From the house of Miss Nora comes Goa’s modern European restaurant Mystras
Set in an abandoned 200-year old villa in Assagao, Mystras is the second venture by Miss Nora’s Richa Malhan.
Friday February 10, 2023,
9 min Read
A hub of domestic and international tourism, Goa has become a melting pot of cultures, especially when it comes to its food. Besides the usual Goan and Portuguese-inspired cuisine, the sunshine state boasts of some of the best French, Asian, South-Indian and European restaurants in the country.
This evolving gastronomical scene in India’s beach paradise inspired Delhi’s pan-Asian restaurant Miss Nora’s founder Richa Malhan to set up an establishment in the state.
Set in an abandoned 200-year old villa in Assagao, Mystras is a modern-European restaurant. It opened its door to guests on November 6, and recently YS Life checked out this fine-dining restaurant.
Europe’s charm in Goa
The entrance to Mystras looks like any other Goa-based colonial villa. Lined with chequered floor tiles and lit with Gothic chandeliers, the passage opens to three rustic wooden doors–one to the bar, and two more to M Splurge–the retail segment of Mystras that features designs by Shivan & Narresh , OutHouse and Beyond Designs. I took to the one that led to the bar and was left stunned.
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There is nothing exceptional about the bar itself–wooden with simple European designs and iron racks showcasing Indian and foreign liquors. But what was hung above can easily be termed as the showstopper. A pegasus (horse with wings) made from upcycled materials hung from the glass ceiling, lighting up the bar area.
“What you see as the sunken courtyard bar, once had overgrown weeds the height of the ceiling,” Richa tells YS Life.
Next to the bar is the verandah where Mystras has set the scene for formal dinners and romantic date nights. The decor is mostly dominated by blues, whites and browns.
Richa reveals that the decor was inspired by her travels across Europe.
“Each and every element that you see is something we have picked from our travels,” Richa says. The walls next to the tables in the verandah were accessorised using blue and white ceramic wall plates–inspired by the streets of Sicily, she adds.
The courtyard provides an al fresco dining arrangement–suitable for casual dinners with family and friends. The centrepiece here is the white European water fountain. The tables have Sicilian print on them, similar to the wall plates in the verandah. The al fresco dining space is adorned with tall sal wood trees, and next to it sits the classic wood fire oven for pizzas.
Across Mystras–the bar, al fresco, and verandah–the red brick walls are exposed and in their original form. Richa says this was intentional “to keep the Portuguese charm intact.”
Europe on a platter
The food menu at Mystras speaks for itself. Curated by Richa along with Executive Chef Deepak Punetha, the menu features something from all corners of Europe–inspired by the founder’s extensive travel across the continent.
It begins with Italy's Caesar salad, with a twist of Kale instead of romaine lettuce; moves to Middle-East’s mezze board; and soon opens up with a myriad of options–Portuguese-inspired chicken espetada and Spanish patatas bravas, to a collection of pizzas and artisanal pasta. Mystras literally serves Europe on a platter.
But it doesn’t just end there. The second half of the food menu features a vast number of pan-Asian options. “It is homage to our maiden venture, Miss Nora,” Richa says.
YS Life tried the best of both worlds.
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From the pan-Asian menu, we ordered the crispy red snapper and the Miss Nora dragon roll, a chef’s special preparation.
Red snapper is possibly one of the most versatile fish available in India. Its delicate texture sits well on both subtle herb preparations, and hot chilli sauces. And it did go exceptionally well with the teriyaki sauce that was served at Mystras. The fish was crispy on the outside, soft and textured on the inside. The sauce was mildly spiced and was loaded with bok choy and basil, to add to the Asian flavours–a hit for me.
The sushi menu features 10 options–classics like the California and ebi tempura rolls, served in portions of four and eight; and a Mystras-special Miss Nora Dragon Roll, served only in a portion of eight pieces.
The roll had everything that I usually prefer in my sushi orders–prawn tempura, salmon, tuna and avocado. While priced a little on the higher-end (Rs 790), Mystras has justified the cost with the portion of fish that they add to their sushi. Alternatively, if visiting with a large group of friends or family, Mystras offers a 20-piece sushi rolls board (Rs 1,695 to Rs 1,895) which comes with chef’s special nigiri, sashimi and maki rolls.
For mains, we moved to the European segment of the menu. Mystras offers thin crust and Napoli versions of wood fired pizzas. As somebody who inclines towards crispy thin crusts, I ordered the chef’s special Mystras pizza. It is fun to note that almost all sections in the food and cocktail menus feature a chef special ‘Mystras.’
