It’s amazing how almost everyone in Goa knows atleast one relative, friend or neighbour who works/lives in the middle east. With so many direct flights to Dubai and Kuwait, it was only a matter of time before the Arabian food scene landed in Amche Goa. Kasbaa is situated on the CHOGM road, where once was housed another popular eatery.
Ambience: the glass fronted façade is still the same as before. They have a shawarma stall outside the premises allowing for take aways without having to enter the main restaurant. They even have a ‘smoking section’ they hope to convert into a sheesha/ hookah bar, a concept yet to make it’s entry to Goa. Large glitzy chandeliers and framed pictures showcasing Dubai and the middle east make up the décor. They have placemats with crossword puxzzles and some such, which do not blend with the theme but are child friendly.
Food: when we went to Kasbaa these guys were still trying to phase out their initial stance as a multi cuisine eatery. Their main emphasis still lies on the Arabic cuisine and that is what we tried. A fairly good mezze platter with falafel (deep fried, balanced spices) , pita bread, hummus (good do with more olive oil), lamb hummus. They have kebab skewers and a lot of wraps. Shawarmas make up a large part of their itiniery and they have a fairly large number of vegetarian, and meat preparations for the same.
What you must however try here is tha Mandi and the kapsa, the two varieties of rice preparations which the hosts vouch for are prepared the traditional way. Mandi is a Yemeni dish quite popular with the Dubai food scene. It is a rice and meat (chicken or lamb) preparation, the important difference is that the meat is cooked ina tandoor, mostly in a underground, hole in the ground kinds that you see on national geography.Thus the meat and and the rice have a smoky flavour. The meat is allowed to sit on the rice allowing for the flavours to seep in. here in Kasbaa, I could not dtect the smokiness but the rice was delicately spiced, and the chicken succulent enough to fall of the bone. The word Mandi comes from the Arabic word meaning ‘Dew’ and reflects the dewy moist texture of the meat.
The kabsa is more akin to our Biryani with long grained rice, a large amount of spices like the saffron , cinnamon and cardamom, bay leaves and black pepper.there are three ways of cooking the meat for Kabsa : the Mnadi as descroibed above, the mathbi (grilling on flat stones)madghut (cooking in a pressure cooker). It was served with a tomato sauce called daqqus which is a fiery hot chilli and tomato sauce, and quite addictive aswell.
The desserts in this desert inspired restaurant are another favourite with customers. A tall glass of falooda with the every assortment of dry fruits and nuts piled high over icecream and vermicelli is a great choice. So is the kasbaa delight an indigenious invention of the chefs. Chocolate icecream, with the fruits and nuts, pomegranates, and a toffe caramelised bit of sticky chocolate. What I missed in the desserts were dry dates, synonymous with the desert lands of the middle east.
Nevertheless it is heartening to note that we have a few niche eateries catering to a different kind of cuisine, and bringing the world to Goa, on a plate.