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Portuguese perfection

Spice, candlelight and sophistication are all served on a platter at this Portuguese restaurant.

india Updated: Mar 26, 2010 02:09 IST
Jimmy Chew

I still remember the first time I ate Pork Sorpotel. On a depressingly wet Bombay monsoon day back in the 1980s, a Goan colleague walked me down to an astonishingly tiny restaurant in Colaba called New Martin where my affair with Goan food began. New Martin’s sorpotel, chopped pork meat and offal cooked in a spicy, vinegary sauce, worked wonders in lifting my spirits and the restaurant quickly became my go-to place for comfort food in my then new city of residence. So when a friend and I were browsing through the menu at Delhi’s new Casa Portuguesa Restaurante, I wasted no time in deciding that I would have the Sarapatel (the way the Portuguese spell it), but more on that later. Casa Portuguesa is tucked away in Hauz Rani, an old village in south Delhi that dates back to the 13th century.

It could be a bit of a challenge to find the restaurant (clue: look opposite the DLF Place Mall in Saket). It’s a branch really of the better known Casa Portuguesa, Goa, a restaurant that has garnered, over the years, a great reputation for authentic Portuguese cuisine. The restaurant is in a rough-hewn white haveli, made-over with a bit of glass, and houses, besides the restaurant, an art gallery and a couple of boutiques for designer-wear. We chose to sit in the candle-lit ambience of the tree-filled courtyard on that still balmy Delhi evening (Casa P is open only for dinner, by the way), but I guess if you’re going during this year’s early onset summer, you would prefer the air-conditioning inside.

The restaurant’s friendly staff dispenses meticulous service (brushing off every crumb that you’ve spilt on the table-cloth, fussing about changing even unused cutlery after every course and so on) and is helpful with suggestions on what to order, not that we needed any help. We ordered the Salad de Casa (Rs 410), a mixed veggie salad that came with, besides green leaves, feta cheese and bell peppers, pomegranate, olives and toasted almonds. You can ask for chicken to be added to it, too. For the main course, I went for (you guessed right) the Sarapatel (Rs 590) and my dining companion a Stuffed Pomfret (Rs 680).

The sarapatel was great, tangy and spicy as it should be but a tad too sophisticated for my coarse predilections. I’m used to sorpotel made and left out in a covered earthen pot overnight to ferment a bit and give you that extra zing when it hits your palate. The fish, stuffed with the famous red-hot and spicy rechad paste and grilled, was delicious — the fresh fish flesh contrasting with the tanginess of the paste.

We didn’t do much justice to the menu at Casa P. We didn’t try the Pork Vindaloo or the Chicken Piri Piri. Nor did we dig into Courico de Goa (spice-laden Goan sausages) and passed up on the traditionally baked Bebinca for dessert. I guess all that shall have to wait for another night.