Goa beckons the foodie with images of laid-back lunches interjected with a lazy swim in the ocean and languorous dinners with friends. Cookbook author Tushita Patel lists the must-visit restaurants for a scrumptious taste of Goa.
A Reverie is a restaurant greater than its parts. The joy comes from the personalities of its owners and the surprisingly good food. It is a restaurant you go to if you want to celebrate, dine on fine food, drink wine, but still feel the Goa vibe. Owners Virendra and Aakritee Sinh bring different skill sets which make this restaurant so successful. Virendra has the quality of assurance and dependability which helps when you’re trying to control a big party and thinking of how to order. Aakritee engulfs every diner with her warmth and knowledge of the menu and makes it a pleasure to dine at A Reverie. At a recent outing, we had a table of 24—a lot of us eating steak with a gorgeous potato mash, others trying the Thai platter, still others the fish and chips... At this restaurant, there’s variety, there’s honesty and there’s food presented in great style. The ambience is posh but relaxed.There’s always an air of warmth and celebration, backed up by real good food.
The Goa fantasy is not complete without a day at La Plage in Ashvem. This classy restaurant on a quiet, somewhat rocky beach serves immaculately fresh food. I dream of the fish ceviche and beef carpaccio with rocket and parmesan and cocktails at sunset. It is the kind of place you go to in the afternoon, snack on the creatively brilliant dishes, swim in the sea and feel invigorated.
It had me at ‘India’s only Burmese restaurant’. And it turned out to be spectacular. Bomra’s menu is stunning—their salad with pork crackling, pomegranate and pomelo almost brings me to tears. My experience of Burmese food is limited to what I’ve eaten in northern Thailand and India, cooked by expats (mostly Bengali) from Burma who introduced khow suey here. If Bomra’s food is what they eat in Myanmar, it has ruined me forever. Even the common squid and papaya salad is startlingly beautiful. I have to confess I have no memory of eating their main course. It’s always a balmy evening under the trees, eating one starter after another.
On my first trip to Goa during the monsoon, someone had told me to go to Florentine for Goan food. When I asked to be taken there, the taxi driver said, “Why do you want to go there? Taxi drivers eat there.” Funny coming from him, but true. Taxi drivers don’t care about trends. They go where the food is real and the booze cheap. Florentine serves Goan food, but it’s known for its chicken cafreal. The chicken is moist, coated in the green cafreal masala, wet enough to be eaten with the fermented Goan bread, poi. The skin of the chicken is just slightly burnt. There’s no better food than this on a rainy day in Goa with a glass of feni. Florentine serves other Goan dishes too, which are all excellent. But if you have to eat just one thing make sure it’s the cafreal.
Baba au Rhum
On the drinking detox days, it’s Baba au Rhum. If there’s a word to describe their food ethos, it’s sincere. Everything is fresh, and even while eating their sumptuous cheeseburger, there’s a certain element of feeling healthy. Their salads are delicious, their breads and croissants are made in-house and their pastries are superb in a very fine French way. This is the place you come to with a book, order a smoothie, read a bit, meet some people and just soak in the Goa vibe. And yes, bliss out on the food.
There are days in Goa when you don’t want sand in your feet and go to a bar instead of a shack or perhaps to a movie. Panaji is one of India’s most charming capitals, and Mum’s Kitchen one of the first ever restaurants to do justice to pan-Goan food—the food of the Hindus and the Catholics. This is a serious restaurant that has researched its recipes and perfected home-style cooking before putting the dishes on the menu. From a regular prawn curry where the prawns are plump and juicy and the spices balanced to the very rare harem maas (dry fried pork with onions, red chillies and cinnamon), the food is surprising because of its simplicity and depth of flavour. This is the go-to place for Goan fine cuisine.
This article first appeared in December 2013 issue of Hi! BLITZ magazine