On the road to discovering the finest food in the South, one will undoubtedly come across the quaint, rustic nook that has found it’s way into the heart of every Goan; Martins Multicuisine. One may aptly describe it as a curious, yet classy confluence of carefully selected international dishes aimed at creating a unique flavor, while keeping the grand picture in total harmony with our goan roots. This delightful little restaurant, at the onset, had taken it’s first steps as a café that was acclaimed for it’s burgers. It’s exceptional adherence to quality and industry-level hospitality inevitably made it the talk of the town. It was at this juncture that co-partners Cassy and Larry saw potential in their brainchild and transformed it, brick by brick, into what we know today as “Martin’s Restaurant”.
This intimate and cozy restaurant, nestled in the heart of Margao, is impossible to miss when heading down south and nearly as difficult to pass over when those hunger pangs kick in! Martin’s is fashioned to provide its patrons with a choice of ambiance to suit their occasion; the restaurant is divided into two seating levels, one above the other. If you happen to turn up on a Saturday night, your best bet would be to grab a seat on the lower level and treat yourself to the acoustic tunes of the in-house duo, Adrian and Dylan. It’s rustic interiors, coupled with an assortment of wines to choose from, make it an ideal venue for a quiet evening or intimate soiree. If you’re more of a sports buff, you could opt in for the upper level i.e. the M Lounge, where live screenings of all the trending championship matches will quickly make Martin’s your go-to joint for that football night with the guys that you’ve been planning for.
Owing to the chef, patrons at Martin’s regularly feast on an array of dishes, ranging from Spanish tapas, Portuguese and continental delicacies along with a choice selection of local Goan favorites. With my mind set on sampling a few of their noteworthy dishes, I walked into Martin’s recently with a covetous appetite. My journey through their menu started off with Butter Garlic Squids and Crab Sukkha. The savory Crab Sukkha, garnished with pepper, garlic, cinnamon & Ginger-Garlic paste, surprised my palate, because it was neither dry nor flaky as the name suggests. Instead, the crabs are skillfully augmented with a thick, moist base that will change the way you look at this relatively simple Goan dish. The clever aesthetic use of olives made it a treat for the eyes as well and left me fairly impressed with the presentation. Unfortunately, I was so preoccupied with the Crab, that the Butter Garlic Squid was left untouched for quite some time. To my surprise, the squid did not take on a rubbery consistency as it normally would and the flavor remained distinct. Never have I ever had a Butter Garlic Squid as creamy as this before!
The next dish on my menu was the Goan Roast Prawns, whose unique combination of spices spoke volumes about the uniqueness of Goan cuisine and how it can continue to surprise you even after years of experimentation. With delicate hints of zingy tamarind spicing up the dish and teasing my taste buds, I confess that I was close to ordering a second plate to wash down the first!
If salads are your game, then I’d highly recommend the Roasted Chicken Pesto Salad, which catches you unaware when the pesto flavor subtly kicks in, making the overall taste of the salad playful, but none too heavy. An apt course to follow it would be the Moroccan Chicken; fillets of succulent roasted chicken, seasoned with a flawless blend of spices exclusive to Moroccan cuisine, along with a healthy salad on the side. Coming to a highlight of the evening, I was very excited to try one of the highly acclaimed Steak on Stone, marinated in red wine. As with a few other establishments, you can choose your protein; beef, chicken or fish. However what sets Martin’s apart is the manner in which it is prepared. While ordering your steak, make sure your waiter knows how you would like it done, as the stone is pre-heated as per your requirement. Watch your steak sizzle and sear before your very eyes as it is placed on the stone at your table and cooks to tender, crispy perfection. Accompanied by a brandy-based pepper sauce, sautéed mushrooms and a simple salad, this steak boasted a wonderful blend of aromatic spices, but what I personally loved was how its deep, meaty flavor permeated every inch of the dish. An instant favorite from the pork section was the Hot Honey BBQ Pork Chop, a tangy dish with a tinge of spiciness, served with veggies and mashed potatoes. This dish is worth a special mention for its rich creaminess and a special sauce that keeps you guessing. For the die-hard Goan, the Fish Rechado Fry, served with a bouquet of fries held together by an onion ring would be right up your alley, or in this case, your waddo!
When it comes to food, I’m one of those who tends to save the best for the last, which brings me to the final 4 dishes of my evening. Just as Martin’s and Steak on Stone go hand-in-hand, their Salmon on Cedar Wood goes right in the other. For those unfamiliar with this rare delicacy – it comprises of salmon that carries delicate hints of herbs such as rosemary and dill, grilled slowly over wine-soaked cedar planks which cause the fish to steam gently in the heat of the grill while allowing it to remain incredibly tender and moist. It also picks up smoky flavors from the grill and a distinct, woody flavor from the cedar. The sauce that comes with this already exquisite main course sparks a playful contrast with essence of lemon zest and ginger and it complements the salmon perfectly. Upon striking a conversation with the staff, it came to my attention that one of recent best sellers in the restaurant is the Kerala Pomphret which flaunts a combination of well-balanced South Indian flavors, incorporating herbs and spices that come together elegantly and do justice to its Southern heritage. By including coriander powder, coconut milk & tamarind in the wrapped banana leaf, the fish’s juiciness is retained and I’m told that it practically beckons to you as it leaves the oven.
Call me old-fashioned, but a Goan meal isn’t complete without the Prawn Curry Rice, although this particular variant of the dish completely swept me off my feet! The curry was very thick and has a distinctive flavor; none like I have ever tried before. Towards the end, co-owner Larry took me aside and shared with me one of the secrets to the dish’s authentic sapidity; the coconut oil used to prepare it is completely homemade and comes in fresh from their family reserve!
And if all this wasn’t reason enough to frequent this amazing place, Martin’s is a happening place almost every night of the week; with live events and offers going from Tiffany Nights every Monday, to MRP Nights (on selected brands of spirits) every Wednesday and culminating with Acoustic Saturdays every Saturday night.
And when the meal was done, and it was time to head home, the one urge left unsatisfied was my curiosity; how do you go from a burger diner in the boondocks to a world-class restaurant, deserving of a Michelin Star in it’s own right? “The key here, they say, is to never stop when perfection hits you, it’s to keep testing perfection,” replied Cassy Martins, and I took my leave with a smile on my lips and bliss in my tummy.