Goa gets its very first Nikkei restaurant, Heliconia at JW Marriott Goa

Schenelle Dsouza
Goa is one of those destinations with a brimming culinary scene. No matter the number of times you’ve visited, it’s always possible to find a host of new places each time. If you are planning a trip to Goa anytime soon, then here’s why JW Marriot’s new Heliconia restaurant must be on your to-do list.
The sunshine state of Goa gets its very first Nikkei restaurant, Heliconia that captures the authenticity of Japanese and Peruvian flavours, both in terms of cuisine and ambience. The restaurant is named after the Peruvian flower, heliconia, which is also available in abundance in Goa. The kitchen is helmed by Peruvian chef, Arturo Castro Salazar. His exceptional skill are displayed through signature selections such as carretillero, tuna tataki, avocado gunkan, hamachi nigiri, yasai wrap, misoyaki, and daikon noodles.
Chef Arturo Castro Salazar
Chef Arturo Castro Salazar
Tropical Ambience 
The interiors of Heliconia do justice to the natural setting of Goa; soaring trees, tropical landscapes, and plenty of lush greenery. Warm, earthy tones of brown, beige, and green envelopes the space, while specks of gold, red and blue add just the right amount of vibrance. The restaurant is also decorated with distinct plants, scattered throughout the space, soothing to the eye.
Heliconia JW Marriott Goa Vagator
Photo Courtesy: Heliconia
The namesake flower, heliconia, is highlighted beautifully across the restaurant, making an appearance along faux-painted windows, napkins and even the cocktails, while traditional Japanese square ceilings and wood and rattan furniture are representative of traditional Japanese elements.
The indoors seldom feel different from the outdoors, especially when you pick the right spot. For me, it was the glass-walled section near the very entrance of the restaurant — an ideal spot during the day if you don’t mind a little sun in your eyes. Having visited during the monsoon, we were treated to a magical downpour which was the perfect setting for our meal.
Heliconia JW Marriott Goa Vagator
Photo Courtesy: Heliconia
Appetizers 
Sitting down at what was the most perfect spot in the restaurant, we spent a few moments taking in the soothing ambience before beginning our meal. A refreshing non-alcoholic beverage, made with ginger, lime, and clove kickstarted our meal followed by an amuse-bouche.
Amuse Bouche - Heliconia
Amuse Bouche
Sweet and savoury, the amuse-bouche had a symphony of flavour with pineapple salsa, Japanese cucumber and guacamole topped with pomegranate seeds. The light bite amuse bouche was followed by a light Japanese cucumber salad with lemon and edamame.
Salad - Heliconia
Salad
This seemed like a good time to sip on a cocktail. Upon our server’s suggestion, I decided to go with the restaurant’s speciality cocktail, a Heliconias Pisco Sour. A La Botija Pisc base paired with clove, lime, sugar, and egg white and topped with a heliconia flower imprint and charred pineapple. Sweet, sour and refreshing, this was a great opener after the welcome drink!
Heliconias Pisco Sour - Heliconia
Heliconias Pisco Sour
The appetizers at Heliconia are perfect for those looking to enjoy a multitude of flavours without larger, heavy portions filling them out. The first in the appetizers was a duo of vegetarian and non-vegetarian gyozas, wild mushroom and chicken gyozas. This is perhaps the first time I’ve preferred a vegetarian variant over the other. The wild mushroom gyoza has a shiitake mushroom and tofu filling with caramelized shallots, garlic confit and sweet chilli, which made for a heavenly blend of sweet, creamy, and savoury textures. The chicken gyoza was delicious but fell behind the brilliance of the wild mushroom gyoza.
Wild Mushroom Gyoza - Heliconia
Wild Mushroom Gyoza
The plating in Heliconia was one of the standout moments at Heliconia. Our next appetizer, which was an assortment of delicious salmon, tuna and mushroom ceviche, came served on tiny marble stands laid out on a large wooden tray filled with ice. A tiny bowl of dry ice and water gave the ceviche a fun fogg effect.
Assortment of Ceviche - Heliconia
Assortment of Ceviche
Adding to the merriment of the meal, our next trio of appetizers included crunchy tofu tacos, seafood norimaki, and crispy cheese asparagus roll.
Crispy Cheese Asparagus Roll - Heliconia
Crispy Cheese Asparagus Roll
I’ve never been an ardent fan of tofu mostly because of the lack of flavour when cooked. However, the crunchy tofu tacos took me by surprise. Dallops of cream cheese paired with spicy mayo and creamy guacamole complemented the usually lacklustre flavour of tofu, giving it a beautifully balanced flavour.
Crunchy Tofu Tacos - Heliconia
Crunchy Tofu Tacos
A second cocktail seemed appropriate after the host of appetizers. This time I went with another specialty called The Full Moon. A very artsy cocktail, the drink is prepared with a Monkey 47 gin base paired with a pineapple, cranberry, and lime, juice concoction. A spice dusting on the top of the cocktail added a fun, zesty punch that paired perfectly with the tropical flavours of the drink.
Full Moon - Heliconia
Full Moon
Mains
The appetizers really left us feeling full and satisfied, but the mains did not disappoint either. We decided to opt for shared portions for the main course, going for a serving of norteños lamb chops, slow-cooked pork ribs, a plate of stir-fried udon noodles, and seafood rice.
Stir Fried Udon - Heliconia
Stir-Fried Udon
Slow Cooked Pork Ribs - Heliconia
Slow Cooked Pork Ribs
The lamb chops and pork ribs were strong competitors for me, with the former winning me over. The pork ribs had a tangy nikkei BBQ sauce dressing which was an interesting plate, however, the lamb chops were much more tender and had a burst of spiced flavour which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Slow Cooked Norteños Lamb Chops - Heliconia
Slow Cooked Norteños Lamb Chops
Dessert 
Dessert is always my favourite part of any menu, not (only) because I enjoy sweet treats, but also because it’s exciting to try out new desserts that move away from the overly done classics. Heliconia’s dessert menu is fun and experimentative, with its unusual take on classics. We went with the chocolate pebble and Peruvian tres leche two very distinct dishes that both stood out beautifully.
Peruvian Tres Leches Cake - Heliconia
Peruvian Tres Leches Cake
The Peruvian tres leches, again beautifully plated, had a light and fluffy cake with a sweet custard filling and a sweet serving of frozen strawberry yoghurt. One of the good things about this dessert, despite its sweetened layer, was that it had a well-balanced flavour rather than a sugary taste.
The chocolate pebble was a much richer dessert. Like the tres leches, this one too had an impressive construction of layers, textures and flavours. It had a layer of rich chocolate mousse with cookie crumbs and caramelized ice cream. A dark chocolate and candy floss tree stood at the centre of the mousse adding to the aesthetic of the dessert. This was a perfectly wrapped sweet treat and perhaps an excellent way to end your meal at Helcionia.
Chocolate Pebble - Heliconia
Chocolate Pebble
Nikkei cuisine is often helmed as an acquired taste. Nonetheless, the menu at Heliconia presents itself as a something for everyone kind of place. The flavours, textures, and temperatures all appear to cater to almost every palate, and if you are in Goa looking to experiment with the Nikkei cuisine, then Heliconia is a worthy spot.
Cost for two: ₹8,000 plus taxes with alcohol.
Address: JW Marriott Goa, Vagator Beach Rd, Coutinho Vaddo, Bardez, Vagator, Goa 403509
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