Head to Lollo Rosso in Goa for that breezy Balinese holiday feeling and stay for the exotic bowl meals…
Forgive me if this sounds barmy but I thought Lollo Rosso was a beguiling Italian beauty. A gorgeous someone who happily lent her name to a tony restaurant in Anjuna. Lollo Rosso is pretty, elegantly wears a green and maroon-red frilly dress, and has a delightful bitter-sweet and nutty attitude. But I was partly wrong. Lollo Rosso sure is Italian and pretty, but she is not a girl. Lollo Rosso is a lettuce first cultivated by the ancient Egyptians which — hold my beer — was considered an aphrodisiac.
That sultry November afternoon, I was looking for Lollo Rosso. Not the aphrodisiac-abled lettuce but a 70-cover oh-so-Balinese restaurant that sits solitary in a paddy-green field. Pintu, the in-house mongrel, wagged a tail as I walked through the tidy bamboo archway on which a blue pea vine curls coquettishly. White water lilies raise their pretty head out of a muddy creek and a pink house interrupts the monotony of a paddy-green tract. There was more green. The almost-pea green of the servers’ tee and near-Lincoln green of the cushions on rattan chairs.
A global kaleidoscope on your plate!
Then, the menu had my geography muddled in large bowls. Palestine. Santa Fe. Indonesia. Korea. Thailand. Greece. Turkey. Burma (Myanmar). Countries on the map fitted deliciously in bowls with very distinct ingredients and flavours. That’s Lollo Rosso’s strong suit. Bowl meals is what Aalap Shah and Chef Tarak Das — hospitality buddies and founders — decided to rustle up when they opened their first four-table restaurant in Ahmedabad. When more bowl-hungry started queuing outside that tiny eatery, Lollo Rosso grew into a 70-cover restaurant. The bowls prevailed. And travelled to Goa early this year to woo the epicure in the Anjuna restaurant of the same name.
What goes into the making of a bowl?
Creating a bowl is not as basic as throwing things in a bowl. “It is a very specific chore. The temperature, ingredients, and their proportion have to be in perfect ratio,” says Chef Das, who learnt culinary skills in New Alipore College (Kolkata) and in his heart there always simmered the dream of being an entrepreneur. So, a Palestine bowl has garlic labneh, Fulmedames, zattar-grilled chicken/aubergine; Santa Fe has Adobo and Tomato sauce rice; Stroganov comes with mushroom and pepper sauce glazed chicken/lamb; Japanese Donburi spills with buttered beaten egg sticky rice…There’s a Tikka bowl, too, with char-grilled paneer/chicken, spiced fox nuts.
So precise is the proportion and the flavour so definite that Chef Das says he refrains from serving a bowl if the ingredients are not what’s meant to be. Soy sauce has to be Kikkoman, imported Japanese sticky rice for sushi, Gari (pickled ginger) for Donburi, pork belly from Belgium and the chicken cannot be more than a kilogram in its feathered weight. Why? Because Chef Das knows that the breast of a 1-kg chicken will weigh exactly 80 grams. An extra gram will wreck the three-minute each side grill routine. The brown sauce takes 18-hours to prepare, the pork belly is marinated in sugar/salt for 24 hours; lamb chop sleeps in the marinade overnight. Not a minute more. Not a minute less. For Chef Das, such recipe-fidelity is the only route to perfection.
Beyond the bowl meals, Lollo Rosso also has dimsums, maki & uramaki, Turkish meze, smoothies, eggs your way, nachos, open toasts and a miniscule dessert list (Blue pea rice, coconut milk and seasonal fruit; Nama chocolate, berry coulis, cracker crumbs, honey almond comb).
Keeping the spirits high and flirty!
While the bowls take one on a whirlwind taste-tour of the world, signature cocktails get flirty with their names (Rs 525 each): Muse-Me You-Zu (Tequila, yuzu liqueur, yuzu cordial & salty yuzu foam); Evening Drink of Morning (House vodka, fresh OJ, lime & basil foam), Morphed Chameleon (House gin, blue pea, lime syrup & jamun wine); Amidst The Coco Palm (Malai coconut-infused gin & coconut feni martini); Dashing Desperados (House tequila, pineapple-infused beer, roasted barley reduction, chilly bitter, anise mist & roasted barley).
Sipping Tepache (fermented pineapple nectar), I was distracted by the sushi daintily sitting within an old-fashioned wooden embroidery ring. Red, white, a hint of green and a speck of black embroidered into a sushi by Dipal Shah, mother-in-law of Aalap Shah. Ahmedabad-based Dipal is passionate about embroidery and has created three wooden food frames that dangle from the ceiling of the restaurant’s Sushi Bar.
Stay for the Balinese feels!
That wooden frame, however, is not the only unusual/sustainable décor item in the restaurant. Sticks picked from the nearby fields have been turned into a ceiling artefact, coconut fronds metamorphose into hanging lights, and hand-picked pebbles form concentric circle on the coarse floor.
“Holidaying in Bali, I was utterly mesmerized by the use of natural materials. I wanted to open a restaurant in Bali but the pandemic wrecked that plan. So, when we finalized Lollo Rosso in Goa, I knew it had to be very Balinese in its appearance. We sourced seasoned bamboo and expert workers from Assam,” said Aalap Shah.
Bowl meals will always be the protagonist in a Lollo Rosso menu but Chef Das wants to add Turkish and Brazilian barbecue to their good-food list. Not the cliched meat barbecues slathered with thick brown sauce. Instead, delicate pineapple; red meat served with hummus; salmon with Zattar oil.
The Egyptians first cultivated Lollo Rosso, the Italians grew it widely but in Goa, Lollo Rosso is where one goes for a hearty bowl meal. Not only the hungry human but also his/her dog (they have a bowl menu for dogs). And who knows, on a rare day, you might sight a peacock in the paddy-green field.
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
Food: 10/10 | Service: 7/10 | Décor: 9/10 | Vibe: Oh! So Balinese
One dish we loved: Korean Bibimbap & Santa Fe Bowls are the crowd favourite. I’ll pick the splendid Burmese Bowl.
One thing that didn’t work for us: I wish they had back cushions but all things are forgiven because they have a dog menu and a dog called Pintu
Good to know:
Address: 1,057 Sim Waddo, Anjuna, Goa 403509
Phone: +91 88559 78128
Timing: 11 am to 11 pm
Service Options: Dine-in, Takeaway, Swiggy
Alcohol served: Yes| Payment methods: Cash, Card, UPI | Disabled access: Yes Dress code: Casual | Pet friendly: Yes | Wi-fi: Yes | Smoking: Yes | Music: Yes.