Route 88 – DXB -> GOA

Ground Level, Block B2, 
Street 10B, Sheikh Hamdan Colony,
Al Karama, Dubai

15th January, 2017

Hello! Hello! Hello-o-o! Are you there? Where are you guys? Hello! Hello-o-o! Is this some kind of joke?

Ever faced a situation wherein you have had to speak (or in this case SCREAM!) the above dialogue? Was it met with an eerie silence? If the answer to both questions is a resounding ‘Yes!’, then what I’m about to tell you over the course of the next few paragraphs might be something you will resonate with. Even to those fortunate enough to have never had the pleasure of facing such a situation, I am sure, by now, you have all watched Home Alone – the movie from which the dialogue was picked up from – and will relate with what I am about to tell you. 

Now this story doesn’t involve me being left home alone, after all, my family is not like the McAllisters. We don’t have 13-14 nieces and nephews living at home with us. But what this story does involve is a lot of change of plans and a silence only matched by the lambs.

13th January 2017 – Friday the 13th! After a dreadful 2016, it was only natural that the first 13th day of the year be a Friday. To some, Friday the 13th is considered the most evil of all days. To others, a superstition that gained prominence by those horror/slasher movies. Personally the day has never thrown an unexpected wrench in any of my plans, and so when it arrived in 2017, I didn’t expect anything new. And that’s where I was wrong.

It seemed only yesterday that I was in the midst of a hundred people counting down to New Year 2017 at the Coldplay concert in Abu Dhabi. Now it was already mid-January. Time sure flies when you’re unemployed and writing blogs doesn’t it? I was sitting, idly, in front of my laptop when I realized that it had been over a week since I last hung-out with my friends. Never in the history of my visits to Dubai had there been a week-long gap between our ‘meets’. Not wanting to extend this particularly dreadful record, it was time to plan something.

“What’s up people! Been a while since we met. Plan something?” Whoosh!  Message sent. Awaiting reply.

“Hello. Guys? You there? Hello!”

We live in a world in which technology is an all-pervasive, integral, and prominent part of society. Everything can be done with either a click of a button or a swipe of a screen. Any device found to be in requirement of manual labour  is looked upon with such disdain, that if it were alive, it would question its purpose in life. Fortunately (or unfortunately), in this modern technology obsessed world, it is possible for an individual to check whether his message has not only been sent but read as well. 

Taking advantage of this technological advancement, I checked whether the message had been read by the rest of the group. Bar one member (who was in Australia, and I had a feeling wouldn’t be a part of the plan), the rest had seen it. Furious at the lack of response, I decided not to nudge them further, and let nature and fate take its course.

Ding! Ding! Ding! It wasn’t until later in the evening when the messages began to pour in.

Time for a bit of plagiarized poetry!

Six old school friends planning a hang;

One said “Busy with parents” and then there were CINQ;

Five old school friends planning to go outdoor;

Ding! came a message – “Going out of town”, and then there were FOUR;

Four old school friends, a dinner meet do I see?;

“Can’t make it bro”, and then there were THREE!

Three out of six. Not what I had expected, but it’ll do for now. Take that Friday the 13th!

“Cool! So, what’s the plan for tomorrow?”

Going by the silence, it would seem that I had just asked a rhetorical question. Not wanting to waste time, I thought it best to decide what we were going to do the next day. I had two options up my sleeve. The first was a trip to the Dubai Creek Gold & Yacht Club, the latest venue of the annual TruckersDXB and home to over twenty food trucks from across the country. The second – lunch at one of the numerous restaurants in Dubai offering diners outdoor seating (in particular due to the brilliant weather), followed by a hunt for one of them Parker’s keys (for more information on the keys, read ‘A Key to Nothing’).

14th January 2016 (10:30 a.m.) – Nearly two hours left for lunch (yes, I eat at 1230!) and not a word from my friends on where we were going to meet, what we were going to eat, and what we were going to do after. It wasn’t helping that my mother kept enquiring whether I was going to be at home for lunch or go out.

Ding! A message. Finally! Hope at last! Or so it seemed. “Hey looks like I won’t be able to make it today. Let’s meet up another day.” The curse of Friday the 13th had struck its second blow.

Time for a bit of paraphrased poetry again!

Three old school friends, perhaps a lunch with a view;

“I won’t be able to make it today”, Oh dear! And then there were TWO!

Resorted to believing that today was not the day I was going to meet my friends, I told my mum to prepare lunch at home.

Ding! A message. Surely this was the third and final blow of the curse of Friday the 13th.

“Hey. Listen. How about we do lunch tomorrow at Eric’s?”

I wasn’t going to say no to that!

15th January 2017 – It was time to head out! I got off the elevator, and as I made my way out of the apartment building, I was met by the most peculiar sight. Traffic! Given the location of my building, on the outskirts of Dubai, never would I have expected traffic up the wazoo. As I got into a taxi, my surprise was reiterated by the taxi driver. “It’s not even a weekend!” I remarked. “It is a weekend” replied the driver, to my amazement. I checked the calendar on my phone just to be sure. Sunday – 15th January 2017! “But it’s a Sunday!” I exclaimed, hoping for a correction. “Yes sir, it is a Sunday” came the reply. It took me the entire journey of 45 minutes to comprehend our short conversation, and as the taxi parked by the side of a narrow road, I gave up trying to make any sense of what had happened.

