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Where to find the best local food in Goa

By Mini Ribeiro
December 10, 2015 16:32 IST
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Mini Ribeiro picks 5 best places to dig into Goan cuisine.

There is truth in the saying that you can get to the heart of a city, by sampling its local flavours. I agree wholeheartedly that indigenous flavours are best experienced where they originate and thus decided to rediscover Goa, through its unique culinary offerings, during my recent three day visit.

Goan cuisine is undoubtedly, flavoursome and palate-tickling and even more so when you combine the traditional Goan specialities, with food that has a contemporary twist, both in flavour and presentation.

And so I decided to visit some unusual eating places in Goa.

Goan cuisine

Photograph: Premshree Pillai/Creative Commons

My first stop was the classic restaurant in Panjim, Goa, which no sea food lover can miss.

Yes, Ritz Classic. Although the one on June Street is the oldest one and hugely popular, I decided to visit the new branch at Patto, Panjim. This one is certainly more swish. Thankfully, the food remains as good.

The Goan speciality section on the menu is my favourite. Chicken Xacuti, Shark Ambotik, rice and Fried King Fish is what I decided to indulge in for dinner.

The Xacuti, a popular Goan dish of Portuguese origin, had the authentic aroma and flavours of the fiery roasted spices and of course the hues of the Kashmiri red chillies. The coconut was well-ground and yet, had a pronounced flavour. And it paired well with rice. The fish was fresh and fried to perfection.

The Ambotik (tangy and spicy), curry lived up to its name and could not get any more authentic than this.

I had to round off my meal with the creamy, sinful caramel custard.

If one is at this place during lunch, their fish thali is sumptuous and worth a try.

Fort Tiracol, Goa

My lunch next day was at Fort Tiracol, a heritage hotel tucked away in an off-the-beaten track location in the northern-most tip of Goa. Although it is quite a long drive from Panjim, it is worth a visit.

This quaint looking place offers mouth-watering food, both global and local Goan specialities.  

Once an armed fortress that belonged to the Portuguese, Fort Tiracol offers a kaleidoscopic view of the Arabian Sea and the spectacular estuary of the Tiracol River.

There are multiple dining locations and the view from each, is simply breath-taking, as it overlooks the Keri beach.

The menu is varied and offers global dishes too, apart from authentic Goan fare. I played it safe and stuck to the local cuisine.

Goan prawn curry, Fish Rechado, Long Beans Foogath, fried fish and rice, which I sampled, turned out to be an apt selection.

The Fish Rechado Masala, ground in vinegar, set my taste buds tingling. Oh! How I had been longing for this.

The Long Beans Foogath, a dry preparation with subtle spices and copious amounts of coconut was an absolute treat and balanced the pungent fish Rechado extremely well.

Escapade restaurant, Goa

In the midst of the crowded Calangute beach area, lies this avant-garde and swanky place spread over several acres – Destination One.

The restaurant Escapade, offers an Al Fresco dining experience, apt for Goa. It has a vast menu offering an array of dishes from several cuisines and exciting cocktails.

The Spanish Jospar Charcoal grill section here is obviously the highlight, but when in Goa, I prefer to stick to the local cuisine.

The Goan in me, settled for a Goan fish curry and rice. The presentation of the dishes here definitely enhances the appeal of the food. The curry was a bit mild, compared to the ones at home, yet, lip-smacking in terms of flavours and the fish, soft and fresh, enveloped in the curry.

The only aberration in my meal was my global dessert, which I could not resist. A New York cheese cake served with blue berry compote. Decadent and perfectly made, in terms of textures.

This place can burn a hole in one’s wallet, but the ambience and spectacular view, along with the good food is what one pays for happily, I guess.

Anantashram, Goa

One cannot visit Vasco in Goa and not eat at Anantashram. That would be sacrilege. The vast menu offers regular Indian food specialities and of course Goan food as well.

King Fish Curry, Tisrya (clams), Fried fish, Mutton Xacuti and surprisingly their biryanis, especially the egg biryani, are a must-try here. For a change, I succumbed to the temptation of a biryani and was pleasantly surprised at the robust flavours.

This egg biryani, was definitely one of the best ones I have eaten across India.

Interestingly, their Hindu Saraswat food which is less spicy, but replete with curry leaves, coconut oil and tamarind, as compared to the Goan Catholic cuisine, is equally renowned and they serve a value-for-money thali.

A Reverie, Goa

I decided to have my last meal at this romantic eatery, nestled in Calangute, Goa, A Reverie.

Owners Aakritee and Virendra Sinh have recently given the global fusion cuisine at their restaurant, a Goan touch, which I was lucky to experience.

The food here is unique in presentation, as well as taste.  Fusion food at its best.

The Choriz Bao (Steamed Bao with Spicy Goan sausage filling) was an interesting take on this traditional dish.

I loved the fact that the chef remained true to the flavours and textures, but played around with the presentation.

The Birds and The Bees (compressed boneless chicken wings with a vindaloo and teriyaki glaze), was equally a surprise owing to the combination of the vindaloo masala with the Japanese teriyaki. Open only for dinner, this place serves great food and an idyllic setting.

Do try it on your next visit.

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Mini Ribeiro