Antares Restaurant-Goa- Sarah Todd is MIA!

Okay, I confess, I love going out to eat–immersing myself in the unknown vibe and culture of the little universe a restaurant creates, the exploration of food and drink options, the fine details of decor and personality exhibited by something so simple as the type of a napkin fold. . .and, well, not having to do dishes when you’re finished is a super bonus.  It’s all part of the experience, isn’t it?!

I’ve been inspired recently to begin a new niche on my blog and review restaurants.  I spent 17 years of my life in good ol’ America working in restaurants all over the country. . .from small mom-and-pop’s kind of places to world renowned fine dining destinations in big cities like Seattle. . .so my love of a good dining experience is REAL.  But, also, we get a lot of tourists at the Chill Inn Guesthouse wondering about the area and where to go for a nice meal.

One of the constant restaurant whispers in our area is of a place called Antares.  It’s run by an Australian Masterchef finalist, Sarah Todd, it’s supposed to have amazing cocktails, a fine dining atmosphere with Masterchef quality food, the best view, the works.  So, imagine my star filled eyes when Magic Man asked me where I wanted to go for a special date night.

Let’s go to Antares.  I know it’s expensive but we have to check it out once, right?!  I was also super excited at the fact that this was a Western run restaurant and not just another Indian faux pas.

For us, usually, going out to eat means we eat on the cheap. . .say, a 60 rupee dosa, or maybe a 200 rupee butter chicken. . .so, going to a place with 700 rupee plates was a big jump with some kind of expectations.  All the reviews I read raved about the “Australian” dining experience, the view, the food, the cocktails. . .blah, blah, blah. . .and I was ready in a fabulous dress to enjoy a romantic evening with my one and only.

Antares is located on the Vagator beach cliff, and while we did not make it for sunset, I know for a fact that view would’ve been amazing.  I’ve been to the neighboring restaurant, Thalassa, which has the same view and it is a great sunset spectacle.

Upon entering, I loved the glittering lights down the pathway to the interior.  It made me feel like a bit of a movie star for a split second, BUT, then we sat down at our table and the DJ was playing music so unbearably loud it triggered an almost Rainman response in me. Who the hell goes to have a DINING experience with their loved one and has to yell the entire time?  In fact, it was so extremely loud, I almost popped a blood vessel in my forehead just to ask the waiter if the music was always so loud.  He said that it’s always “full power.”  Um, great.  I didn’t know I needed ear plugs to enjoy my dinner.

By now, the Rainman in me was about to get up and start banging something in retaliation to the annoying volume when all I wanted was a freakin’ romantic dining experience. WTF!  I quickly darted around in my thoughts of whether or not we should just eff this place and go next door to Thalassa where I’ve already been and know I like, but in the name of experience, I shifted my mood and suggested just moving tables to further away and behind the speakers.  Whew.

Okay, so, now table shifted and volume at least more manageable now, although still loud.  I can have a conversation with Magic Man at last.  Let’s get a cocktail.  Weee!

I scanned the cocktail menu several times.  I’m not partial to any liquor if it’s a good mix, per se, but I did find it odd that there was only one Vodka cocktail in the whole list.  Also, none of the concoctions caught my eye (for 450 rupees each) and I found myself feeling quite dismal about all the rumors I’d heard for so long.  How could this be?  I finally get to Antares, mecca of amazing cocktails, and not one looks exciting to me?  Hmm.

Okay, so then we find a section that offers Cocktail Pitchers.  Now, this sounds exciting!  Being an ex-American and loving a good deal with quantity, a pitcher of booze was right up my alley.  Cosmopolitan pitcher, sure.  Magic Man doesn’t mind a pink drink as long as there’s plenty of booze in it.  Haha, actually, he really loves pink drinks in general. However, this Pitcher was also a hefty price of 1300 rupees.  Now, in Rupee land, that’s a lot of money.  A lot.  We were curious to see how strong the mix actually was.

The waiter brought over the pitcher of pink goodness and much to our surprise, or not, the pitcher WAS ONLY HALF FULL.  My eyes popped open and I looked at Magic Man.

WTF is this?  They didn’t advertise “half pitchers” of cocktails.  The menu said “pitcher,” which implies a whole pitcher, right?!  Sigh.  This place is an experience for sure.

