Buzz is a crucial lever of the restaurant scene. It will put more patrons in seats and napkins on lapels than grand taste, fancy seasonings or organic produce. Tataki has made moves on Panaji- in a swashbuckling yet subtle way by placing itself in Panaji’s most happening corner that houses Soho and Down The Road, the mouth of the lane leading to Fontainhas.
I’ve been keeping an eye out for this re-opening for quite some time now. I’ve been here twice before and loved the place. So, it is with much anticipation that we decided on a third outing here.
I would have loved to reserve the balcony area but was informed that the whole verandah was booked. Impressive, for a restaurant that has re-opened merely four or five days ago.
We enter and I’m reminded of all the reasons I loved the place on my previous visits. It has the sort of ambience that can drive you to paroxysms of poetry, a vast room in shades of clotted pink, brown and rose gold, with a choice of low and high tables. The lovely candles on the tables lend a soft romantic glow to the atmosphere.
We’re seated inches away from the luminous bar, with a cherry blossom installation fanning the top and its subtlety highlighted by the flashy beauty of the many vivid bottles. The walls are punctuated by curious looking art and the menu trots around the Orient with the same kitschy attitude. My companion chose a high table close to the bar because, unlike me, he believes that salvation can be found at the bottom of a glass.
The server takes our order for drinks. My companion chooses the Mr Macho, a concoction of Bourbon, spiced tea and maple. I’m so confused that we ask the server for recommendations. She is so evangelical about the Black Rock, an activated charcoal infused gin cocktail, that I feel obliged to order it.
The Black Rock looks interesting, but sadly for me the taste wasn’t remarkable. It’s green-black, for crying out loud, and tastes similar to the celery juice I had that morning. On the other hand, the Mr. Macho has inspired a psalm of praise from my delighted companion.
For starters, we order the Classic La-Zi-Ji with Sichuan chilli peppers, scallions and Goan cashew nuts and the Malay style butter garlic prawns with curry leaves and chillies.
The service is super-rapid. The food arrives gaily: hot, fresh and vibrant. The presentation is exquisite- beautiful crockery and lovely arrangement. The chicken is delicate, diced and has an oomph of flavour. The Malay prawns are plump and glossy, intensely flavoured but not overwhelming. Both dishes are extremely satisfying and accomplished in their own way.
We’re thirsty again. Being seated close to the bar has its perks and my companion has his own chemistry going on with the barman. He orders a Manhattan. Feeling slightly left out, I holler for a Sangria. No recommendations from the perky server this time. The Manhattan with Jameson looked rich and was super delish. The Sangria was just right, garnished with an orange slice, that provided just enough of a fruity kick.
For main course, we decide on a vegetarian truffles and pepper sushi roll. This is the star of our show and is a visual delight. I’d like to say it is life-changingly delicious, but I don’t have that many reference points to compare with. So, all I can say is that everything came together just as it supposedly should, and we gobbed on with perverse pleasure.
Dessert came next. We zeroed in on a coconut panacotta with caramelised bananas. I wasn’t too keen on the choice, but unwilling to leave without dessert, I agree to go with the flow. It’s a pleasant dish, kind of bouncy with the caramelised bananas and gooey sauce adding gravitas.
It’s time for the bill. At Rs. 525/-, the Malay prawns was the most expensive dish we ordered that day. But we’re not complaining. The bill had us beaming. And we’re stuffed as comprehensively as a roast turkey at Thanksgiving.
As we make our way out, I realize I’m truly smitten by Tataki. Again!! The food, the ambience, the drinks. Needless to say, I’m impressed. And most definitely immersed.