It is easily Goa’s favourite fish. Chonak, or Giant Sea perch, is a mainstay at most restaurants and thali places, where it is usually served as a fillet, rava-coated and fried. At HOSA, we discover our second favourite style of eating chonak: crusted with coconut, in a delicately spiced curry with turmeric-stained string hoppers.
Kottayam Fish Curry is easily one of the stars of the menu at the new contemporary south Indian restaurant, HOSA.
Goa’s newest restaurant—“hosa” means new in Kannada—comes from EHV International, the people behind Indian Accent, Comorin and the recently launched Koloman. Months ago, rumours in Goa’s hospitality circles talked of the presence of possibly an Indian Accent. It appears that every time Rohit Khattar (founder/chairman, EHV) steps foot in a place, it is assumed Indian Accent will follow. “The restaurant wouldn’t make sense here,” says Khattar, with a laugh. “We were launching a new concept and Goa seemed perfectly suited for it.”
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HOSA has been a year in the making. EHV found the chef, Suresh D.C., first and then decided on the place. Initially, the plan was to find a place in Gurugram, Haryana. “I felt the food he’s doing deserves a better location,” says Khattar. Restaurateur A.D. Singh was trying to convince him to bring Comorin to Goa but Khattar felt a new place deserved something new. When he saw Irada House, the beautiful old house by St Anthony’s Church in Siolim, everything clicked into place. HOSA found a home. “We envision it to be a chilled out, casual and not pretentious place, serving slightly elevated south Indian food.”
At first glance, HOSA does look fancy, like it has walked out of a catalogue. A closer look reveals that design director Rohini Kapur has created a place that reflects comfort and style. A wide patio, tall ceilings, patterned tiles, foliage in every corner. On entering, the first thing that greets visitors is the bar, smack in the centre. The restaurant flows around it, meandering into private dining spots, side rooms, and a little patio outside. Soon, the backyard will have a little water body leading to the edge of the creek, with seating around. The white church is clearly visible. HOSA seats 100, including 25 in the patio.
The most interesting feature in its décor is the art. A tie-up with Chennai’s Apparao Galleries means all the art on the walls and sculptures (for now) are south Indian. Outside, in the cosy corner that houses the private bar for the private dining space, hang two Prince Dinakaran portraits, looking extremely lifelike. Elsewhere, there are pieces by Thota Vaikuntam, a satirical set of images by Shinoj Choran, and Dhasan D.’s intricate origami work.
There’s art on the plate too.
Brand chef Suresh D.C.’s menu is an attempt to showcase the food he grew up eating. “People misunderstand south Indian food to be only dosa, idli and sambhar. I want to represent the actual diversity of the food, but in a new manner,” he says. He calls it “tradition recipes with tweaks”. The menu includes many familiar dishes, presented in a new manner, and some ingredient-driven dishes. Like the Cashewnut Pakoda, which dresses up the fruit of cashew tree with citrus, a pairing that we hope becomes more popular. Or the aforementioned Kottayam Fish Curry.
The proximity to water, and the availability of fresh fish, means many of the highlights of the meal are aquatic. A Curry Leaf Cured Snapper has fresh fish smothered with the creamiest kokum rasa and puffed rice salad. It’s a dish that would appeal to those who don’t like eating raw fish, because it is almost invisible against the stronger accompaniments. Coconut Shrimp is almost like a deconstructed curry, with fat prawns sitting on a bed of a moilee-like sauce, fragrant with coconut milk, roasted coconut and Madras onions. A dusting of shrimp powder adds extra oomph.
Elsewhere, the crispy bun parotta is the star of the Mutton Pepper Roast—the parotta is flaky, crunchy and has a touch of sweetness, making for highly addictive snacking.
HOSA has plenty to satiate vegetarians too. There’s a pachadi turned into a refreshing and light Bottlegourd Salad with a dressing of cashew yogurt; Wild Mushroom Varuval, a hearty bowl of Mushroom Pongal with black pepper tinged mushroom pakodas; a comforting Spring Vegetables Stew with appams; and Gunpowder Kid Corn packs some serious heat, with a peanut podi dusting faintly tempered by a smattering of Parmesan. The story of the origin of the Vada Kari turns out to be more interesting than the dish—it is inspired by Suresh’s mother, who would make a dish out of leftover vadas and serve it with rotis. Here, he uses akki rotis as a tortilla, holding a mixture of vadas, peanuts and onions. In lieu of the pickle, he creates a pickle cream, which is what gives the dish some character. It’s the only dish that disappoints among a solid line-up of hits.
As the food keeps coming, beverage head Varun Sharma shows off his experiments. “Our drinks are broadly divided into three parts: tall and dizzy, short and boozy, and tiki,” he says. The bar menu starts with a cocktail map that divides the drinks according to the best time to have them, and has a low-calorie section, non-alcoholic “cocktails” and house sodas. Sharma starts us off with a Rose and Peppercorn Soda, which is a milder, more palatable version of its inspiration, Rooh Afza. Mohabbat ka Sharbat is inspired by a drink served in Delhi’s Jama Masjid area — his version uses kokum, coconut and watermelon for a smooth sweet cooler. It’s the tiki cocktails that stand out, refreshing, unusual, served in specially-designed tiki mugs. Three Dots and a Dash pairs three kinds of rum with homemade chocolate bitters for a smooth drink with a sweet and faintly smoky aftertaste. Rum and orange in the Jungle Babbler make for a citrusy, bittersweet drink. Beyond the tiki, some of the drinks make their mark: Make it Clear elevates that favoured gin-basil-cucumber pairing for a neat, clarified drink that goes down smooth and leaves us with a mellow bitterness; Once Upon a Time in Parma is Sharma’s take on the boulevardier with a cheese and popcorn twist; beetroot adds colour and an earthy bitterness to the Bambino Bello; and coriander, chilli and balsamic make a merry trio in Kick the Habit, which has a pungent aftertaste.
Through the meal, the music stays mellow enough for conversation. We take breaks between courses to wander about, observe the artwork better and marvel at the plant arrangements. For dessert, Suresh paints plates with different ingredients and colours. Coconut and Jasmine comes on a bed of ice and is a coconut-heavy dish, which could have had more jasmine to cut through the sweetness. Almond in different forms stars in the Chiroti, which brings a lot of sweet elements to one plate. There are caffeine notes in the Mysore Pak Coffee Cheesecake, which makes for a fun take on that favourite sweet, with a chickpea fudge and crunchy corn crumble.
HOSA is a worthy addition to Goa’s ever-increasing restaurant industry. It is delicious food, fun cocktails and mesmerising art served in one stylish package.
HOSA Restaurant & Bar, Irada Home, House No.60/1, near St Anthony’s Church, Vaddy, Siolim, Goa. Contact 8326747212, 7498627977; Open from 12pm to 11pm. meal for two costs ₹3600 (minus taxes).
Joanna Lobo is a Goa-based journalist.
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