The Mystras pizza comes with salsa verde or green salsa, usually made with tomatoes, jalapeno, garlic and cilantro. Toppings included sundried tomatoes, yellow cheddar, basil oil and guacamole. At the centre of the pizza lay a large ball of burrata cheese.
Excited as I was when the pizza arrived, I was a little disappointed when the server did not cut open the burrata before serving me a slice– Mystras take a note! And thus, I had to scoop out some cheese and spread it into my pizza every time I took a slice– not the ideal way to enjoy a pizza.
While I might be ‘cancelled’ for ordering a pizza with guacamole as a topping, the cream from the avocado and zest from the lime went really well with the tomato and cheese in the pizza. However, instead of just dumping lumps of guacamole on all the slices, Mystras should try spreading it on top of the base to make the pizza-eating experience more consistent. As much as the flavours were strong in the parts with the guacamole, it was bland for the rest of the pizza.
Next was pasta–a plate of seafood linguine. It was exactly how a European restaurant in Goa would have it. Loaded with shrimps, calamari and topped with clams, the linguine was tossed in garlic, parmesan confit tomatoes and parsley. My first impression–this pasta is not for the faint hearted. With a strong pungent smell of the fresh seafood, the linguine should only be ordered if you are a fan of seafood or if you like being experimental with your food.
The cocktail menu opens with Mystras’ signature cocktails. While it might seem overwhelming at the first glance and tempt you to skip to the classic cocktail’s page, or even order one of the straight drinks, we recommend you stay here for a bit and read through the entire page. This is because Mystras offers some amazing concoctions in their cocktail menu!
The menu seeks inspiration from Richa’s husband, Anuj Malhan’s little book of cocktail recipes that he has collected from his extensive travel across Europe, over the years. And that is quite visible as one reads through the menu.
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My first order was a whiskey cocktail–a risk in itself! Again, a Mystras, the Indri single malt-based cocktail, put together with cherries, mint, lemon juice and simple syrup, was a hit at first sip! For someone who prefers white spirits, the Mystras cocktail sat really well with me, and the presentation–on a wooden tray and covered with a glass cloche, looked like something just off Instagram.
Next, I moved to the classic cocktail menu and ordered a Rob Roy– a classic scotch, rosso and bitters cocktail. They say those who can’t get the classics right, cannot ace the signatures. But that wasn’t the case for Mystras. The Rob Roy was nothing extraordinary, and too bitter for my taste. However, the signature Mystras cocktail was nothing like anything I have ever had before and makes me want to give scotch a shot!
The Hibiscus Negroni–a hibiscus-infused gin-based cocktail (a soft spot for me), topped with campari and sweet vermouth, was again too bitter for me. It tasted almost like a floral tea steeped for too long.
What actually stole the cocktail show was the Karlicious. A signature cocktail with cucumber, mint, lime, simple syrup and- wait-for-it- jagermeister! It was delicious! With the perfect sweetness, the jagermeister cocktail was an easy drink, a perfect pairing for the dominating flavoured entrees.
A sweet ending
Before calling it a night, already buzzed from the scotch and jagermeister cocktails, I called for a dessert. While I was keen on trying the chef’s special classic tiramisu, its unavailability made me try the creme brulee. And what an epilogue!
The server walked with a giant plate. The small bowl of creme brulee came with a side of lemon curd, crushed almond biscotti, and burnt meringue. The acidic flavour of the lemon curd and berry jam dominated the dessert, there were notes of coffee and tart crumble and the creme brulee was the perfect end that the flavorful dinner needed.
Before heading back, I decided to take another walk down the different seating areas at Mystras. It almost felt like I was transporting through different countries, and even eras.
Each space gives out a vibe that is distinct from the other, and that was the founder’s agenda– “Mystras was made so that visitors could come in and spend hours in an idyllic setting. We want to give our visitors a slice of Europe sitting in the heart of Goa. We want them to feel like they have been transported to a different world altogether– one of pure beauty, fun and joy.”
Mystras did feel like a quick European escapade on a Wednesday night. And while Assagao offers an impressive lineup of fine-dining restaurants, a visit to Mystras is worth the experience that it offers.
Timings: Monday to Sunday, 12 PM to 12 AM
Cost for two: Approximately Rs 3,500 (including taxes)
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti