Going to a restaurant for lunch has never put me on the edge like it has now, order as I stand under the wooden archway of Betalbatim’s immensely popular Martin’s Corner.
Foodies regard it as the holy grail of popular Goan cuisine in the state’s southern parts. Why even the world’s greatest batsman Sachin Tendulkar, ed whose name is liberally peppered in cricket’s record books, has a dish aptly called ‘King Crab – Sachin’s favourite’ named after him on the menu.
From the time I walk in and take a seat, it takes less than a minute for a waiter appear and hand out an elaborate menu.
I choose mocktails from the beverage menu. The Martin’s Special Mocktail arrives pink and frothy. It had blended fruit juice, ice cream and was lined with syrupy grenadine, with the quintessential wedged cherry. Reminded me of a similarly coloured falooda, a thick, vanilla ice cream-topped sundae, I had in Ponda for 20 bucks a few months back. But the MSM was smoother and easier on the tongue, which helps explain why it cost Rs 150 more.
Traditional motifs grace the restaurant’s interior, including a bamboo mat – traditionally used for drying grain and preparing dry fish – serving as a false ceiling.
The menu offers Chinese, Indian, Continental and Goan cuisines, with sea-food as its crowning glory. Pomfrets the size of IPads, lobsters like small sea dragons, chunky snappers (both red and white) and tiger prawns that seem to curl forever are on display in a glass-walled freezer strategically placed near the entrance. If the water levels in my mouth are any indication of success, then the strategy works.
My order of a Calamari Masala Fry (Rs 220) was served quickly, with the large squids sliced like rings of flesh, tossed around in rich reichado masala and served with grated salad. The overwhelming ‘vinegarish’ taste did tickle the tongue and nostrils, but for someone who prefers meat well-done, the squid rings were a shade undercooked for my preference.
Starters done, now I was in a dilemma. I hadn’t had pork in a while, but I also wanted to try the King Crab masala here, which is personally endorsed by the legendary Tendulkar himself.
In the end, the policy of Martin’s Corner spared me the pain of choosing.
One cannot order King Crab masala “by the plate” here. It has to be ordered by the kilo, each one costing Rs 2,000. I certainly wasn’t walking that path, even after the waiter quickly grabbed a live crab from the kitchen and flaunted it in my face.
So I ordered the pork ribs in barbeque sauce instead. And I could smell it all the way from the kitchen to my table. The well-marinated and tender pork meat was succulent and synced perfectly with the sticky barbeque sauce. The taste was divine, but had the ribs been laid out in a more presentable fashion, rather than just dumped on the plate, the feeling of divinity would have been complete. Overall, the food and service lived up to expectations.
Martin’s Corner has evolved from a small eatery a few decades ago – a joint known for serving ‘jumping chicken,’ local slang for cooked Indian Bullfrog – to the status of a thriving culinary temple.
The restaurant now even has its own wall of fame featuring politicians, cricketers and other celebrities. To name a few there’s Amitabh Bachchan, Omar Abdullah and the entire Indian cricket team. These folks get served at the restaurant’s exclusive VIP section, where, as the name suggests, non-important customers are not allowed to venture.
As I left, I imagined that the VIP section isn’t saddled with issues like the odd non-working flush in the toilet or navigating across a wet floor towards the restroom, which mortals like me had to contend with at Martin’s Corner, after, albeit, a terrific meal.