A calm and constant breeze as the sun dips into an ocean of crystal blue water surrounded by coconut trees, with a view like that all you’d need is a pint of beer and some food to kick back and relax. Here at the Ozran Beach in Vagator, Antares creates an experience like none other. The restaurant is partly owned and run by Sarah Todd. The name would certainly ring a bell to avid followers of the Masterchef Australia TV series and rightly so. The supermodel turned chef, made it to the later stages of Masterchef Australia Season 6 and won the hearts of Indians worldwide when she cooked up an aloo gobi dish for one of the challenges on the show. With a setting straight out of a James Bond film, Antares has been open since November 2015. The restaurant has managed to pick up a couple of accolades along the way and have become renowned for their spectacular dishes and e. Woodfire pizzas, grills, tapas, pasta, fresh seafood and local produce feature on their menu, a fusion of Australian cuisine with hints of Indian and Asian influence. Sarah spent a lot of time traveling during her modeling days and her exposure to different cultures and cuisines helped her love as well as knowledge of food, grow to another level. Sarah has also been trained at the famous Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and trained alongside numerous Michelin star chefs at hatted restaurants in London and Australia. Antares, as the restaurant is named after Sarah’s Zodiac Sign is the effort and brainchild of not one individual but two as her partner and co-founder Ashish Kapur, who is a renowned restaurateur and founder of the Moods Hospitality Group that has famous brands like Yo! China, The Wine Company, Dimsum Bros and more under their belt, has also played an equally important role in envisioning and establishing the restaurant.
I started my meal with a few starters, all full of meaty goodness. First up were the beef skewers with onion puree and pepper jus. Man oh man, I can’t remember the last time I tasted such beautifully cooked beef, so tender and succulent with just the right amount of char and flavor, the onion puree was a real winner too and the perfect combination for the beef. One could easily make out that the beef was cooked with the utmost respect, cooking with meats are a bit tricky and it isn’t always easy to get the right texture and flavor if you don’t cook it with full focus, a lot of people tend to do overdo meats, this, however, was just right.
Next, I was served the chili barbecue prawns with croutons topped with a paprika mayo. The great thing about this dish was the amount of crunch in it, not just from the croutons but from the prawns as well. The prawns were barbecued just so that they could have this light, crisp texture on the outside. What’s even more amazing is that the prawns were by no means dry. One would usually expect prawns that would be thrown on to the grill to be a tad bit dry but these were not. A lovely, slightly spicy chili flavor along with the paprika mayo was delicious. With a view like what Antares provides, there’s no feeling better than eating fresh seafood when you’re sitting by the sea.
From meat to seafood and back again. Next up was the Glazed Barbecue Pork Ribs with a cucumber raita. The raita was a slight Indian touch to the dish. Once again another stunner, with the meat falling right of the bone these ribs were so juicy and were cooked perfectly. The fat was rendered very well, so well in fact that the ribs were just melting in your mouth. Once again something that has to be commended because that’s the way ribs should be served. That lovely glazed, barbecue flavor along with the coolness and zing of the raita was great.
Sticking to the whole Surf n Turf theme, we then moved on to another seafood dish, this time with a very local influence on a fish very fondly loved by Goans, the Kingfish. I was served a plate of Kingfish Croquettes topped with a Mango Piccalilli and Crispy Onions. The Piccalilli used in the dish also has a pineapple variant. Like I’ve said in numerous articles before, I’m quite picky when it comes eating fish but this is a dish I really enjoyed. Putting together two things Goans love together, Kingfish and Mango, to form a pretty looking treat to savor. These aren’t your traditional Goan Croquettes but more of cutlets, sizewise. While the Piccalilli is basically a sort of relish that you can make from different fruits and/or vegetables. The mix of flavors complemented each other very well while the croquettes were crisp and cooked well, a beautiful take on a classic dish from Sarah.
As you may have guessed we move on to a final dish that’s once again a meat based one. Spice Minted Lamb Chops with Baba Ganoush and Crispy Onions. By now, as I tucked into my third, grilled meat dish, I can easily say that grills and starters especially those that feature red meats are definitely Sarah’s strong suit. As the notion goes, Australians are really good with their meat and how they cook it, it was also only 2 years ago when it was announced that the Aussies surpassed the Americans in terms of the amount of meat consumed in a year. The flavors of the lamb chops were intense and leaving the tender and moist meat aside, I can’t emphasize on just how good that Baba Ganoush was. Living 13 years of my life in Abu Dhabi, UAE, I can dare to say that this was definitely the best Baba Ganoush I’ve tasted in Goa so far and very close to the actual dish made in the middle east, once again perfectly cooked meat and once again a brilliant combination.
Before we move on to the main course, it’s time to take a breather and have a look at their cocktails because I sure did try a lot of them. I won’t divulge into the details, I’ll let the pictures do the talking with a bit of information on them.
