I guess this article should start with a disclaimer. Malaka Spice is one of my favourite restaurants in Pune, where I grew up. It was where I took my husband when he first visited the Maratha city; not to a puneri restaurant selling missal pav and vada pavs , but to an idyllic haven of lanterns under a banyan tree , in the heart of a bustling city in one of the posh localities in Pune which served inspired south east Asian cuisine.
Malaka Spice is not a chain of restaurants, atleast not yet. It has it’s flagship restaurant in Pune, two more outlets in Pune itself and to the brilliant luck of Goans, Praful Chandawakar has chosen Panjim as it’s first out of Pune venture.
Ambience: now for me I have a nostalgia attached to the Malaka spice in Koregaon park, which is the Caranzalem equivalent in Pune. Unfortunately with the DP road still under construction, setting up a restaurant in Caranzalem presently is not possible. Malaka spice is situated on the ground floor of hotel Grande Delmon, in close proximity to all the main arterial roads of Panjim. No they do not have their own parking, and yes it can be an issue. But head in and they have the ubiquitous flowered tuk tuk, which marks the entrance of malaka spice everywhere. They also have the star shaped lanterns and a high ceiling to give the feeling of open air dining like in Pune. What has always impressed me the most though are the eclectic art work displayed in the restaurant which is up for sale. It is a way to generate sales for artists and the artwork changes over time and sometimes they have a little flea market up front aswell.
Food: eating at Malaka spice is unlike eating in any other oan Asian restaurant. Do not reach for the familiar spring roll or the dimsums, do not order a thai green curry; ask a veteran. For the pleasure of my readers, let me recommend my all time favourites. Start with the top hats, they are the Asian version of Pani puris. A crispy cup filled with chicken or vegetables and moong sprouts , drizzle a few of the accompanying sauces, my favourite is the thai sweet chilli sauce. This dish is all textures, crisp , crunchy, chewy and crumbly all in one mouthful. The veg version is as good as the non veg version. Then move on to the famed lamb chops, or the mutton murtabak which is a Malaysian version of baby mughlai parathas.
The menu has all the favourites from the past, but also a whole new section of Pork and beef options which are not available in the Pune outlets. Serving beef and pork in Goa is a testament to the universal cooking and eating behaviour in Goa, as well as the religious and cultural tolerance that Goans are famed for. Malaka spice is perhaps one of the only restaurants I know which brings out an interesting array of vegetarian dishes all specially curated under the “saawan shravan “special. How unique is that!
This is a place that is not only sensitive to people’s religious bent when it comes to food, but also really believes in serving food that is locally sourced and seasonally available. With a farm located on the banks of river Bhima, in Maharashtra , they try and use as many of the fresh vegggies which grow organically on this farm. “If broccoli is not available in the local markets, I do not serve it. If there is a fish ban, I do not risk the lives of fishermen just to serve fish at the restaurant.” The guys at Malaka spice endeavour to serve fresh brilliant food, nuanced with south east Asian flavours.
The beef medallions are like mini steaks cooked to a juicy medium rare , the teriyaki marinade on the tepanyaki beef skewers were spot on. From subtle flavours to big bold punchy peppers, there are quite a few flavours to choose from. The pork spare ribs in a sticky bbq glaze may be vying for the best seller list along with the lambs. my absolute revelation were the curry prawns. curry leaves, flavoured scramble egg, and deep fried prawns have never been such great food buddies. I tried this dish the next day at home.they are ingenious in their simplicity and firworks in terms of flavour combination.
They have a wide variety of wines to choose from, from the nashik valleys to more distant vineyards. The cocktails were delicious enough to have seconds, or even thirds of.
Malaka Spice established 19 years back, was the dream of the husband wife duo, they scored the south east and brought their own twists to the classics , thus it is an ‘inspired’ style of cooking. The curries and rotis and rice and noodle dishes may not bare perfect resemblance to the way you might have come to expect, but while visiting keep an open mind and an eager palate and I am sure you will not be disappointed. For mains, we had my favourite Jhala roti, which is these yellow lacy thin and crispy crepe type rotis. But unlike the original , these are made in an eggless format and crisper than the originals. Let the gravy (either kari kapitan or the thai red curry) get soaked in the roti and turn it moist n soft, and you have a textural dish of crispy jhala roti along with moist curry soaked roti. Very much like appams, but in so many ways very different.
For desserts they have non Asian choices, like the magic chocolate lava cake, again an inspired version of the original, or the date rolls with icecream.
To experience more from Malaka Spice, they have the ‘buffet on the table’ on all weekday lunches, with almost 15 dishes course by course, for 499. And the Sunday Chandon brunch which includes unlimited Chandon sparkling wine, for 600 Rs plus taxes.
Few places make you comfortably nostalgic as well as the excitement of discovery , as the food at Malaka Spice.
Food: 4/5 plates
Service: 4/5 plates
Ambience: 3.5/5 plates