Even by the standards of India’s eclectic regional cuisine, the food of Goa stands out.
A small state on India’s west coast, Goan history is characterized by the confluence of different cultures that have touched the area over generations, all of which have influenced the vibrant cuisine there in ways big and small.
One of the more prominent of those influences came from the four centuries Goa spent as a Portuguese colony, which introduced new ingredients such as potatoes, chilies, tomatoes, cashews, vinegar and various kinds of meat. The religious makeup of the region, with significant Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities, has also contributed to the distinct and vibrant cuisine, while the many ports dotting the coastal region have brought with them their own regional flourishes.
It’s from this rich foundation that Four Seasons Whistler Executive Chef and Goa native Sajish Kumar Das cut his teeth. He still remembers going out as a child to see the prodigious haul of seafood the Konkan fishermen brought back with them.
“When I was small, I would go to see the fishermen when they would bring their boat and used to catch a lot of fish and lobster for us to cook in the house,” he recalled. “That is one of my favourite memories that I have, making stews and sauces out of it.”
Now, Kumar Das is channelling his home through a new pop-up restaurant at the Four Seasons, appropriately called G.O.A. He said he was inspired to develop the concept after noticing similarities between the ingredients of his native land and his adopted Canadian home.
“Goa is basically a West Coast region of India, so there’s a lot of seafood, a lot of fresh ingredients and I found the same fresh seafood in B.C.,” he explained. “I thought this would be a good twist between the fresh seafood we get here and the flavours of Goa.”
Among the options for starters, Kumar Das has crafted a dish of oven-roasted king prawns served with a squid-ink rice crisp, shaved garlic, and sweet and sour balchao sauce, a spicy, vinegary blend; as well as what he is calling “Soup From the Sea,” a fragrant tomato broth made with rasam spice mix chock full of clams, mussels and prawns; and a seared octopus appetizer served with onion-tomato masala, turmeric-scented potato and fried chilies; and a personal favourite of Kumar Das’: a crispy pork belly, brined in dark rum, and topped in a cafreal emulsion—a traditional green spice paste—with garlic chili oil and microgreens.
“It’s nice and crispy and uses a little bit of heat,” Kumar Das said.
G.O.A.’s main courses hew even more to the Portuguese-Indian style, with dishes such as a seared lamb rack served in a spicy vindaloo sauce with cilantro oil, and a veal shank prepared with semi-dried masala, curry leaf and dried chili. Kumar Das also lends his take to Goa’s ubiquitous fish curry with a lavish lobster coconut curry served with poached okra, while the duck dosa wraps the popular thin pancake in a rich duck curry masala and a fried egg. Seafood lovers can also get their fix with a B.C. sable fish fried in the traditional tawa—a large, round pan—with Indian spices, mussels and clams molee, a rich Kerala-style curry, or a creamy seafood rice served with a selection of B.C. seafood, topped with spiced pork crumble and saffron. Vegetarians can indulge in a mushroom korma, made from a silky cashew gravy and morel dust.
Goa also serves as the inspiration for the cocktail menu, including The Goan Twist, a rum-based drink with clarified tamarind mix, lime and chaat masala; and Mumbay Affair, made from gin, lychee, lime, rose and water.
G.O.A. is open daily from 5 to 9 p.m. through Jan. 8, 2023. Learn more at fourseasons.com/whistler/dining/restaurants/goa.