"Wel gome to Vella Maaya," she said with the classic Kerala accent. The guy smiled with a 'first time?' coming right out of him. My eyes were all inside. The courtyard was magical. A place like this could be magical at night, but in broad daylight? It was magical then too. I was walked straight into the lobby space with two nice large sofas and loungers on either side of the entry. The wooden staircase that leads to somewhere equally magical, I suppose, was a treat for the eyes.
The property was still sinking into me. The beautiful lawn. The orchids on the wall of the lawn. The pencil art on the wall on either side of the large door. Everything was magical. The toilets....oh man. The toilets were so inviting, that if you decide to stay and sleep there, you would be forgiven.
The wooden stairs that I thought was leading to some magical place actually led to the master bedroom. It had two large beds. And equipment placed in a way that you can have a full meal on the bed. The table was built onto the bed and it just rolls over to you. After the little tour of the place, we came back to our table. Order was already placed and since it takes a while to paint the food, the tour happens.
Yes, I was talking about a restaurant. What did you think?
Welcome to Villa Maya. Its a villa and maya indeed! Food wasn't restricted by cuisine, but by passion to integrate ancient and modern. This can only be called the Villa Maya cuisine.
The dry beef with coconut and mango. Now, both were dry. The beef was dry and the mango and coconut were dry, but when you put them together in your mouth, juices just flow from nowhere. The fact that the waiters explain every dish before they arrive/as they arrive gives you an idea of what to expect and what to do to get the best. You had to eat the beef and the mango coconut together to experience this. Every dish that followed had some tradition to it. The beef was served in jackfruit leaves, which were used as spoons during ancient times. Nice touch.
This was followed by the Spice Box. Derived from spice box, this was a melange of kebabs with just a teeny-weeny hint of different spices in each of the kebabs. From the saunf laced chicken to the saffron laced fish to the mirchi kissed prawns to the cinnamon licked galouti kebabs, this was a spice journey without the spice overpowering the originality of the dish. The slightly dry galouti kebab was the only flaw in the entire meal.
Then came the painter's platter - a platter of paneer done three ways. With chutneys served in little paint bottles, this had the pineapple and mint chutneys (that were also there in the Spice box), but an excellent new chutney, the beetroot chutney. For a non-fan of paneer like me, I could eat that all my life. Soft and succulent, this was by far one of the best paneer I've had in my life.
Then the Puttu with prawns and coconut. Brilliant. The last part of the cooking is done on your table with the sawdust oven and the chef then pushes out the puttu onto your plate. While I was full, I could notice that the puttu was going in without my approval. Flavours were just right and the fish gravy served along with it was a stunner.
Wahtalappam, a Sri Lankan specialty for dessert was a fabulous way to finish the meal. While it was as good as the ones I've had in Sri Lanka, there was a twist here, the cinnamon cream. I thought the dish was a little sweet until I was told to eat it with the cream. Magically, it was balanced.
A lot of places claim that their food is an experience and I've written about some of those places, but not until today have I really experienced the real meaning of the food experience. All 5 senses were involved, there was no cuisine to limit the creativity and there was a touch of elegance, ancient-ness (if that is even a word), modernity and flavour in the perfect balance.
Reservations are recommended during weekends and during lunch and dinner times and they are open 11 am to 11 pm, so early dinner or lunch might be the best way if you don't have a reservation.
The master bedroom I was talking about? That is also a table that is apparently sold out very often. If you're lucky you can experience that sitting on the bed with your legs folded and the table coming to you after you have settled down, but I think I would still prefer the courtyard.
A meal for two costs about Rs. 2500 and for me, it was one of the best meal experiences thus far and it came from Trivandrum!