Source : http://nonchalantgourmand.com/alila-diwa-goa/
Nonchalant Gourmand was accompanied by team mate – ace photographer Nikita Modi. Nikita is a freelance photographer who has her interest in food photography grounded for such exciting opportunities but also dabbles in exclusive Advertising and Fine Art Photography. She has completed her Masters in photography from Speos,Paris,France. You can see her works at: www.nikitamodi.com and http://blog.nikitamodi.com All copyrights of the photographs are exclusive Nikita Modi Photography©. All images are copyrighted Nikita Modi Photography© any reproduction, copying or usage of these images will require a link back to this site and / or a request to Nikita Modi Photography© as mentioned about.
Blogging from home ground about home ground has always been my forte, this is probably the first time I am talking about a place which is away from home, but still falls under the category of “A home away from home”. Yes, I speak about the much adored holiday destination of India –Goa. I call it home away from home not because of some strange affliction to the place which people associate with fun, holiday and drunken stupors, but because my mother was a native and the maternal side of the family are still housed there.
Visits to Goa were predominantly restricted to the various homes we have scattered in the main arteries of the city and our association with hotels and touristy places were limited and only selected for an outing over the weekend. I have stayed at many hotels in Goa from five stars with families for special occasions to old school resorts with associates and the food world association to upscale boutique hotels located on the tourist spewed beaches of North Goa, and am always thirsting to discover more as many hotels mushroom faster than you can pop a can of beer.
One such location in Goa is widely ignored and underrated, which is the South of Goa. The beaches are pristine and virgin, the waters clearer and the flora and fauna untouched except by nature. Housed near Majorda beach and pretty close to the airport, this paddy field surrounded luxury boutique hotel which has its branches spread worldwide is like a breath of fresh air. Alila Diwa, a name which resounds luxury and comfort with every possible facility made available to you, it’s imperative you don’t need to move out of that comfort zone.
Alila Diwa boasts of a quintessential Goan décor theme which runs across their vast plot of land and the resort is split into two areas, the main resort area with its infinity pool (overlooking the paddy fields, a fair change from beach facing properties) and a host of cuisine specific restaurants such as Spice Studio, Edge Bar (the well stocked bar by the pool) and VIVO the buffet styled dining space offering a wide variety of cuisines ranging from local to south east asian. The second wing is the Diwa Wing, this is ultra luxury, close to their exclusive in-house spa and has its own pool (albeit not an infinity one but on the bright side has a Jacuzzi) and a fine dining restaurant called Bistro.
I not only had a chance to explore all the restaurants but also meet with the individual chefs who control each of these spaces, what was exciting is that each of them had imbibed the restaurant they were controlling as their own and gave me a perspective of interacting with them at a less commercial level and coercing them into spilling out local secrets and their signature dishes which were synonymous with their space. Meeting with Alila Diwa’s Executive Chef – Chef Ashish Deva who brings with him 17 years of experience in the food and beverage sector, was an exciting opportunity. Young, passionate and over and above being talented he exuded the vibe one expects of anyone working (or partying) in Goa. He controls the restaurants along with his team of chefs who are each, individually responsible for the dishes in the restaurants and he indulged me in a one to one cooking session at the end of our stay which has been given justice too by being captured on video, for the first time on Nonchalant Insider. A true treat at the end of this post so watch out for it.
I will go on to introduce some quirky, some homely and some really cool chefs as per the signature dishes in their respective restaurants, it truly was an experience worth looking forward to and being stated visually and by palate.
We started off at the Edge Bar, overlooking the enchanting infinity pool which is a haven for tranquil and relaxation. It was curious when Alila Diwa’s GM (Vikram Aditya Singh) himself learnt about my preference for gin and the fact that I kept mooning over how the clear blue waters of the pool merged with the speckled blue sky, within minutes I was sipping on his signature hand stirred cocktail, which he proudly names the Glacier Blue Martini. It reflected his style, the ambience I was currently parked in complete with the colors we associate a holiday with, this was one cocktail which turned out to be my favorite. He was kind enough to part with the recipe, quite simple a well stirred, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Martini Bianco, Blue Curacao and Vodka. The key here was to add the right amount of blue curacao to it to make it look an azure blue and not candy blue.
