You either love it or hate it… The smell could make you go into raptures. The taste will leave you longing for more. It’s the rather strong sensory experience called mustard. Or as they say in France, ‘moutarde’.
While the western palette might be used to the slightly blander version of the French mustard, the Bengali version is definitely stronger and more potent. One can liken it to the ‘wasabi’ taste as a comparison. Good mustard should get into your nose and leave with you a feeling of sheer (culinary) pleasure.
Widely used in Bengali (and Assamese) cuisine, mustard gives a fresh and unmistakable intense flavor to dishes. Teamed with fish—it’s what we Bengalis and Assamese folk crave as our comfort food.
The cheery blue and white interiors of the restaurant, as we walk in, are a bit Mediterranean, but we’re assured we’re in the right place as the sign says ‘Mustard‘. The fare is Bengali and French. Might sound a bit surprising at first. But then, they are both cuisines which are centered around many ‘courses’ and they do have a common ingredient—mustard.
Located in Sangolda, Mustard is the handiwork of Shilpa Sharma and Poonam Singh who decided to give shape to their shared passion for food, after years in the hospitality and retail space. The chefs responsible for the mouthwatering delicacies are Pritha Sen, a renowned chef and food historian who curated the Bengali menu and Gregory Bazire, who lends his expertise to the Continental side of the food, bringing some of his favorites and also innovating with some of his own creations.
I am looking forward to my Bengali meal a bit more. Being an Assamese it is quite close to my own cuisine and good fish is something which makes never ceases to make me content. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of fresh fish, cooked well. I still remember my dad going to extreme lengths to get us good fish and then all of us going into raptures about it—and the feeling sustained pretty much through the entire day. In fact, my mom cooks up quite a fish curry, so I have naturally high standards when it comes to fish dishes.
Anyway, back to the task at hand. My friend, who accompanies me to the Mustard is a vegetarian and I tell her that I’m going to rely on her for that side of the meal since I’m more eager to taste the fish.
We talk to chef, Abhimanyu Sen, who suggests we try out smaller portions so we can taste a wider range of dishes and we’re only to happy to oblige.
My drink to set off the evening meal is Singapore Sling. My friend settles for a ‘lemu sherbet‘ (lemon juice) though my personal preference is the ‘aam porar sherbet‘, a refreshing and cooling drink made with slow roasted green mangoes in their skin and gently spiced with roasted cumin and black salt. The only reason I keep away today is because I want to make more space for the food.
Amongst the appetisers, there’s a variety to choose from both menus.
My friend tries the vegetable chop to begin with and I dig in. The Bengalis have adopted the common croquet and made it into a celebrated chop. It’s made from mashed potatoes and crumb-fried, and seasoned with fennel and ginger and is a favorite snack for any time of the day. I think we have a tendency to turn anything into a chop, but then no one’s complaining. This one is just right and sets off the mood for the rest of the food to follow.
From the French menu, we order the three layer veg millefeuille, light and crunchy pastry with vegetables in a delicious sauce and with just the right amount of cheese.
I am happy with my smoked fish, chunky with a tomato base with a hint of mustard. This fish dish, I read on the menu, was born about the steamers that plied the waters of the Padma river in undivided Bengal. It is marinated in mild flavors and smoked the traditional way with puffed rice, jaggery and husk. All I can say is that it’s a good way to start the meal.
I also taste the shammi kebab—finely minced mutton ground to a paste and then flavored with spices and filings. A delight to the tongue and senses as you bite in and enjoy the sharp taste. Dip it with a tangy yoghurt. For the lack of a better word—yummy!
I am torn about the main course, but naturally. So many things that I want to taste. Sadly, this is just one meal and there’s only that much my poor stomach can manage in a meal. Though I’m always surprised by how much!
Since I’d already tried the fish starter, I skip fish for my main course. I know, quelle horreur! But I would suggest any fish lover to try the rui maacher shorshay jhaal—it’s a preparation with mustard gravy and nigella seeds and is another staple in the Bengali cuisine. I would definitely try it next time I visit.
The channa dal was we order is light and sweetish, little low on salt and I must admit I’ve had better. The aloo postho (poppy seeds) lacked a bit of zing but since this is one dish both of us have eaten a lot of, maybe our standards are higher.
I mustn’t forget the main condiment of the meal of course—the mustard prepared in-house. It’s well-made and just right in terms of it’s level of intensity. The French version was delicious too.
What I am really looking forward to with much anticipation (like a true Assamese) is the luchi with kasho mangsho. Luchi is a puffed fried bread and rules supreme in Bengali (and Assamese) cuisine. Any time you want a snack or are visiting a relative or friends—be prepared to be tempted by this delicious (but calorific) snack. With a thick onion base, the mangsho (lamb) is particularly flavorful and tasty. It is cooked in mustard oil, infused with with cardamon, clove and cinammon, reputed to be Bengal’s best known meat curry, so don’t miss it. This is one dish which is usually eaten at celebrations and festive occasions. This didn’t disappoint as I downed a couple of the fluffy luchis along with this heavy, but satisfying dish.
Chef Abhimanyu chats with us a bit about the traditional Bengali meal. Beginning with a shukto (appetiser), veggies, meat dish and then end with a chutney, and a kheer based dessert. He has worked at several restaurants in Calcutta and Mumbai before moving to Goa, which he says he’s enjoying currently.
But here’s a bit on the French side too. And yes—we’re still eating…
For the main, my friend tries the tortellini pasta (more Italian then French), with pumpkin, zuchini and mushroom and served in a Girdiniera sauce, which is quite flavorful and delicious. The pesto aranccini (which we didn’t try) also sounded rather tempting—fried risotto rice balls with gooey mozzarella cheese cores inside and pesto coulis outside. What’s not to like about it, I’d say?
Ratatouille is definitely a very French dish. And I have mine with sea bass. The fish is cooked separately and has a crunchy exterior. It’s served in a tangy tomato based curry, with lots of vegetables. I do remember lessons on trying to pronounce this dish when learning French (many years ago) but I haven’t had the opportunity to taste it much. So I must admit that I didn’t have a strong reference point. In which case I usually ask myself, would I come back for it? And the answer is no. I’d probably opt for something else.
We have no room for dessert, of course by now. But like my good husband often says: “There’s always room for dessert!”
So we settle for a crème brulee, which is a happy ending to a very long and taste infused meal.
I must say though that the Bengali dishes stood out much more than the French ones. It might also be because of my natural inclination towards this particular cuisine.
But one thing I have to mention is that when you’re looking for a different taste while in Goa, try out Mustard for a bit of a refreshing experience. Your taste buds definitely won’t regret it and you’ll go back wanting more…
House no 78 Mae de Deus Vaddo,
CHOGM Road, Sangolda, Goa-403511
Hours: 11 a.m to 11 p.m.
Open 7 days
Budget: Around Rs 2000-Rs 2500 for 2 people with alcohol
(Note: This was on an invite by Mustard restaurant. All opinions expressed about the food are mine).
Image credits: Unless otherwise mentioned below the image, all other images are taken by me. The cover/feature image is also courtesy, Mustard.