Spicy Mango Martini (Vodka, Mango, Red Chili, Lime)
Pomegranate Smash (White Rum, Fresh Pomegrante, Cloves, Lime Juice)
Blueberry Bramble (Vodka, Ginger, Blueberry, Egg White)
The Smoking Monk (Rum, Fresh Apple, Apple Juice, Lemon Juice, Cinnamon)
Summer Abroad (Gin, Cucumber, Fresh Ginger, Mint)
Pani Puri inspired cocktail with Jalapenos and Blueberries
There’s so much to talk about at Antares, but the funny thing is we’re only halfway there with the main course and dessert to go! The Main Course started with a seafood pasta in white wine and sauce that featured chunks of fresh fish and prawns topped with a huge lobster cooked in a white wine sauce. Light and packed with a rich, slightly creamy taste of white wine eating this pasta at the restaurant as you gaze at the ocean is a something that definitely needs to be experienced. The best part about everything at Antares is how Sarah’s passion for fresh and organic ingredients and produce is showcased and can be strongly felt in her dishes, her efforts towards sourcing these ingredients from local vendors is something that deserves to be commended too.
The next dish on the list was a classic beef stroganoff with creamy mash potato, gherkins and sour cream. Hitting the right notes again, another superb dish featuring red meat. Tender pieces of beef in a subtle gravy along with a creamy mash. Doesn’t look like you’d ever go wrong with beef at Antares, very rarely in Goa do I eat so many dishes featuring beef and all of them don’t have a single fault.
From seafood to meat and once again seafood, this dish was Sarah’s rendition of a classic Goan dish. Mind you it is not the authentic style, but her spin on the original. Prior to the opening of her restaurant, Sarah has spent a lot of time not only traveling across India but also within Goa. During her travels, she visited popular places for local ingredients like Mapusa market and ate the most authentic Goan food prepared by locals from villages. The beautiful crab curry comes served with the local poi bread and a slice of lime. A refreshing take on the nostalgic taste we are used to, filled with plenty of crab that has absorbed the juices of the gravy. It’s hard to explain the taste of the gravy, it was lighter than the Goan one, yet had very different Indian inspired flavors to it, another dish I enjoyed. Just wish my mom was around to open up the crabs and remove the meat for lazy old me!
Goans do love their seafood so I ended my main course with yet another seafood based dish. The Rawas Grilled Fish in banana leaf with Fish Curry Rice and Sambal. The Rawas fish, more commonly known as the Indian Salmon was wrapped in a banana leaf and coated with Sambal masala. Like I said, not a huge fan of fish but the concept of a fish marinated in masala and slow cooked in a banana leaf is something that always intrigued me, a dish I don’t usually shy away from. The fish had a heavy coat of the Indonesian style, red sambal masala that was heavily absorbed by the fish when unwrapped. It was a wee bit dry but once you douse those pieces of fish with a bit of Sarah’s Goan curry the combination worked really well. I love the way Sarah enjoy’s experimenting and fusing together different cuisines.
With such a mammoth of a meal like that along with those stunning cocktails, it’d usually be hard to top that level with dessert. Then again, we’re talking about a Masterchef Contestant here, so expect the unexpected. Just like how Sarah learnt so much from her time at Masterchef, I too, owe a lot of credit to the Masterchef Australia series, I’ve spent so much time watching it during my life that a lot of my food knowledge as a blogger has been enhanced thanks to my hours watching the series. I still remember the drool-worthy desserts showcased on the show by contestants and celebrity chefs alike. That being said, here’s one straight out of the show. Sarah’s Iced Nougat with Candied Orange, topped with Streusel along with toffee and salted caramel. So many flavours and textures, an icy treat. The citric flavour from the orange peel along with the sweet caramel taste and that creaminess from the nougat. Every spoon is packed with so many flavours. Another one that tastes as beautiful as it looks. Imagine eating a dessert in Goa, that was served on Masterchef Australia, what an experience.
We’ve all had a banoffee pie at some stage in our lives, the dessert is quickly rising in popularity and these days every alternate restaurant features it on their menu. However here at Antares, seeing the level of experimentation and fusion, you’d normally expect something different and you’d be right too. This is the deconstructed Banoffee Pie Cheesecake, with a caramelized banana, Chantilly and caramel. Again beautiful play on textures, but unlike the iced nougat, this is a dessert that manages to blow your mind in a more simple way with simple ingredients. A beautifully and perfectly caramelized banana that’s crunchy on top and soft throughout. Essentially a banoffee pie that’s taken apart and served, the banana was served with a slightly sweetened whipped cream and a delicious caramel and condensed milk cream on the other side, I just couldn’t get enough of that one and wouldn’t even mind a full plate of that. Airy and light, creamy and rich, this one was a real winner too! I love it when desserts can be so delicious without looking too fancy
This is probably one of the longest articles I’ve written in a long time but Antares deserves all the credit it deserves and probably more. Sarah has taken up quite the challenge to come to our beautiful, sunny state and start up a restaurant, it’s definitely no easy task, but accomplished it she has! World Class Food and Drinks served up a Masterchef contestant in a beautiful setting by the sea. Antares also has rooms and wooden cottages at their property which you can book throughout the season to wake up to the sound and sight of the ocean and dine at their restaurant as and when you like. Ashish Kapur, Founder and Co-Partner at Moods Hospitality also emphasizes on how they have created a whole sort of experience, a place for the perfect weekend get together, where you don’t have to only dine at the restaurant but also stay at the property and experience the whole vibe the location along with the beach and swimming pool. They also have a host of events throughout the week that you can find on their facebook page along with updates on days when Sarah makes some special appearances at the restaurant to meet and greet customers and food lovers alike. I hope you enjoyed reading and going through this review as much as I enjoyed writing it. As always, stay tuned for more updates and make sure you don’t let 2017 end without you making a trip to Antares.