It was a bright, sunny day, and as I exited the taxi, I could feel the sun beating down on my face. It was time to head inside for some shade, and most importantly for some food. Lying deep in the heart of the old city of Karama, Dubai, Eric’s comes closest than many restaurants to providing an aura of ‘home’ to its diners. Located below a building, the restaurant occupies majority of the ground floor floor space. As we made our way in, I could have sworn we left Dubai behind us. Where we were now was at the entrance of a cosy shack situated beachside in sunny Goa, the interiors of which resembled the early ages of Portuguese colonization – Portuguese/Goan style caricatures and art covered the walls of the restaurant.

The restaurant was empty that day. Not a surprise, given the location and the fact that it wasn’t a weekend. We were seated at a table for four, and the waiter immediately thrusted the menus into our hands. Eric’s is known for its Goan cuisine, not surprising given the decor of the restaurant, but upon the reading the menu, I found it to have an extensive list of Mughlai, Chinese, and Thai dishes. Reading the menu, I wasn’t sure of what to order. Naturally, I left the decision to my capable friend, who has had the opportunity of visiting Eric’s before.

It was on his discretion that we decided to order from the Asian section of the menu. When the waiter approached us, we placed our order – one portion of the Fantastic Chicken (boneless!); one portion of the Crispy Beef in BBQ Sauce; one plate of Vegetarian Szechuan Fried Rice; and one glass of Fresh Lime Water (sweet!).

Prior to visiting Eric’s, I had done my research on the place, and certain online reviews had me believe that the service at the restaurant was slow, and famished as we were, I was quite skpetical. On the contrary, I found service to be quite impeccable and prompt. First came the drink – the fresh lime water. To help keep my hunger at bay, I thought it wise to take a sip or two of my drink. No sooner had my lip touched the drink than my face turned into a grotesque abstract art. The acidity and sourness from the lime permeated throughout the drink, and the lack of any sweetness made the drink quite unbearable and difficult to finish.

Next came our entrees – the Fantastic Chicken and the Crispy Beef. The aroma from the dishes set our tummies alight, and all we eagerly awaited for was the Szechuan Fried Rice. We divided the quantity of the dishes among the two of us, and as we got ready to dig in (sans rice!), the waiter approached our table with the fried rice.

Plated in front of us was the perfect representation of a cosy-home cooked Asian meal that I would order on any given day, should I feel the urge for it. The portions seemed quite sufficient (and then some more) for the two of us. If there was any regret, it was that we ordered items that all looked alike in terms of the colour (as can be seen in the picture on the left!), and all of them were dry dishes. 

These regrets, however, would be inconsequential if the dishes tasted as good as they smelt. Fortunately, they did! To give you, readers, an overall experience of the taste of the dishes that we ordered, I’m going to review each dish separately. To make it easy, I will be using the picture to decide the order. 

And so, in accordance with this order, I will start with the Szechuan fried rice. If I were to start with the basics, I would have to say that the rice was cooked properly, and it had all the hallmarks of being an authentic Chinese dish – the right vegetables and the right amount of Szechuan sauce. If I were to criticize one thing about the dish, it would have to be the level of spice. For an average human being, the dish would be on the higher end of the ‘spice’ spectrum. For us Indians, however, the level of spice in the dish would be quite bearable.

 ( From left to right ): Szechuan Fried Rice; Fantastic Chicken (Boneless); Crispy Beef in BBQ Sauce; Fresh Lime Water
(From left to right): Szechuan Fried Rice; Fantastic Chicken (Boneless); Crispy Beef in BBQ Sauce; Fresh Lime Water

Next, I move on to the Fantastic Chicken. A weird name innit? Sort of a self-proclaimed title for the chicken. Some would argue ‘What’s in a name?’. While that may be true in a certain Shakespearean sense, in the food business, everything is in the name, for the right description, the right title can be an influential factor in a diner’s decision. And so it was now up to the taste of the dish to live up to its name. The original dish, as described in the menu, is a chicken lollypop (no not that sort of lollipop!) – which is nothing but chicken legs. However, I applaud the flexibility and willingness of Eric’s kitchen staff to prepare a boneless version of the dish. When plated in front of us, I believed the dish to be the spiciest of the lot. It was to my surprise, then, that the dish lacked the spiciness that I had expected. And that was a good thing! For if the dish was spicy, then along with the fried rice, it would made for one mouth-watering (not in a good way), water-gulping, hot meal. Deep fried in batter, the dish was crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. The chicken, thankfully, was cooked through and through and made for a sumptuous meal. It was only on a rare occasion or two that I found the batter to come off the chicken, due to the heaviness of the batter, making it for a very crunchy bite.

I come now to the last dish of the day – the Crispy Beef in BBQ sauce. Similar to the chicken, the beef had been deep fried in batter to give us the extra bit of crunchy texture – another mistake in our order! However, unlike the previous dish, there was no instance wherein the batter fell off the beef, which made it overall a pleasant dish to eat. As I helped myself to another portion of the beef dish, I was reminded of my short stay in Bangalore, during which a visit to a family friend brought with it an opportunity to eat some of the delicious Kerala Beef fry, a dish not unlike the one we were currently eating at Eric’s. The BBQ sauce was not overpowering, and the slight blandness of the dish overall complemented the spice levels of the Szechuan fried rice.

We barely managed to polish off the three plates put in front of us, before we decided to call it a day. When the waiter approached us for desserts, a course we normally would have room for in our stomachs no matter how heavy the main course, we decided against it. We asked him for the bill, which surprisingly took longer than our main courses to arrive, and when it did, the amount was certainly nothing to gawk at. We paid the bill, and made our way outside to the blistering heat, hoping to visit the restaurant in the near future to try out their more authentic dishes. All in all, the restaurant did not disappoint, and was exactly the “comfort” food I had expected prior to my visit. 

Eric's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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