Twisted Fish doesn’t make a promising first impression. It’s located on a dingy stretch of road known for its shady bars, shadier hotels and a stubborn bovine population that make a habit of napping in the middle of the road. Don’t bother trying to honk them into coercion, like we did to evict a dozing buffalo from a parking spot, You’ll only be met with holier-than-thou looks – from the shopkeepers, paanwalas and assorted weirdos loitering about – and the cattle couldn’t care less.
The restaurant too, seems a bit dated: there are wallpapered ceilings, sofas upholstered with heavy, magenta fabric and Bryan Adams and Lionel Ritchie crooning in the background. At our table, complete with origami napkins, our mustachioed waiter handed us a heavy, bound menu like the ones favoured by Jai Hind and Gokul. Let that be your first cue.
Twisted Fish is run by two Mumbai-bred Mangalorean brothers and like most other establishments run by the Shetty clan, serves food ranging from murgh makhani and makai paneer to Hyderabadi biryani and butter garlic shrimp. Ignore them all and focus your attention instead on the short selection of coastal fare they offer. Better still, get yourself a stiff rum and coke and make your way through the list like we did.
Few bar snacks bring out the sweet, soothing flavour of Old Monk like a slab of fiery fish fry. At Twisted Fish, the surmai isn’t flourcoated and then deep-fried within an inch of its life. Instead, the slices are slathered with a simple paste of chilli powder, turmeric and salt, and then tawa fried until the protein is cooked and not a minute longer, so the fish takes on a buttery texture. Encouraged, we called for the ghee roast, Goan pomfret curry, a couple of neer dosas and, just to give the north Indian section a chance, the chatpata murgh as well.
The ghee roast is a fire cracker of a dish from Udipi made with chicken, dry spices, curry leaves and far too many chillies cooked in ghee, which mellows the spice levels. Twisted Fish’s version is kind of a sukka meets ghee roast so it had thick, coconutty gravy (as opposed to a chilli-based masala) that we sopped up with our delicate dosa, pausing briefly to sample the rubbish chatpata murgh before getting another round of rum that led to a bout of Lionel Ritchie impersonations.
Other southern favourites on the menu include kori roti – a Mangalorean number comprising chicken (kori) curry served on a bed of wafer-thin, rice roti – crab gassi, mutton sukke and puli munchi, a Kerala curry made by cooking sardines with plenty of tamarind and red chilli powder.
Twisted Fish’s traditional offerings are likely to excite and then mildly disappoint those who have grown up in South India. The food isn’t high on regional authenticity but it is delicious in a high-spice, coconut-flecked, curry leaf-smacked kind of way. Our Goan curry for instance, lacked the tang of vinegar but the cuts of pomfret were very generous and the curry was flavourful. Our portion (R180) would have easily sated three hungry tummies.
That being said, Twisted Fish, doesn’t have enough going for it to last long (not in this sort of neighbourhood) which is why we recommend you make the most of it while it’s still around. They plan on starting home delivery soon, so you can tuck into a fishy feast without having to encounter the pedestrian woes of buffalos and Bryan Adams.
|Surmai tawa fry||R280.00|
|Chicken ghee roast||R220.00|
|Neer dosa (4)||R60.00|
|Goan fish curry||R180.00|
|Total (incl taxes)||R1,200.00|
By Neha Sumitran on August 03 2012 4.19am
Photos by Amit Chakravarty