“In the hands of an able cook, fish can become an inexhaustible source of perpetual delight.” – Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755 – 1826)
Very little is known about Saraswat cuisine in Mumbai as it’s been mostly restricted to Saraswat Brahmin households. While Saraswat brahmins are known to be strictly vegetarians; the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin (CSB) and the Goud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) sects are exceptions to that, pesco-vegetarians that they are. Though Saraswat Brahmin cuisine is similar to Konkani and Malwani cuisine it’s known to be relatively subtle on the spices. ‘Matsya’ (meaning fish in Sanskrit) in Goregaon, is more than a year old restaurant run by a husband-wife duo, serving Saraswat seafood that has it’s roots in the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin (CSB) households along the north Karnataka belt.
The decor is minimalistic yet neat and clean with adequate lighting, comfortable seating arrangements and walls adorned with large, framed vintage photographs of Murdeshwar beach and other tourist attractions in Chitrapur. The restaurant oozes out charm and homely vibes, making it a perfect place for a peaceful and hearty meal with family.
This refreshing and cool digestive revealed a smooth flavour of asafoetida, a hint of spice imparted by chillies coupled with the sweet-sour taste of kokam.
The sol kadi served here had a well balanced tangy, sour, refreshing and soothing flavour with no individual ingredient overpowering the taste of the drink. It’s light body and smooth blend of flavours enabled us to order repeats of this drink throughout our meal.
These succulent and tender deboned chicken chunks cooked in a thick, uniquely flavoured, rich, hot and moderately spicy yoghurt-based marinade also revealing an evident flavour and pleasing aroma of curry leaves was undoubtedly a hit!
The uber soft, delicate, moist and juicy lizard-fish with a lightly crispy and crunchy exterior enclosed a fresh and mildly spicy blend of karandi (small prawns) and green chutney.
A mixture of crispy fried Jawla prawns, I.e. tangy, spicy, pungent and dried tiny prawns with fresh and chewy grated coconut, finely chopped green chillies and coriander that this was; the combination of flavours simply turned out to be mind-bogglingly brilliant!
Surmai Red Masala Fry
Fresh, i.e., firm yet springy and moist Surmai was thoroughly coated in abright red, spicy, tangy and thick masala and pan fried. The flavourful masala and the freshness of Surmai ensured us a mouth-watering treat indeed!
Surmai Green Masala Fry
Fresh pan fried Surmai coated in a thick, spicy-sweet green masala was relatively sweeter to taste yet a promising treat for the taste buds!
While the oyster meat was wonderfully fresh, plump and moist and the thick masala paste comprising predominantly of coconut and red chillies that it was cooked in rendered it a subtle and aromatic flavour, the tempering with onions also let out faint characteristic sweet notes.
Kaane Rawa Fry
These slender and long, fried lady fish had a mildly spicy and crispy batter fried exterior enclosing absolutely fresh and juicy tenderness within.
Prawns Rawa Fry
These springy, juicy and fresh prawns with a subtle earthy flavour and well retained natural taste (not overcooked) were deep fried and concealed in an amazingly crispy and crunchy battered crust.
Crab Green Bhurji
This was a very unique preparation of crab meat tossed in a green chutney like masala that had a mildly tangy and predominantly sweet taste with a hint of coconut-y flavour. While I wasn’t really disappointed with this unusual preparation, I must add that this one is quite an acquired taste.
Mori Sukka Masala
Firm, meaty and tender fillets of Shark were cooked in a thick and flavourful masala paste comprising predominantly of coconut and red chillies. This aromatic and flavourful preparation was indeed marvellously done!
These Bhakris were warm, large, soft, fluffy and supple and the ease of tearing them into bite sized morsels ensured that they turn out to be a very good accompaniment for the mains.
These warm, large, soft, paper-thin and almost translucent neer dosas were again a perfect accompaniment for the mains, all courtesy their suppleness and ease of manipulation into bite sized morsels.
This spicy and tangy coconut based curry revealed a mesmerizing aroma, heat of the chillies and a hint of characteristic spicy-sweet and slight citrus flavour of ginger.
This cold and refrigerator-set pudding crafted using Nachni, palm jaggery and coconut milk is a MUST HAVE as it is not only very distinctive and typical to Saraswat cuisine but also one of the very few desserts that are not sugary-sweet yet delectable.
Pabrai’s Ice Creams
While the Nolen Gur flavour that I tried for the first time was adequately (not excessively) sweet with an appealing grainy texture and the sweet and fresh Paan flavour speckled with chunks of Gulkand was the CLEAR WINNER; the Rich Chocolate Brownie flavour was skip-able and not anything worth raving about.
Mrs. Matsya (I don’t remember her real name) was an absolutely warm, welcoming, kind, friendly and cheerful host. While it was an absolute delight to listen to her explain about the history and origins of Saraswat seafood, the service was reasonably fast and attentive with the dishes arriving one after the other in quick succession onto the table.
Food quality – 4.5/5
Food quantity – 4.5/5
Ambience – 3.5/5
Service – 4/5