ‘Fado Night.’
The Fado is a traditional genre and performance of music that originated in Lisbon in the mid-18th century but has its origins long before that time. A blend of nostalgia and emotions, the music is based on feelings of love, death, sadness and are usually satirical in nature, the Fado music also incorporates the elements of faith, tradition and culture, with the aim of the performance being to leave you in a state of ‘Saudade’ which literally translates to a feeling of longing and nostalgia, wishful thinking. The Alfama at Cidade de Goa has been faithfully hosting the Fado for well over a decade now. To date, they continue to keep the tradition alive and organize a Fado night on the first Tuesday of every month. The format was simple, a night filled with beautiful music and Goan-Portuguese inspired 4 course meal. The night featured Fado performances with a 15 minute break in between each of them. The service comes to a halt during the performances as the lights are dimmed and the diners can take the time to listen and appreciate the music from the Fadistas and the players. Service resumes during the break and one course from the set menu is served during each interval. The menu featured salads, soups, main course and dessert. I started the night by choosing what I wanted from the menu; soon after that the lights were dimmed and the first performance began. The great thing about the Fado is all instruments and voices are unamplified and yet can be heard around the entire 4 corners of the restaurant. The Four Fadistas of the night were Sonia Shirsat, Miguel Cotta, Chantel Marie Cotta Viegas and Nadia Rebello. They were accompanied by Franz Schubert Cotta on the Guitarra Portuguesea and Reniel Costa Martins on the Viola.
Let’s move on to the meal. It’s probably best that I describe the dishes in English instead of Portuguese, to keep things simple. The first performance ended in a loud applause and the night started with the salads. A pretty eggplant, beetroot, zucchini salad. A bright pink trail of beetroot puree laid on the plate of a simple, yet interesting salad. Now, a lot of people don’t like Eggplant due to it’s unusual texture; however the eggplant in this salad had a lightly fried coating on the outside and that gave it a very crispy and crunchy taste along with the sharp flavour of the eggplant, this salad was really something to savour, even pure meat eaters would be full of praise for this one. There was also the Home Smoked Squid and Prawn in an avocado coulis as the second option. The smoked prawn was an absolute delight, smoked very well and so flavourful. Fast forward another brilliant performance and I was presented with soup. For soup, there was the Caldo Verde which was a green broth soup and the Soup Fria de Frango which essentially translates to cold chicken soup. This soup was basically a Gazpacho (cold vegetable soup) with pieces of flavoured chicken in it. The nice thing about the menu on show was the slight hint of Goan flavours in the dishes which you will recognize in the main course ahead. Halfway through our meal and the Fado performances with songs that spoke of love, religion, hardships and positive wishes for the future we began with the main course. The menu featured 2 options for vegetarians and 3 for non-vegetarians. I started with the Bulhao Pato style Grilled Fish. The dish was named after famous Portuguese poet Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato who lived his life near the bank of the Tagus river which still remains one of the best places to catch fresh fish and clams. The dish is usually made with clams, but at Alfama they served a very succulent piece of fish cooked in a simple mix of lemon, butter, salt, garlic, coriander and white wine. The grilled fish was definitely my dish of the night. The next dish was a lovely chicken cafreal with a vegetable foogath and garlic mash. The presentation in every dish is something that deserves a lot of praise, the appearance of each dish was as beautiful as the taste. A very strong local influence on the Cafreal was followed by another locally influenced dish, the cashew, green pea and bean Tondak wrap with periperi sauce. Yet another dish that packs a punch in terms of flavours and will definitely punch you right back into your childhood years. The Tondak is a very popular Goan vegetarian dish that involves grams, beans and assorted vegetables cooked in gravy of roasted spices and coconut, a popular dish across Goa, especially during festivals. My final dish during the main course was a pan seared beef tenderloin in a Terceira sauce with punched potatoes. The steak was brilliant to say the least, cooked medium rare, just the way I like it, with a delicious red wine based sauce and seasoned potatoes.
As we came close the end of the meal, the final few songs of the Fado surprisingly, had more energy and positivity in it and rightly so, before the dessert. The dessert included an Azeitao roll with a chocolate salami and orange gelato. All made fresh, all made in-house. What a beautiful ending to a beautiful night. Kudos to Cidade de Goa and their management for keeping the tradition going for so long now and continuing to preserve the beauty and charm that the Fado brings to the table.
Don’t forget, you can join in on this experience that takes place once a month on the first Tuesday. The next and final Fado for the year of 2017 will take place on the 5th of December, so make sure you don’t miss it.