Jaws to movie buffs is a creation of imagination, a film that thrills and terrifies but the signage Jaws, on the way to Vagator beach, does nothing of that sort. It is a testament of cuisine crafted to satisfy the taste buds of international and local tourists prepared by the hands and soul of a Goan.
Jaws is a bar and restaurant that has borne the changes of tourism from the early days – first starting as the only restaurant with live jam ups, moving to a cafeteria and now a restaurant that encompasses the taste of the old with the trappings of the new.
“Times are not the same and we have kept up with them by arranging the menu keeping in mind the change in individual finances. The pandemic has burnt many pockets and our pricing takes that into consideration,” says Michael Mendonca, owner of Jaws.
Michael is a Goan who believes that the jingle in the pocket should neither sound too loud nor melancholic. “Food is priced in such a way that the quality is not compromised nor is the holiday of my guests,” he says.
A decent meal for two with drinks at Jaws costs on an average Rs 1200 and sometimes even less depending on whether the tourist is in Goa to discover the food or enjoy the beach.
The cuisine at Jaws is split with food from Goa, South India, Chinese and even teasers that reminds one of the Wild West. “Our rava dosa is much sought and we have guests who come looking for Goan dishes or sometimes just to nibble on our pastries,” discloses Michael, who believes learning to cook was his best experience.
In the early 1980s, Jaws was the first restaurant in Vagator that had foreign and local artistes jam up during dinner time. “The artistes used to come and play for free and thus, at that time, creativity flowed from the kitchen to the bandstand,” recollects Michael.
Michael worked in Scotland and returned to Goa to learn the art of baking from where the concept of food for all taste buds germinated and has since left his guests with their jaws dropping.
“I have been coming to this restaurant for years and am witness to the change in menu but the one constant of this place is the taste and level of cleanliness. There is no compromise,” says Judy from England.
“Foreign tourists have not been coming for a while now. The downslide started before the pandemic and has got worse and that is what prompted me to add the Indian element to the menu,” admits Michael.
The South Indian kitchen at Jaws is handled by a chef from South India whilst the bakery and Goan food bear Michael’s mark. The Goan food ranges from between Rs 250 to Rs 380 a dish and the dessert rates sway between Rs 100 and Rs 120.
“We have guests who come asking for pizzas and that’s why we offer a selected range only. All our pizzas are handmade,” offers Michael. Jaws also serves burgers or ‘filled rolls’ with chips that can minus a guest’s purse by around Rs 200.
Most restaurants in Vagator have been let out to people from other parts of the country but Michael has not succumbed to this temptation strongly believing that an outsider cannot sell the spirit of Goa.
“Restaurants in this area are managed by people from outside but the food is still being sold as Goan. You need Goan hands to cook our type of food. Anyone can learn to cook but a GI (geographical indication) of cooking Goan can only be tagged to a Goan,” says Michael with a mischievous look.
“Tourism has changed over the years and it is going from bad to worse. I get the business but no satisfaction from the behaviour of the tourists today and our own response. Greed is the cause,” is Michael’s jaw-dropping statement.