“Excuse me,” I called the waiter over.  He leaned in with a smile.  “Why is my pitcher only half full?” But the waiter just stared blankly.  We spoke at length to him about how we expect a pitcher if they’re advertising a pitcher, and especially for the price, WTF?!  If they don’t want to serve that much then they should advertise it as a “half pitcher” or buy a smaller pitcher to use.  It seemed like logical notions to us and not rocket science.  We even mentioned my blog review and that we’d seen the restaurant on NatGeo and it was a special occasion.

“Well, what would you like me to do?” the waiter said.

Ummmm, FILL THE DAMNED PITCHER!  HELLOOOOOO!

Wow. I guess some things really are rocket science.  Living in India I have learned that customer service is not intuitive for most people or even something that matters.  It’s just very different in this country.

Finally, our pitcher came back full.  Yay.  And it was strong, too.  Double yay.

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We decided to try an appetizer, the Croquettes, which had a lovely presentation but seemed a bit more doughy than cheesy and had a little too much mayo.  I have to admit, though, I was just glad to eat something not curry flavored.  Magic Man didn’t like them at all.  I guess that means they were just okay.

Did you notice the lovely wooden tables, too?  I mean, I know it’s India, but if you bill your establishment as a “fine dining” restaurant or at least a nice dining place with “elite” prices then moldy cracks are usually not a thing.  Am I right?! And while I’m at it, our service didn’t even come with a personalized waiter.  It was like we were in the forgotten land of tables and we were just lucky to flag random passerby waiters down for service.  Yuck.  And they were all men.  I don’t know what it is about Indian restaurants but there’s never women on staff.  It’s disturbing and stupid.

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We sipped on our delicious pitcher for awhile finding amusement in this totally confused establishment.  Not one Western person on staff in any direction.  Nothing Australian about it.  In fact, I lived in Australia for 2 years and didn’t find anything remotely similar to the feelings of the great outback country.  It was really more of a club than a restaurant.

The only thing it actually reminded me of was Coyote Ugly.  Remember that movie?  The hot chicks dancing on the bar?  Yeah, as I was biting into one of my odd croquettes, two chicks came out in some crazy pink costumes, got up on a table in the middle of the dining room, and started doing some strange salacious dancing.  I’m pretty sure they were Russian, too, and one of their THREE costume changes was American flag themed. Hmmm, okay, definitely not Australian.  Other guests, okay mostly women, also joined in on their own tables and danced along with the Russian chicks.  It was a sight.  I never would’ve paired a fine dining experience with Coyote Ugly entertainment.

They even had gigantic hookahs available for your Australian experience.  Didn’t  you know that kangaroos and koala bears love a little shisha from time to time?  I must’ve forgotten that part from my time living there, but suddenly it’s all coming back to me now. . .or, wait. . .

hookah2Okay, moving on.  Dinner time.  I ordered a spiced chicken and Magic Man got a lamb dish at 600 and 750 rupees.  Steep prices but hopefully Masterchef quality.  When our dinner arrived, mine had a decent flavor but the broccoli was almost raw and the lamb dish was just okay.  My favorite part of the whole thing was the bread basket the waiter brought before dinner arrived.  The butter had some pesto in it and it was a nice and simple little twist from your average bread basket.  And I’m not even usually a bread eating kind of person.

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I didn’t get a clear picture of our dinner plates but I suppose that is representative of how much we loved the food. . .meaning not so much.  The whole experience was definitely a disappointment and we won’t be going back anytime soon, nor recommending it to any of our guests.  We probably should’ve enjoyed some Maggi (Indian Ramen noodles) at the carts outside the restaurant instead.  That would’ve only cost us 20 rupees rather than, gasp, I can’t admit the thousands.  Total F minus.

Now, if you’re looking for a great view with overpriced drinks in a club atmosphere, then Antares is what you get.  But, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re about to have an Australian culinary experience in a romantic setting because that’s not what this place is about.  It’s about getting f@#%ed up and chopping your precious rupees just for the sake of hype and majaa!  Oh, and watching some Russian ass shake while you do it.

P.S. I also woke the next day in the worst 24 hours of food poisoning HELL!  Antares was an experience that lasted way too long, indeed.

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