Tierra Y Mar
Showcasing Spanish and South American cuisine, Tierra Y Mar will leave your taste buds zinging for joy
By JONQUIL SUDHIR
This monsoon has attempted to kill me. Okay, I may be exaggerating a wee bit, but I’ve had a terrible cough and cold bug for the longest time. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say, I’ve been floating around functioning without most of my senses (don’t you worry, the all important ‘common’ one is doing just fine). Do you know how some people are super cranky patients? Well, I’m not. But, I become very fussy about food. I’d rather not eat, if it isn’t perfect.
In slow recovery mode, I found myself at Tierra Y Mar (literally translated to land and sea) – a restaurant serving Spanish and South American cuisine that quietly opened at the end of last year. The restaurant is located behind the Paperboat Collective on the Sangolda stretch of the CHOGM road. The rustic wood furniture and warm lights make for an inviting and relaxed setting.
It’s obvious that the people behind this establishment are very much at the forefront of things. Anirudh Maheshwari, one of the founding partners, is a serial entrepreneur of sorts with two other ventures in Mumbai. Another partner, Nishant Mehra, is also chief mixologist! A former professional footballer, Nishant has kick-started his entrepreneurial career with TYM.
But the heart and soul behind the food here is the very genial Chef Benpramar Laitflang. Having gone to culinary school in Argentina, Spanish and South American cuisine seemed the obvious choice for his first venture. Chef Ben has worked in restaurants around the world, but he chose Goa to set up his own restaurant, because he likes the vibe here and finds that some of the best ingredients can be easily sourced. Speaking about his love for clean, fresh, and simple flavours, Chef Ben explained that they have a constantly changing menu – depending on what is available and what he feels like cooking. But what if you really, really like a dish and go back for more, only to find it isn’t on the menu? If the ingredients are available, the team at TYM will whip it up for you!
I normally prefer a glass of water or a light cooler when I want to concentrate on a meal, but the niggling bug demanded a warm drink. Chef Ben recommended the Hot Toddy – brandy in warm water and lime infused with cloves. Just the ‘elixir’ I needed. We started our meal with the Porcini Mushroom Parfait Brûlée – a smooth, mushroom-rich cream served with toasties and an onion jam. The earthy parfait was offset perfectly with the crunchy brûlée while just a wee bit of the onion jam elevated this perfect start. This was followed by Smoked Mushroom Tacos and Spicy Lengua tacos. The use of mesquite wood makes the mushrooms on this taco distinctly smoky, a flavour that is well balanced by the guacamole and pico de gallo (a salsa made with tomatoes, onion, coriander, peppers, and lime). Whenever I’m in a vegan phase, I may have this for breakfast, lunch and dinner (incidentally, all vegetarian dishes here can be ‘veganised’ on request). Having said that, the Spicy Lengua tacos are probably the reason why all my attempts at Veganism will fail. Strips of slow-braised (for two hours) beef tongue are embellished with salsa tomatillo (tomatillos are also called Mexican husk tomato…but are not tomatoes!), pico de gallo, pickled onions, and placed on soft-shell tacos. I have seen these tacos convert the most vehement beef tongue hater – an absolute must-have at TYM.
The next two tapas were dishes I normally wouldn’t order because, well…boring. Crispy Patatas Bravas and Bacon-Wrapped Prawns. What could possibly be exciting about potato wedges? These potato wedges are cut into cubes, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, tossed in homemade buffalo sauce and finished off in a butter emulsion – decadent. Clearly, I was wrong. Potato wedges can be very exciting. As for the bacon-wrapped prawns, I am used to seeing bacon wrapped lazily around prawns and fried, with the dish having a predominant bacon flavour and dripping with fat. Just serve a plate of bacon, no? At TYM, the bacon tightly embraces the prawn, giving the juicy and succulent prawn a crunchy coat while the homemade barbeque sauce wraps up this dish nicely.
Next up was the Grilled Beef Chimichurri – pan-seared beef tenderloin that was then cooked in the oven and served on a bed of perfectly-dressed crunchy lettuce topped with chimichurri – a green paste made of parsley, oregano and coriander, among other things. Moist and so soft it almost melts in the mouth, this would have any meat purist’s seal of approval. Albondigas are meatballs oven-baked in a homemade tomato sauce – these have a nice hit of spice and not your regular meatballs.
We took a break from the heavy meats with the red snapper ceviche (ceviche or cebiche is typically raw seafood cured with citrus juices). Small morsels of red snapper were cured in lemon and orange juices and topped with apple matchsticks – so, so good! I had to stop myself from drinking the liquid remnants of this fresh, simple dish that was bursting with flavour.
At this point, you’re thinking this has to be the end of the meal, right? Wrong! That was just the tapas. For the main course, there was Chicken Confit – chicken slow-cooked in fat so the skin turns crispy while the meat inside retains its moistness. Served with sautéed veggies, this is a filling main course. The Crusted Red Snapper sounded, to me, like it would be a fish fillet with some sort of crumb. Here, too, I was surprised. Out came a square piece of fish with a slice of crunchy buttered toast atop it, sitting in a sea of cherry tomatoes, cucumber and what seemed like liquid gold. Perfecto!
As mentioned before, Chef Ben wants to hero clean and simple flavours – and does this with gusto. Having traversed the world, I hope Chef Ben and his Tierra Y Mar are here to stay. I, for one, will be returning to try out more on this constantly evolving menu.
Tierra Y Mar is open Wednesday through Monday and host musicians once a month