It’s a time of mixed blessings. And in the current situation, you count them all. One is having the liberty to drive around on a Sunday, walk into a restaurant and know that it’s likely you’ll get a seat without reservation.
This was an adventure we attempted last Sunday. A detour to one of the hottest new gastrobars in Panaji, Goa. Opened only a month ago, in the heart of the city, it’s one that we’ve been meaning to visit ever since.
While Panaji on a Sunday was unsurprisingly quiet, it’s still a reminder that Goa, like everywhere, is the sum of its people, many of whom visit during the season.
Petisco is a softly lit gastrobar, with staggered green and gold patterns that define contemporary chic. Spread across three levels, it is well-appointed with dark wood and brick hues emerging as an even theme. It is an informal yet ostensibly formal louche dinner spot.
We are greeted warmly by David, the affable restaurant manager. We select the upper level, and settle down comfortably. We browse through the menu. It’s a riot of ideas. The food philosophy stems from using local Goan produce to create dishes influenced by flavours from the Mediterranean and Spanish colonies. There are small plates, slightly large plates and an extensive bar list.
From the small plates, we order the Prawns a la Plancha and the Chimmichuri Chicken. For drinks, we order the Smoked G & T and the Penicillin, which is smoked whiskey with a gingery lime finish. The drinks come first. The G&T is garnished with a sprig of thyme and I enjoy its smoky boozy kick. God, it felt good, experiencing this raging bubble of happiness rise up inside me.
The Prawns a la Plancha follows suit. It is a powerfully created mixture of garlic and chilli olive oil, seafood bisque, pickled bimbli and served with poie. I’m tempted to surrender to some serious head suckage and I refrain only to prevent my companion from stomping out in a huff. The gravy was so good, I polished it all off with the poie.
The Chimmichuri chicken comes next. For the uninitiated (like myself), chimmichuri is growing in popularity and is the most perfect condiment to serve with chicken. Served with a sweet potato salad, each chicken piece is soft, moist and tastes intensely of itself.
Pranav Dhuri, the owner, works the room, cheerfully. And he has every reason to be. He stops by for a quick word and we reassure him that everything up until now is wonderful.
We pour over the drinks menu. Tipples run from quaffable, dependable, pocket-friendly stuff like beers and classic cocktails to the wine labels and other fancier spirits.
We settle for a classic Cosmopolitan and a Manhattan. From the slightly larger plates, we choose the Potato Rosti and the Roast Chicken.
The Roast Chicken comes replete with lyonnaise potatoes, fried okra and curried jus. It was so prettily presented that it could win a beauty contest. The Potato Rosti with chipotle salsa will be a favourite among vegetarians.
The dessert menu is short and to the point. We choose a Tart. To say that it was heavenly, isn’t poetic frippery. An explosion of flavours, it was quite wobblesome and had me sopping it down theatrically while making those “mmmm” sounds. Small sugar bursts whisk me away from everything for a second.
Petisco is a small, independent labour of love – imaginative small plates, a dizzying bar list and fabulous service. Since my dinner there, I’ve told several people to earmark this place for a visit. Petisco is a birthday or special-occasion place, true, but it is also a place for any given day.
The space is a welcoming, beating heart in the center of Panaji city for those in need of a respite of so many kinds. It’s like it’s name. Petisco. In this case size matters. And we say, smaller the better.