By kuheli bhattacharya rane
A new place has opened on the Baga beach and we had heard that is was making waves. So, we trudged along the touristy beach side stretch of Baga, with salty breeze in our hair and our feet sinking in the sands, in search of the elusive Rockfish. This place has a very small non-descript board pointing to the place. As landmarks look out for Café Delmar and Silver Sand beach shack.
Ambience: an overriding white theme with whitewashed floor boards, cream coloured canopies, ivory shaded tables and chairs. The piece de resistance, however, are the lanterns at the centre of the patio throwing snowflake shaped stremas of light over the place making the place look distinctive as well as welcoming. Rockfish is situated right amidst the most popular shack zone of Goa. The beach is rife with the sounds of Bollywood masala music and we heard catches of ‘Tera pyaar hukkah bar’ and ‘ Baby doll main sone di’, but here at Rockfish we were greeted by strains of music in a north African language. Rockfish is inspired by the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and the inspiration is not just restricted to the menu. With Asian, European, and North African countries making up this medley of Mediterranean countries, Mediterranean cuisine as well as decor and music is an intriguing mix.
Food: Goa has always been partial to Mediterranean cuisine and there are a few places like Thalassa which are hugely popular even though they serve food restricted to a certain geographic region. Here too at Rockfish the menu is beautifully structured around the popular as well as the little-known cuisine of the Mediterranean. To reiterate that it stand apart from its neighbouring shacks, this place does not cater to the rawa fry masala prawns or the butter chicken.
Their bar menu is as extensive as their food menu and has a cocktail of choices right from the classics to the quirky. Open from 11 to 11, this place serves sundowners as well as hangover cures. We tried the lemongrass sour and the Arnold Palmer and both delivered their promise of refreshing drinks for a balmy night on the beach.
We started with the piquant strawberry gazpacho. The sharp taste, beautifully blended flavours of basil, black pepper and proscitto set the bar for the evening. We were of to a flying start.
Next came the extensive non vegetarian mezze with hummus sprinkled with lamb shreds, tabouleh, sambusek, mouttabel, falafel, olives and pita bread.
We next had what the menu said was bocadillos de cangrejco. Now bocadillo is supposed to be a Spanish sandwich, but what we were served were crab cakes. Cangrejco is essentially crab and as such the crab cakes were great, so we let the name pass. It was served with a pickled salad of radish and carrots with Jalapeno sauce, which cut through the sweetness of the crab meat. The crunchy salad with the soft meat proved to be a dish with layers of flavour and textures.
We did try their pomfret char grilled, but then may not recommend it. For simple reasons, a lot of other places down the same beach stretch do grilled fish better.
Their wood fired pizzas were not being served that night for some reason, which worked out great for us because we got to try a more wholesome, fragrant and full bodied meal of chicken tagine and couscous.
Tagine is essentially a North African or a Moroccan clay or ceramic pot with a circular base and a conical or dome-shaped cover allowing for food to be slow cooked and the condensation to return to the dish.
Rockfish is still in the process of acquiring the conical shaped tagines, which add so much drama to the dinner table, nevertheless their chicken tagine with melt-in-your-mouth chicken, chickpeas and potatoes cooked in fragrant Moroccan spices didn’t leave any room for complaint. Served with a fluffy bowl of couscous, the preferred grain of North Africa, this is the perfect foil to Indian chicken curry rice. This is what one would return to the restaurant for, for one I haven’t seen a tagine dish anywhere else in Goa.
For dessert we had the flower pot inspired by Heston Blumenthal’s potted plant tiramisu. If you follow Masterchef series and have seen the maverick scientist chef Heston in action you would have eating at one of his restaurants or eating one of his creations on your bucket list. I didn’t have to go to the Michelin three star ‘The Fat Duck’ to try Heston’s creation, because the guys at Rockfish served the flower pot just the way I imagine Heston would. Complete with a ceramic pot, a basil sprig, edible chocolate soil, and moist tiramisu underneath the foliage.
Eating a meal at Rockfish transports you to the varied and various regions around the Mediterranean. Italy, Spain, Morocco, Greece and Lebanon served on your table. Make no mistakes this place may look like a shack, may be hanging around other beach shacks, but this is definitely not a shack. It’s a high end restaurant serving authentic world cuisine in salubrious surroundings on a hip and happening beach. Now, what more do you want?