Sparking up nostalgia by serving up homestyle, traditional Goan cuisine, this hidden gem stowed away in the heart of Muttrah may just be Team Y’s greatest find yet.
It’s like taking a trip back in time. Weathered doors from the early 1970s, floors that seem to be direct from an Alfred Hitchcock film set, a vested guard eyeing us as we walk past his wooden booth, and an earthy fragrance that’s reminiscent of a seaside abode – our entry into the rustic Marina Hotel in Muttrah is nothing short of old school.
It’s all a bit too familiar, and we particularly take a shine to its bucolic ambience – having heard a multitude of glowing reviews of this restaurant nestled just by the Muttrah Fish Market and hidden away at the top of the hotel.
With that in mind, our elevator arrives. ‘Ting,’ it chimes as the doors part way to reveal a structure that can barely pass for a modern elevator. The clang is loud enough for each room to hear, we joke.
Arriving at the top, we’re greeted by narrow hallways and a small door that leads to the restaurant. There are no obvious markings of a restaurant but for a ‘Visa Accepted’ sticker and furniture that shouts ‘Oman in the 80s’ – but one thing’s for sure: this hole-in-the-wall has been making its mark for decades.
We opt for the sea view seats for supper, as the polite waiter walks us towards our table. It’s a small balcony that overlooks the Muttrah Corniche, His Majesty’s yachts, and the forts, and the cool breeze brought about by the cloudy skies creates an atmosphere that’s hard to beat.
The waiter presents two menus: one that showcases their decade-old best-sellers (think Indian curries and tikkas) and the other their new menu that caters to a wider audience who have a penchant for all things spicy. The latter includes Arabic grills and the like.
Our eyes immediately wander onto the Goan curries – a staple in the humble but hip state of Goa in India – that’s known for its lip-smacking and flavoursome spices.
We decide to skip the appetisers and keep things simple and order up a prawn curry and beef vindaloo along with some white rice.
It’s a long wait after placing the order; though, the ambience and availability of some flamboyant mocktails more than makes up for the wait. A good 30 minutes and four bevvies are downed before the waiter brings us our dishes.
But, boy, it’s worth the wait.
Simplicity is key here. Presented in a tall bowl, the presentation of the prawn curry and the vindaloo is far from what you can expect in a fancier resto.
But, drawing up comparisons would be unfair – it’s hands-down the prawn curry to be the best we’ve ever had in a restaurant in Oman. We’re even confident that it can give curries prepped in Goa a run for their money.
Seasoned to perfection with spices (which include garlic, red chilies, and turmeric) and topped off with fresh coconut milk and fresh prawns, the curry falls right into our list of all-time favourites for its succulent flavour.
A hint of tanginess is brought in by tomatoes but isn’t overpowering enough to steal the richness of the spices from the gravy, or the crunchy, well-seasoned prawns. It’s the perfect companion with plain rice – and it takes us back in time to the days when our mother would cook for us. The brilliance of the dish we sense in every bite – from the gravy to the prawns.
The beef vindaloo, on the other hand, is a spicy affair. Mixed up with ground red chilies, chilli powder, paprika, and traditional Indian spices, this Indo-Portuguese delight hits all the right notes and tingles our palate – just as we expect from the dish.
That said, with the vindaloo the chef opts for a tangier approach to the gravy – likely in a bid to mellow down the spice levels for their usual crowd using ripened tomatoes. It still ranks delicious in our books and is worth its’ asking price of RO5.
A restaurant hidden away atop a hotel from a bygone era hardly seems like a spot where you’d be served up delicious homestyle fare – but this find in the Marina Hotel proves us wrong. Home-cooked food away from home is, quite literally, in the last place you’d look in Oman: Muttrah.
It may be worth marking down this restaurant on your Google Maps, as it’s already become our go-to spot when nostalgia hits us hard.
Opposite the Muttrah Fish Market, Muttrah, Muscat
Opening hours: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., daily
Contact: (+968) 2471-3100
Traditional Goan cuisine meets the mystical seaside aura of Muttrah in this two-decade-old Indian eatery.
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