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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Viva Goa, Pyrmont

For over 400 years, Goa, a tiny state on India's west coast, was a Portuguese colony. Today that Portuguese influence can be found in Goa's architecture, and, more interestingly, its cuisine.
Natural foodie curiosity hence led me to Viva Goa, a small restaurant in Pyrmont which claims to be the only Goan restaurant in Sydney. Housed in a red brick heritage cottage, the place is cosy even with the unusual nautical theme inside.

We sit on wooden benches, much like polished picnic benches, which aren't particularly friendly to the buttock. There are plenty of patrons dining tonight: friends celebrating birthdays, locals, romantic couples; and the place soon fills with the noisy chatter of conversation.

Cashew feni sherbet
Lemon and cashew feni sherbet $5.50

This looks like a mere glass of water but it’s actually a lemon and cashew feni sherbet, a cocktail of lemonade and alcoholic cashew feni (or fenny). Cashew nuts grow underneath cashew apples. One cashew nut grows per cashew apple and it is from the fermented juice of cashew apples that cashew feni is made.

The drink certainly tastes sherbetty. It has a fizzy sweet tang to it, and a potent alcoholic kick to it too, I soon discover. Good quality feni has an alcohol content of about 42%.

Amotik fish curry
Amotik $19.90
Hot and sour, chilli and tamarind fish

(double portion pictured, $39.80)

There are ten of us gathered for dinner so I end up choosing an assortment of dishes for the table. Some are double portions, others are single, determined after a quick survey of people’s palate and dietary preferences.

Chicken galinha xacuti
Chicken galinha xacuti $17.90
Chicken in richly spiced poppyseed, peanuts, coriander and coconut curry
(double portion pictured, $35.80)

The curries are all tasty and well-flavoured without the slick of oil that can accompany some Indian dishes. The chicken galinha xacuti is surprisingly tasty with nutty flavours and a undercurrent of subtle spiciness.

Pork vindaloo
Vin'D'alho $17.90
Literally 'wine of garlic' aka vindaloo
Lean pork simmered in a richly flavoured vinegar-infused curry

Pork Vin'D'alho has quite a strong vinegar flavour imbued with garlic. Foogath is a motley collection of vegetables dusted with coconut and spices.

Foogath $15.90
Carrots, beans, cauliflower and corn tempered with fresh coconut and spices
(double portion pictured, $31.80)

Paneer peri peri
Paneer peri peri $15.90
North Indian cottage cheese in class Goa-Portuguesa style

Goan fish curry
Goan fish curry $19.90
Classic delicate coconut and tomato fish curry
(double portion pictured, $39.80)

We mop up sauces and puddles with plain steamed rice, chappatis and sannas, moulded cakes of steamed rice dumplings. The sannas are an intriguing textural sensation, dense but fluffy, light but filling. We quickly order another round of sannas and chappatis for the table.

The Goan fish curry is particularly delicious and the dish is plundered to a rapidly diminishing tidemark.

Rice dumplings
Sannas $3.50 for two
Light steamed rice dumplings

Chappatis $3.50 for two
Homemade wholemeal flatbread

Only a few of us have room for desserts. Lime sorbet is clean and refreshing, but it’s the spicy cinnamon ice cream that accompanies the brandied cherries that everyone attacks with glee. The cinnamon ice cream is potent, reminiscent of the cinnamon candies so popular in the States.

Lime sorbet
Lime sorbet $7.90

Cherries with cinnamon ice cream
Brandied cherries with cinnamon ice cream $7.90

I opt for the sweet fennel pancake which is filled with a mash of dates and coconut. The pancake is crispy, the filling is super sweet. The ginger isn't particularly strong but the vanilla ice cream provides some welcome relief from the sugar rush. It reminds me a little of a spicy fruit roll biscuit, but with dates, and coconut and ah, warm.

Sweet fennel pancake
Ale bella $8.90
Date and fresh coconut filled sweet fennel pancake

with ginger preserve and vanilla ice cream

The open kitchen affords diners a sneak peak into the prepping of dishes and the plating of meals. It's a tiny space with four burners and only a handful of pots. It's hard to believe that chef Gus D'Souza can churn out such a diversity of meals from such a small space.

The only letdown is the chai tea which arrives as a forlorn-looking solitary chai teabag in a pot of hot water. But otherwise a tasty meal of unusual dishes which won't leave you feeling heavy in the stomach.

Viva Goa
2 Scott Street Pyrmont, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9566 1311

Lunch: Tues to Fri, 12noon – 2.30pm
Dinner: Mon to Sat, 6pm – 10.30pm

BYO $2.50 per person
7 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (AugustusGloop) on 5/02/2006 11:53:00 pm


  • At 5/03/2006 8:43 am, Blogger Reb said…

    Haven't been there for AGES! I love their Vindahlo and those yummy rice patties. Must go back again and avoid the Chai.

  • At 5/03/2006 11:32 am, Blogger tytty said…

    very saliva-inducing pictures. was it northern or southern indian cuisine that usese yoghurt instead of coconut milk?


  • At 5/04/2006 1:07 am, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Reb - The rice patties were good. Next time I'd love to try their sorpotel, and the chorizo and potato casserole is meant to be quite good too.

    Hi tytty - I believe northern cuisine uses yoghurt, whereas southern is more creamy. I definitely noticed more northern dishes in London, whereas mango chicken? Unheard of!

  • At 5/05/2006 11:38 am, Blogger cin said…

    wow, sounds like fascinating food, especially the dessert that you had. I've made chicken galinhas before but it was more like chicken meatballs that were wrapped in dough and shallow fried...

  • At 5/05/2006 6:20 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Cin - It was a fun night with good food. Your chicken galinhas sound interesting... I think you had me at deep-fried... lol.

  • At 8/10/2006 11:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi guys,
    Actually "Galinha" means chicken, so it can be made any which way you like- meatballs style or curry or good old galinha burgers!!!

  • At 8/12/2006 3:17 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Anonymous - Thanks. I take dish names straight from the mneu, so I guess the staff here do a little translation for its customers, even if that does mean deliberate tautologies!


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