Thursday, January 31, 2013

Foodtrip to Goa - Best Places to Eat in Goa

I doubt if any coastal line on the Arabian Sea is as famous as Goa in the globe (could have said ‘the universe’ but I am not too sure about aliens as they are yet to come up with their own travelogues J) In the peak season, Goa’s aboriginals are reduced to minority and what we could see is herds of foreign tourists whizzing past the narrow roads of Goa. And since they are not always on the bike, they can be always found in different restaurants, cafeterias, shacks or their residential places. Tourists and travelers from such diverse territories congregate here. It is obvious that people generally find comfort in home food. The best example could be a houseboat in Dal Lake, Sri Nagar serving Poha to a Maharashtrian entourage or Idli Wada overpowering the chole puri at Vaishno Devi Shrine at Katara.
Goa’s popularity brings in tourists and travelers from diverse cultures and countries. No wonder it has emerged as one of the best food hubs in India due to the quality and variety of food served here. Some have actually evolved into institutions like Tito’s, Curlies, Martin’s. Myself and my colleague, Ashish (@ashish0712 on twitter)were keen to make the weekend trip to Goa as a memorable food trip, making the most of the available 2 days in Goa. Me being a vegetarian had done enough research and also took an expert opinion for the places to visit.
Following is the guide especially for veggies to enjoy Goa’s food to the fullest if you happen to be in North Goa (North and South of Chapora River)
1.       Breakfast  at Lila Café – This was a no brainer. Just before the trip, I had seen the ‘Highway on My Plate’ episode anchored by the legendary Rocky and Mayur (@rockyandmayur on twitter) eating their way in Goa. Although Rocky had a wonderful spread of his beloved meat stuff on the table, Mayur was not at all disappointed by the vegetarian options available. This place was marked for the breakfast on Sunday.
Fruit Bowl
Due to a tiring drive from Mumbai to Goa via NH17 on Saturday, it took us a while to understand that we are little late for breakfast on Sunday. Who cares? Make merry, have brunch! We reached Lila Café on the banks of River Bagha in minimal time using Google’s navigation system.
Located at the quaint spot, with white muslin drapes and white furnishings inside, cheerfulness vibrates in the space.
Veg Baguette, Croissant and Cheese Omlette
We settled at our table and like genuine foodies ordered a fruit bowl to start our breakfast. I was keen to try their muesli with curd but since we had already ordered for fruit bowl, I dropped the idea and turned towards more genuineness. Soon a vegetable baguette with cheese slices and a mighty croissant with plum jam appeared in front of me. In the meanwhile, Ashish had got his cheese tomato omlette which he loved and appreciated while eating. The veg baguette was good and filling though I must mention that the croissant we had was the best till date. With the plum jam and salted butter along with a cup of piping hot milk tea, we could have easily gobbled more. But we controlled ourselves. I dearly missed the pumpernickel bread which is also a signature dish of any German eatery.
So the day started well and we were happy for our belly as well as our soul. This is indeed a must visit and highly recommended place for all day breakfast in Goa.

Breakfast for 2 – INR 500-600 (veg)

RATINGS  :  Taste – 9/10  Ambience – 9/10  Service – 8/10  VFM – 8/10  

2.       Late Lunch at Baba Au Rhum, Arpora – Set in the residential area of Arpora in North Goa, this lovely pizzeria cum bakery is slightly difficult to spot at first place. Me and Ashish went about doing several rounds of Arpora before our navigation system failed and landed us in an unlikely residential area in Gaura Vaddo. You just have to be vigilant about a small boulevard on the left hand side while going towards Club Cabana in Arpora. You will never regret the efforts taken to reach this place.
Baba Au Rhum is popular for baking fabulous pizzas in Goa and is a reliable supplier of bakery stuff to most of the Goan food establishments. An afternoon visit to insipid Fort Aguada gave us some reason to do mandatory exercise and hence, even after good brunch at Lila Café, we landed at Baba Au Rhum. It didn’t take much time to finalize the order as we settled for a Mediterranean Pizza and a Caprise Salad.
The Caprise Salad which consists of discs of tomatoes topped with fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese and sprinkled with generous amount of basil leaves is served with warm breads. It tastes delicious. The showstopper however was the amazing pizza we had. Extremely soft base which forced us to use both the hands to hold the pie, was topped with melted cheese, sundried tomatoes, olives made it a heavenly affair. We further used the Caprise Salad stuff to enrich the topping of our pizza. Okay…this is the best pizza I ever had till date! We just felt that these guys are importing the pizza straightway from Napoli in Italy itself.
The homemade ice-cream at BAR is also very famous. But ironically, as with Lila Café we missed the pumpernickel bread, the most sought after chocolate ice cream was not available. The BAR guy recommended strawberry over lemon and it turned out to be very good ice-cream. Not too sweet, retaining the original taste of strawberries was a fantastic closure to our late lunch at BAR.
Never to miss the pizzas. You will be cursed if you miss these pizzas being in Goa.