The Edge Bar turned out to be quite a hangout place with fantastic appetizers and a chilled out menu and two of the coolest chef’s who truly belong in a place like Goa.
Chef Sharad Saurabh and his colleague Ankur Gulati conjured up this delectably plated Foie Gras lollipop appetizers which were served in unique gunny bags filled with rice (from the paddy field maybe?) and garnished with the flora and fauna of the place, served up conveniently with truffle popcorn, this dish was a sheer gourmet experience.
Moving on to VIVO where Chef Ashish Deva once again displayed his culinary expertise by putting together a Mediterranean flavored dish, wholesome chicken legs with apricots, raisins and dry fruits and served on a bed of mild flavored couscous, this dish was enough to set you back at some level – nirvana or as the Goan’s say – Susegad.
VIVO overlooks the paddy fields and their pool and serves up authentic Goan cuisine. Here you can also indulge in an elaborate breakfast spread of Western and Indian dishes are complemented by delicacies brought fresh from the bakery, fresh fruits, gourmet teas and Alila’s special blend of coffee. Vivo offers an extensive a la carte menu during lunch and dinner presenting light, healthy meal choices. At Dinner, ‘live’ interactive buffet counters engage and excite your taste buds with varying themes each night. American style barbeques, Asian night market food, rustic Italian dishes, rich Indian cuisine with a regal touch and Portuguese influenced cuisine are on offer.
I would dine at the Bistro everyday for breakfast out of sheer convenience, but for an indulgent in-room service ordered in one fine morning.
Luxurious rooms interspersed by large balconies with seating to enjoy the view and coupled with bathrooms half the size of the room (especially in the Diwa Wing) with a stand alone tub in the middle of the bathroom and Victorian style was matched with western style brekkie of waffles dripping with maple syrup and fruit juices served up with the Breakfast Sausages, which were cooked to perfection.
Well the room does speak for itself and no matter what whether you eat in the restaurant or in the room, it still makes you feel like not stirring from your comfort zone.
We move onto another favorite restaurant in the premises, though the thought of having north Indian in Goa was a bit of a turn off, I could not help being smitten by one of their staff, well technically Chef Edia Cotta who everyone fondly calls aunty and who demonstrated a true blue Goan delicacy of tendered meat with local ingredients like balacal (a local vinegar) and spices, this dish, the Rechado was made lovingly just as you would expect at a Goan home, this is what going the extra mile does to place which believes in hospitality and extending it with a personal flavor.
The looming personality of Chef Shubham Dhar who is Chef De Cuisine at Spice Studio, an elegant, contemporary setting for a dining experience centered on the authenticity of Indian spices, was located in a unique setting – an elevated platform that spreads naturally around a banyan tree and surrounded by a water body. Chef Shubham features a menu celebrating the spice traditions of the five regions in India. From fresh produce and spices to the serving styles unique to these regions, every meal immerses you in a rich experience of India’s culinary traditions and spice history.
Shubham did change my opinion about North Indian style food in a coastal region once I had bit into his signature melt-in-your-mouth Galouti Kebabs which eventually were localized with some fantastic port wine which Shubham generously poured out to enjoy with the meal.
Last but not the least, my culinary experiments with the menu at the Bistro was every gourmets dream come true with a host of dishes carefully selected to the discerning palate of every possible type of guest, it needed more than a lifetime to go through various courses or dishes. So apart from the breakfast which was a dutiful indulgence every morning, I did manage to drag Chef Ashish into his temple and cook up a storm with him. The video speaks for itself as Chef Ashish shows me how to dish out fantastic Chilean Sea Bass lightly griddled and served on a bed of Saffron Risotto with citrus scented olive and bacon soil. Apart from this, Bistro serves up Rabbit, Beef and Chicken with as much gutso and innovation.
Alila Diwa truly lives up to culinary expectations with the perfect team of dedicated chefs spearheaded by the right talent, and the list is endless as far as their culinary track records grow with everyday added innovations and signature dishes, this is by far the most I have eaten on a holiday.