Maai gives a modern touch to traditional recipes, inspired by the mothers of Goa
Balaji Srinivasan, the head-chef at Maai, talks to us about his restaurant in Goa and all that's in store for us here
Fancy dining and gourmet food all on one side and 'ghar ka khana' on the other. No matter where you choose to go, you will always miss the food your mom prepared at home. You could take the simplest recipe in the world and try to prep it the way she would, but there still would be no competition. For all those who drift far away from home and look for their mother's food in every homely dish, we came across a restaurant that attempts to plate the tender and nurturing love of a mother in some lip-smacking traditional Goan fare with subtle hints of modernity.
In talks with Balaji Srinivasan, the head-chef at Maai—a restaurant that serves Goan and Portuguese fare while also giving it a little touch of contemporary magic—we find out what inspired this journey, what we can expect to find here and some interesting details about Srinivasan, from the man himself.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
What inspiration gave birth to this journey and how do you think you fit into this entire puzzle of Maai?
Maai is purely the brainchild of its owners—Columbus Marquis, Atul Chopra and Gurmeet Singh Arora. If I had to talk about my role in this story, I'd like to borrow a reference from the Mahabharatha and say, 'if they are like Krishna then I am just an Arjun who assisted in executing the plan'.
Have you always wanted to be a chef, or have you considered option after option, before you made a decision?In my younger days, when I was deciding what career I should choose, my first choice was to join the Indian Army, becoming a chef was not yet in the picture. But as the time to finally pick a career path inched closer, I grew to be fascinated by the chefs on TV in several cooking shows. The way they used different ingredients to create unique dishes is what intrigued me and sealed the deal.
What according to you is the true essence of Maai? What can a customer expect to experience when they step foot in the restaurant?'Maai' as the name sounds, is a true inspiration of how a mother shares her love with her children through the food she prepares for them. The structure of Maai is actually a restored Portuguese house which gives you the feeling of being in a home away from home, where food has a language of its own and resonates with the tone of the house. All customers can expect to be welcomed into a homely surrounding as well as enjoy wholesome meals.
What was the experience like, while creating the menu for Maai?
Let me be honest here, Maai has been a whole new culinary journey for me. I have worked with so many local ingredients, tasted different foods at various local homes and then curated this menu with the support of Maai's owners, who by the way, also went through sessions after sessions of food tastings till we as a team were convinced that this is Maai. It was a very involved process and very enriching too.