His love for food and passion for creating dishes with unusual, locally available ingredients led Chef Sandeep Sreedharan aka Escabrahma to open the doors to Elaa Cafe and Bar in Anjuna earlier this year. The project was in the making for a long time and kept getting postponed due to lockdowns. But he made sure he spent time experimenting with his menu and introducing several interesting yet nutritious dishes to the earth-based menu.
Chef Sandeep’s philosophy revolves around using only sustainable and locally available produce, including items one would not find on a restaurant menu. For example, he uses fish which is not on the top of the food chain. Think whitebait, mussels, grey mullet, and lepo as opposed to the much-loved kingfish. Owing to its location in the heart of Anjuna, Elaa Cafe and Bar attracts both locals as well as tourists, and with its unique food menu and Chef Sandeep’s welcoming nature, patrons keep visiting for more.
Located inside The Hammock, in a garden right beside a flowing stream and a vast expanse of fields, Elaa Cafe and Bar is perfect to spend a chilled-out evening or brunch with a group of people. The interiors done by Aarushi Kumar make the space vibrant while retaining its laid-back charm. It is also a great place to work, well-equipped with charging ports and WiFi. Their live music events and bar nights are perfect for those looking for a night out. While the bar menu is not extensive, their mojitos and gin cocktails are surprisingly refreshing for hot days spent outdoors.
The coffee programme by Ruby's Coffee is worth giving a try. The experienced baristas at Ruby's Coffee are always ready to brew you some of their signature coffee variants from organic coffee beans, sustainably sourced from small farmers across the Nilgiris.
The breakfast menu includes Chef Sandeep's take on the Goan classic street food item – ros omelette. He has introduced a vegetarian ros instead of chicken xacuti curry. Then there are the black rice flakes poha and millet upma, which have whole grains not typically used in Goa.
The tomato medley salad was born out of a craving for having a good tomato salad that Goa was lacking, says Chef Sandeep. Mixed with local ferments and greens, it is a perfectly balanced light salad to start a meal. The seafood salad, greens of the day and jowar salad with pickled turmeric and cashew cream are his unique creations for health-food lovers.
The soup and small bites menu includes several unusual combinations too. He has the doodhi and dal broth, rasam and millets, rasam cioppino (an amalgamation of the classic Italian seafood stew with classic South-Indian rasam), pickled aubergine on pao, grey mullet on pao and more. He has converted Goan classics like rissois into the loaded prawn rissois and has created a vegan version of the choris poie made with jackfruit. The smoked mackerel poie, made with coconut-leaf-smoked mackerels is a crowd favourite.
The tapas and bowls of nature menu comprise interesting combinations of ingredients and cooking styles. Chef Sandeep has created a risotto with rajmudi rice and cashew cream. Then there is the forbidden curd rice made of black rice.
Roots at Elaa pays homage to roots other than potato, like carrot, beet, yam, etc, served with a feni and miso reduction. The laksa is made of foxtail millet and aglio e olio is made of millet noodles to avoid any refined flour noodles or spaghetti. The roasted pumpkin purée and grilled idli served with herb oil and sweet potato recheido, served with cashew cream, offer a burst of flavour. Pan-seared lepo, pickled mussels, tiger prawns/lobster with chermoula and a light millet salad are just some of the options for seafood lovers.
While he has avoided chicken and meat entirely, considering his sustainable approach to food, there are several egg options made with free-range eggs like creamy scrambled eggs on toast and eggs of choice.
You can end your meal with a cup of coffee and a limited dessert menu that includes a peanut butter chocolare mousse, tapioca pudding with lemon gel, semolina orange cake or vanilla pannacotta with lemon basil gastrique.
Chef Sandeep keeps experimenting and altering the menu, often adding new dishes to keep things exciting and fun for regular guests. He recently launched the regional breakfast menu that includes classic Indian breakfast dishes like idli, dosa, sambhar, paranthas, poha and more. His monthly Elaa Sadhya is quite a hit, with people pre-booking slots for the elaborate Kerala meal.
Having spent most of his adult life in Mumbai during his corporate stint, Chef Sandeep eventually ran the restaurant Curry Tales in Bandra, working as a private chef for high-end clients and travelling the world to experience food.
He hails from Kerala and rushes back home to his mom in Mahé (a French colony in Pondicherry) to fine-tune his cooking skills. Despite being a successful chef who has fed some well-known names in India, he credits his skill and interest in cooking to his mom. Based in Goa over the last three years, Chef Sandeep slowly and steadily has been working on curating a wholesome dining experience for foodies in Goa through his restaurants – Elaa Cafe and Bar, and Mahé in Anjuna, and his private dining gigs.