It takes a lot to make a trek from North to South but if the reason involves compelling food, we usually give in – similar story unfolded with Cavatina Cucina.
Super talented chef, Avinash Martins who’s worked with Michelin starred chefs across the globe and at 360° The Oberoi, Delhi, now runs Cavatina Cuchina in Benaulim, South Goa. This restaurant in his hometown is a hidden gem for contemporary Goan food. Having sampled some 15 dishes here after a long and beautiful drive down South Goa's roads, we can safely say that the restaurant has made it to the top of our favourite restaurants of all times.
In an attempt to keep the heart of Goan cuisine intact, Chef Avinash digs deep into the treasure trove of forgotten recipes from the Saraswat and Portuguese communities and reinterprets them for a modern palate. Think of it as Goan food rendered with a bit of European love.
The restaurant is elegantly done up with artworks made by Avinash himself and walls bearing tell-tale relics from the Goan culture. Everything including the old clay pots from Saraswat homes to garrafões that were used to store Feni to a vintage Lambretta chilling by the bar, sets the tone for a rich culinary experience. We naively wondered how much xacuti and vindaloo was coming our way and sure enough, these did come but in forms we would’ve never imagined. I mean, who’d have thought that Kokum & Chilli Feni concoction will be the star along with the smoked mackerel?!
Now, to be fair, we’ve been to enough restaurants that play with seasonal ingredients but few as passionate as Cavatina. Chef says he hits up the local market or works with what grows on his farm land in Velim to switch up the menu every few days. Which is why, on some days you might be treated to jackfruit sorpotel (bumper crop benefits and all) while there might be amaranth filo pastries on another.
When Avinash said that they intend Cavatina to feel like an extended drawing room, they mean it. On our visit here, we were taken back to the time when families sat together and enjoyed a meal. With the chef, his wife (who’s by the way the dessert genie here) and kid for company, we spent time decoding every dish down to its smallest ingredients and the history behind it. We started our meal with Feni infusions that ranged from galangal and citrus to ginger and even butterfly pea flower, and our tastebuds were in for a big party. The sannas topped with cauliflower cafreal and re-constructed ross omelette with chicken broth were nice, subtle Goan snacks that were perfect for the rainy afternoon. We also tucked into Upid and rice hoppers with chorizo/corn and demolished them till the crumbs weren't to be found.
From that gluttonous afternoon, here is our rather long list of must-haves (might as well go with a big group and an even bigger appetite): Brazilian steak (comes with handcut fries and very interesting dipping sauces), Betul Crab Xec Xec bisque, Guava chilli Feni cocktail, stuffed baos with pulled pork/eggplant filling and Tonn Ante Bandga. End your meal with a warm, gooey, chocolatey bread pudding that's accompanied by homemade coconut ice cream.
Hey, the even do bebinka churros, so go try it for yourself.