Unbeknown to many, Tierra Y Mar stealthily entered into the Goan culinary scene towards the end of 2017 and took foodies by storm. Although primarily a Spanish and Latin-American inspired restaurant, the cuisine found here is anything but bound by its cultural constraints. Instead, the menu is completely fluid, constantly shifting and evolving, prepared with only the freshest ingredients available in markets on a daily basis.
Tierra Y Mar, which literally translates to ‘Land and Sea’ is a fitting name for a restaurant that incorporates as wide a range of specialities as Tierra Y Mar. Infamous for its exquisite tapas, alluring main courses, and enthralling entertainment and nightlife, the restaurant stands without equal, whether on land or sea. Backed by innumerable happy patrons, its head chef, Benpramar Laitflang, along with his team, proudly lay claim to being the men behind the magic.
Years before he gained fame as Bandra’s Ramen maestro, Chef Ben, as he is casually referred to, spent his formative years in the halls of the acclaimed Gato Dumas – Colegio de Gastromonia in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a global stalwart in culinary education. Though he acknowledges the pivotal role it played in his life, he admits that his experience played an even greater role in shaping his path, as it should for all aspiring chefs. Through education, he learnt the tools of the trade, as it were, while his hands-on experience allowed him room to grow and acquaint himself with the finer details of the craft. “No school can teach you how to conduct yourself in a fast-paced international kitchen while cooking in an organised, yet precise fashion. I watched others and learned from their methods and experience and therein found the key to success,” reveals Chef Ben jovially.
Having formidable idols such as Mark Mesaros, Paul Scholes, Ivan Orkin and Anthony Bourdain only spurred the young chef forward, enabling him to surpass his own capabilities, as exhibited by the scope of his impressive menu at Tierra Y Mar. In the top favourites list, unanimously agreed upon by critics and foodies alike, you may find intricate dishes such as Home-smoked Mushroom Taco, Lengua Taco, Seared Beef Chimichurri, Gambas Pil Pil, Ceviches and a truly comforting Jungli Pulao. The different courses and tapas available alone speak volumes about his deep Spanish roots and their spicy, festive culture. While all dishes that come through his kitchens carry the mark of a top-tier restaurant, his Beef Chimichurri which packs a wallop of flavour in its prime cut, and the crispy, juicy Bacon-wrapped Prawns are ones that warrant a special mention. Additionally, you could choose to drop by for Chef Ben’s signature Ramen nights, the likes of which made him a legend among Mumbai food fanatics.
A typical day in Chef Ben’s kitchens begins with a trip to the market in the wee hours of the morning to source out the freshest and finest catch and produce of the day, as such is the essence of true Hispanic cuisine. This is followed by the customary mise-en-place, involving the careful, yet speedy cutting, peeling, slicing and the grating of vegetables and other items. This is done selectively for those dishes that require a greater deal of preparation before the main cooking begins and is the norm for any top-tier restaurant. The pans and dishes are then cleaned and prepped for the day’s activities, mixing bowls and utensils are set out, all before the first customer even contemplates lunch. At lunchtime, the doors of Tierra Y Mar open and the crowd’s stream in, eager to sample the day’s top dishes and bask in the restaurant’s warm ambience. The hustle and bustle of the kitchens then ensue amidst friendly banter from the kitchen and the service staff and the jovial chatter from delighted patrons. After lunch hours, the gloves come off and all the staff spend the time recharging their batteries in their own special way. It’s not uncommon for Ben, Nishant, Rudy and the team to enjoy an afternoon siesta, play with their unofficial cat mascot (Jack), or simply get to chatting with each other about their lives. This, by far is the only reprieve they may enjoy before the evening crowds start to flow in and their relaxed casual setting is transformed into an electric atmosphere of spell-binding music, tantalizing cocktails and food that might just make you an impromptu bailaor. The day then ends with a relaxed nightcap, a few laughs and a brief assessment of the day.
When he had a spare moment, Chef Ben revealed part of the reason why the food at Tierra Y Mar is unlike that of any other restaurant. “We care about what we do and we strive to give people an experience,” he divulged, “We try to share this experience with everyone and incorporate our positive vibe in the very food we plate up. We have a lot of fun, all in all.” Apart from being a renowned chef himself, he is also, reportedly, quite the connoisseur and enjoys the occasional jaunt around Goa, sampling the various cuisines it has to offer.
As far as the future is concerned, however, Chef Ben is anything but laid back. With every day that passes, he looks to improve himself and the establish Tierra Y Mar as an endearing thread in the fabric of Goa, a place that delivers on its promise of good food consistently and challenges and excites the palate of every customer. He wishes for little more individually than to grow to his full potential as a chef, work in as many kitchens as he can, and someday pass on his love for cooking to the next generation.
Less than a year since his debut, and Chef Ben’s dishes have earned themselves a reputation in the Goan F&B scene, yet the quick sprint to fame has not deterred his vision or ideals in the slightest. Coming from humble origins, his cordial candour and sincerity of purpose are reflected in his cooking and allow him to be respected by his colleagues and cherished by his friends. A true Spaniard at heart, he holds the people who have supported him in his endeavours close to his heart and attributes much of his success to their contributions. Though Tierra Y Mar continues to rise in the rankings, his eye never strays from the ball and he pushes toward a new summit each morning. What comes next, only Chef Ben himself can say, but with the land and sea now covered, el cielo is probably his next stop.