Cota Cozinha literally exploded onto the local restaurant scene just over one year ago, in fact proudly celebrating their one-year anniversary on 2nd March this year. Loved by both locals and tourists alike, here is an account of my experience upon visiting recently. Hopefully, this article will give the reader an insight into this fabulous restaurant, and a measure of what made Cota Cozinha become so successful so quickly.
Upon strolling down the very picturesque, tree-lined lanes from Betalbatim Church, within ten minutes you catch your first glimpse of Cota Cozinha. Nestled amongst the trees, the establishment gives a first impression of being in a very natural setting – as if it’s always been there. The exterior appearance lends itself to the natural surroundings extremely well, having a thoughtful and rustic wooden charm.
For those of you arriving by car, there is a very generous sized Car Park, as well as plenty of parking for two-wheelers.
To warmly greet me, were the husband-and-wife team of Queeny and Sharif Cota. They are both passionate about the food, as well as the outstanding service Cota Cozinha offers – and are also both very prominent in front-of-house. You are certainly extremely well cared for here, and the service is slick, attentive, and you are made to feel very welcome throughout your dining experience. Both Queeny and Sharif mingle amongst the diners, and ensure everyone is happy. It’s a very nice touch – and often lacking in other restaurants.
Cota Cozinha is very lucky to have a great team working front-of-house alongside Queeny and Sharif, as well as behind the scenes. The Head Chef, Suraj, is exceptionally talented. Originating from the Punjab region, his flair for the dishes offered by Cota Cozinha are for all to see. He is ably assisted in the kitchen by Sharan and Shiva.
Let me now introduce you to the inspiration and driving-force behind Cota Cozinha, Mrs Edia Cota, the very proud mother of Sharif.
Edia has nurtured a lifelong passion for food, taking much inspiration from her own mother – from a very young age. She has worked as a chef in some very prestigious establishments such as Club Mahindra, Intercontinental, and now, Alila Diwa.
Edia says: “I grew up watching my mother cook all sorts of things, and I wanted to be just like her. Entranced, I’d ask her to teach me every chance I got. I wanted to learn it all!!”
Edia was then very busy with married life, and children, for a while. But in due course, encouraged by her supportive husband, she entered the world of catering and hospitality, while her mother took care of the children. She quickly made her name in the industry – cooking straight from the heart! It is pure testament to Edia’s talent and resolve that she excelled in what was a male-dominated industry – at that time.
Sadly, Edia’s mother passed away a few years ago, which was extremely difficult. She then promptly turned this around, writing a cookbook full of Goan recipes! And so, this inspiration continues, being very evident in the culinary experience you will have, when visiting Cota Cozinha. Edia, in conjunction with Queeny and Sharif, have designed a menu that showcases all their talents, and huge wealth of experience. It is also a perfect tribute to Edia’s mother, and so her legacy lives on.
And so now, let me talk about the food…my favourite subject! I asked Sharif to provide dishes for tasting, that he was proud to have me feature in this article. Also, my brief was for him to provide vegetarian dishes that my wife, Neelam, was able to try. Neelam is a life-long Hindu vegetarian.
Now of course, I cannot try everything that Cota Cozinha has to offer. This restaurant famously showcases Goan specialities, such as Stuffed Calamari, Salted Roasted Tongue, Beef Assado, Pork Vindaloo, Chicken Cafreal – to name a few. Diners travel from miles-around to Cota Cozinha for these dishes. Sadly, if I had tried all of these – my poor wife would have gone very hungry!
Here are the dishes Neelam and I tried:
Sizzling Paneer Tikka
A dramatic entrance was to be had with this dish, due to the incredible sizzling noise, and the beautiful smell wafting through the air, as it makes its way to your table. The dish is extremely colourful, with the vibrant red masala, green capsicum, and partly-caramelised onion. The paneer is also beautifully soft. Absolutely delicious.
I’ve not seen Stuffed Mushrooms quite like this. The mushrooms are encased in a light and crispy batter – along with capsicum. After deep frying, the balls are halved, then topped with a delicious, flavoursome and silky cheese, which quickly melts into the filling. Believe you me, this was absolutely mouth-watering. The dish is light, yet packed full of texture and flavour. I had to stop myself eating the entire plate in one sitting! This dish is a must-try.
This dish really did impress me, and I was pleasantly surprised – as a diehard non-veg person! Light and creamy spinach, having a pleasing and vibrant green colour, seasoned, and topped with pan-roasted garlic and garlic oil. The depth of flavour is outstanding, and the garlic, along with the infused oil, makes for a very simple, yet aesthetically pleasing bowl of food. Perfectly accompanied with the fluffy and crispy naan bread. Trust me, this is also a must try dish.
Perfectly cooked, light and fluffy rice, served with wedges of lemon, to squeeze over.
This has always been a dish I’ve wanted to try. In the UK, my favourite curry was a ‘Pathia’, which is a hot, yet sweet and sour curry. So, I figured the Prawn Balchao would be a reasonable comparison to this.
I have to say, Cota Cozinha’s Prawn Balchao is one of the most delicious curries I have had in a very long time. The king prawns were succulent, and plentiful. The sauce is indeed spicy, yet sweet-and-tangy. The restaurant has given this dish a lightness-of-touch, and have perfectly balanced the peppery heat, alongside the sweet and tangy flavour. Just simply beautiful. I did indeed finish this curry in one go!
For dessert, Neelam and I shared a Serradura. This is a creamy, sort of set custard, infused with nuts, and with a crushed Marie Biscuit topping. For us, this was the perfect end to our meal. This dessert could have easily been too heavy – but it wasn’t. The Serradura was exceptionally smooth, creamy, and just the right quantity of nuts within. The crunchy biscuit topping was just perfect, adding some welcome texture and flavour. A simple, yet elegant dessert.
To summarise my experience at Cota Cozinha, it was faultless. The food was excellent, the service spot-on, and the general ambience was perfect. Cosy and contemporary décor, with tasteful neon signs around, and a well-stocked bar. No loud, banging music to be had here. It would spoil the experience, and I hope they keep it that way. You can comfortably hold a conversation with your dinner guests, without the need for lip-reading!
Well done, Cota Cozinha! Keep up the good work!
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