In this small state of sun, sand and sea is the old village of Candolim. During the late 16th century, this became the first village to be entirely converted to Christianity by the Franciscans. The Portuguese invasion brought much more than religion of these monks, they also brought with them the cuisine from the Mediterranean. Yet again, in 2016 this little village in Goa has been invaded, but this time by a Turkish influence. Set on the roof top of The Acacia Hotel and Spa, is Izgara – The Turkish name for “The Grill”
This delightful restaurant, bar and grill set on one of the highest points in Candolim, boasts a view of the entire Arabian Sea and the light of Candolim with Fort Aguda in the distance. Izgara has two decks, but if you are looking for that stunning view then the VIP lounge’s upper deck is the best place to be seated in within this 100 seater. The concept of Izgara was born in November 2014, when the Managing director Mr. Anand and his son Sahil, Joint Managing Director of Acacia, who appreciate and experiment with different cuisines and love to travel were visiting Turkey on a holiday. They wanted to introduce this fare to Goa, as Turkish food is similar to the Indian grilled cuisine and moreover not being very spicy it also suits the international palette and for the health conscious. Sahil Anand tells us “We felt the need to create a hangout space where one could enjoy the open air, cool sea breeze from a vantage point in Candolim, we wanted to bring the scrumptious Mediterranean cuisine with a dash of Middle Eastern & Turkish flavours, exotic cocktails & Sheesha to Candolim as there were no roof top places in Goa at that time”
The interiors are simple but chique, the colours are kept neutral so as to keep the focus on the mesmerizing view and the food itself. Large lounge sofas allow one to just relax and ease into the “Sunset Session” of live music every Sunday. The quaint bar in the center of the restaurant caters to every sundowner one could want but the specialties of the house are fresh Watermelon Sangria, Fig Anza, smoked green Apple Martini, Drunken Ice Candy and the popular Izgara Colada to name but a few.
The open plan kitchen at Izgara allows one to see the chefs at work on the grill. They pride themselves on procuring fresh seafood and organically grown herbs from Goa. Other than the full Mediterranean menu with its well known dishes such as Hummus, Escalibada (Spanish Salad), Taziki Platter, Izgara wanted to introduce more of the unique Turkish spices and flavours. Some of their signature dishes such as the Tavuk Izgara, which was one of the most famous delicacies served to the Ottoman Sultans in the Topkapı Palace is now served at Izgara. This delicacy is a Turkish dessert (milk pudding) made with Chicken meat. It is today considered a ‘signature’ dish of Turkey but at this restaurant is served differently with a twist. Another dish, the Shish Taouk is a traditional marinated Chicken Shish kebab of Middle Eastern cuisine. It is widely eaten in Turkey along with Gembari Kebab (Grilled Prawns), Kebbeh Milki (Lamb kebabs) or Adane Kofte , Grilled minced lamb seasoned with parsley, red pepper and herbs on skewers to name of few of the other signature dishes. For the vegetarians, there is always the famous Muska Boregri or Mercimekli Kofte or Stuffed Zucchini and Eggplant.
Moving on to desserts there is the Izgara Choco Platter and Basbusa – a native Egyptian and traditional Middle Eastern sweet cake. It is made from cooked semolina or farina soaked in simple syrup. However, one must try the traditional Baklava; a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts, sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. This cuisine is characteristic of the former Ottoman Empire and eaten everywhere in the Middle East and now available in Goa at Izgara with perfect views and a relaxed vibe.