The surly fisherfolk at Siolim do not like unsolicited advice but chef Gome Galily thinks his counsel is among his best offerings. The result is a tale of catfish and conflict, inheritance and interference, sea and land, obsession and reprisal, one that over the last five years has swelled into a book that Herman Melville could have written. “I sit with them for hours telling them how to cut fish the way it’s supposed to be cut… how to clean it, how not to store it in water. Sometimes they just throw the fish in a bag like it means nothing to them!” Gome gasps dramatically, emphasising that ingredients need to “respected, protected”.
“But we’re all friends now. In fact, I work very closely with four or five of Siolim’s fishermen.”
All this meticulously acquired produce goes to the kitchen at Matsya, one of Goa’s most under-rated restaurants. Here, customers pay a fixed price (Rs 2,500) and chef Gome will cook you anything his heart desires (he will, however, consider your dietary restrictions). It’s a free-style kitchen with roots in French and Asian cuisine and seasonal dishes that change everyday. “Maybe today, aunty’s lemon tree presented a delicious yield, or Mamaji at Mapusa had amazing aubergines. I devise the menu based on what I find in the market,” he tells us.
“Maybe today, aunty’s lemon tree presented a delicious yield, or Mamaji at Mapusa had amazing aubergines. I devise the menu based on what I find in the market,” he tells us.
Matsya has been around for three years, but like Gome says, it’s in a “far-off and inaccessible” location – Pernem - which crosses it off many visitors’ lists. If you were one of those crossers, we’re here to say after our meal last month, you made a mistake. And here’s the next tragedy: Matysa pulls its shutters down on March 6. If you live in Mumbai, however, Gome is cooking two meals at Magazine Street Kitchen on March 9 and 10 (book here), so Goa’s last Galily supper can be your first.
During our visit, we feasted on oysters that held within them what’s better than a pearl: a puckerish coconut-kaffir lime-mango jalapeno mix. Other plates offered other wonders like tuna and snapper sashimi with wakame and roasted quinoa, shaped like macarons; genius rice paper tacos that fold over betel leaves and lobster; crab in chilli cashew oil and fresh corn polenta; mushroom truffle cappeliti with a rare cut of beef and the best broccoli we’ve ever tasted (“I’m a stickler for fresh produce”); ending it all with a wild pea profiterole the colour of a bruise. Each dish was explained by Gome himself, a slight man, gentle as a Morjim wave on a calm night, dressed in a multi-coloured tank top and harem pants.
During our visit, we feasted on oysters that held within them what’s better than a pearl: a puckerish coconut-kaffir lime-mango jalapeno mix.
Gome might look like he's back from a rave, but he doesn’t “do those anymore”. He prefers “chilling” now, spending time in quieter quarters of Panjim or just on the beach across from his home. When we call him on Monday, it’s his day off and he’s fresh off an Ashwem swim, drying in the sun like a bombil, wondering how he got here and where he will go next. “Ten years ago I was travelling through Rajasthan where I got mugged and lost all my money. I didn’t have a way to return and so I stayed, cooking at small restaurants across India, finally ending up in Goa,” says the Israeli-born chef who has cooked in nine different countries and worked at nine Michelin star restaurants, including Noma and Nahm. “I wasn’t formally trained so I did odd jobs, peeling potatoes and washing floors. I thought of myself as a secret agent, lurking around stoves, learning tricks and tips,” he tells us, now also a proud owner of a restaurant in Ibiza.
What else is Gome going to do this Monday, on his day off? “I will ride my bike around the neighbourhood and eat Goan sausages brought in by one of my happy customers.” It’s how Gome likes his Goan food - when it’s prepared by a local mum.
Gome cooks Indian dishes too, but he won’t dare do it in India. He thinks he can’t compete. “But in Ibiza, I’ll cook chicken tikka masala for friends. I know it’s a cliché, but I do it really well and add my own touch."
Matsya swims away on March 6, but Gome promises it will pop up at different Goa locations (he’s looking at an old Portuguese bungalow), so don’t jump off the boat yet. There may be other fish in Goa’s sea, dear reader, but Gome Galily is currently the prized catch.
Getting there: Matsya Freestyle Kitchen, SamataYoga Retreat, Pernem, just beyond Arambol, North Goa, call 7875218719 or 8390918385, view the Facebook page here. Open for dinner only, book one day in advance.
Special thanks to Shilarna Vaze who made sure we got off our beach bums and rode our bikes for an hour and a half to get to this meal.
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