Martin’s Corner… Martin’s Comfort…. Betalbatim (Goa)

I love places that tell a story. When you walk into a restaurant, while on the outside seeming normal or ordinary, you can always find a unique quirk, something unusual. And I just can’t wait to uncover that story.

My final night in Goa, and I finally visited South Goa’s most famous restaurant, Martin’s Corner. Located in Betalbatim, Martin’s is a place frequented by locals, tourists, and celebrities alike. It’s away from the main road, in what seems to be a regular neighborhood, with residential houses all around. The restaurant was actually started by one woman, Ms. Carafina Pereira, after her husband’s retirement (the places is also named Martin’s in his honor). What started out in 1989 as a couple of tables and chairs, where the local kids could hang out and play caroms, and taxi drivers could eat prawn curry rice while their clients ate at high end restaurants, eventually turned into one of the most famous places to eat in Goa.

Long gone are the days when Martin’s was just tables in the frontyard of a house. It has transformed into a beautiful restuarant. Walking into the place that night, my eyes were arrested by all the lights. Red checkered tablecloth, and wicker chairs, with a live singer and colorful paintings all over the walls… and the bar was set to look just like a tavern with glasses hanging around. One wall is entirely covered with pictures of celebrities who have visited the place over the years. The face that stands out to me most is Sachin Tendulkar, India’s star cricket player. He even has an item on the menu, a king crab dish, in his honor. While Martin’s caters to other cuisines (Chinese and continental), it’s famous for what it started out as… authentic Goan cuisine.

There are tiger prawns, lobsters, crab, shark, and varieties of fish (pomfret, kingfish, snapper, modso, and chonok) in varieties of ways, fried in masala, rava, or butter and garlic. You can also opt for your fish to be served in the Indian tandoori style. But perhaps the most reknowned of all the styles must be the Recheado masala, a Goan spice mix that is a perfect compliment to fish. Martin’s also makes one of their signature dishes, which has been there since the time of its inception, the pork fry.

I kept my meal light, having steamed rice with rava masala fried kingfish. Along with that, I enjoyed a vegetable coconut gravy, similar to Kerala’s kadala curry, with spicy undertones, to counteract the sweetness of the fish. It was divine, the fish was just so fresh I could practically taste the sea with every bite. As I swayed to the music I couldn’t help but think: life was good.

Martin’s has atmosphere… It’s lively, intoxicating, and happening. But more importantly, it’s a tribute to a journey. A journey of hardwork and perserverance. A journey of a woman who created something huge out of something that started out small. And I think that’s a beautiful story…

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