A salad, a pizza and an ice-cream – INR 600

RATINGS :  Taste – 9/10 (Pizza 10/10) Ambience – 7/10 Service – 7/10 VFM – 8/10

3.       Dinner at Thalassa, Vagator – Thalassa is the place which is dubbed as arguably the best dinner venue in Goa and was the planned highlight of our Goa Food Trip. Thalassa specializes in Greek food (Thalassa itself means ‘the sea’ in Greek) Perched on the beautiful Vagator beach, Thalassa offers breathtaking view of the sunset as well as the sea. However, after having a late lunch at 4 pm, I was not keen to go to Vagator to enjoy the sunset. We came back to our beach shack at Anjuna and spent the evening drinking black tea and walking on the beach to prepare ourselves for the dinner.
The only mistake we made that we ignored the words ‘best dinner place’ and drove to Thalassa considering that a table would be waiting for us. As we entered the place, we were surprised to see the jam packed restaurant. We ignored one more thing…OMG…its Sunday! The attendant politely told us that it was unlikely that we would get a table as many are still in waiting and we had no prior reservations. Our hearts sank. I frantically pleaded with the attendant to make some arrangement but all in vain.
However Ashish came up with a brilliant idea of waiting at the bar where they serve starters also and pray to God to give us a table by the time we have spent enough money on starters. Fortunately, we found empty chairs at the bar and immediately ordered two caipiroskas (one of course a virgin for me!). How interesting that a drink without alcohol has the prefix of Virgin! Browsing through the starter’s menu, I first contemplated on Kalamata Olive Paste but dropped the idea of experimenting and went for Farmer’s Bruschetta. By the time we had couple of sips of our caipiroskas, the attendant came and directed us towards our table. We couldn’t stop thanking our luck.
Ratatouille/ Briami
The joy doubled as we settled at our table, I fired another salvo of another starter – Mini Pies (small super crispy samosas with separate stuffing of spinach and cheese). Then the farmer’s bruschettas arrived. These were the mightiest bruschettas I have ever seen in my life and we certainly had difficulty in eating them because of very tasty and heavy toppings. While going through the veg menu, the word which caught my attention was “Briami or Ratatouille” and with the consultation from our courteous waitress, we finalized veg. moussaka (Vegetable Lasagne) as well as Mushroom Lasagne. Lasagne is a type of pasta which is generally a rectangular shaped ribbon with generous fillings of vegetable and cheese topped with béchamel cheese baked in oven.
The lasagna busted my earlier notion of it being sweet and tasted amazing. I enjoyed my mushroom lasagna while Ashish hooked on to his Veg Moussaka. And then came the Briami (ratatouille), the Greek version of the famous vegetable stew topped with generous amount of cheese blocks with warm breads. Me and Ashish found it slightly tangier to our palette though happily finished it.
Baklava
I had already decided to order a ‘Baklava’ as our desert. Baklava is a sweet pastry finding its origin in Turkey and part of the cuisines of Ottoman Empire of Turkey and Central and Southwest Asia. Baklava has a characteristic taste and I actually liked it but Ashish was not too excited. After polishing off the Baklava, all we could have a big smile on our face. Thalassa turned out be the best place as it was expected.




Dinner for 2 – INR 3000

RATINGS :  Taste – 9/10 Ambience – 10/10 Service – 9/10 VFM – 8/10

4.       Lunch at La Plage, Ashwem – Drive to La Plage took us almost 1.5 hours from Old Goa. The suave French eatery located on the quaint Ashwem beach dishes out one of the best French fusion stuff in Goa. Supposed to be thronged by who’s who clientele, we didn’t spot any on a quiet Monday afternoon. But who cares when all we care is about food!
La Plage is probably the best place to have a lunch as the food is amazing and the view from the restaurant is superb. La Plage’s menu is pretty compact and offers very less veg options (considering its international clientele). It didn’t take us much time to finalize our order.
To start with, we ordered two virgin mojitos (firangi nimbu paani). Could be the best thing you can enjoy while looking at the lovely Ashwem beach. However, the “Bloody Mary Fusion” is also one of the highly recommended stuff in cocktails.
Couscous
We started with a humble ‘Laotian Salad’ and after tasting it, understood that why La Plage is so popular. Such a simple dish of vegetables with zest of vinegar and crushed peanuts tasted tantalizing. This was served with three fluffy warm breads which can be compared to Kashmir’s own tsochworu bread. Ashish though was slightly unhappy since breads were not stuffed with something spicy J.
For the main course, we selected Veg Tajine with Couscous and Pumpkin & Saffron Risotto. And since I have tasted both these dishes, I can swear by them. J Couscous as some of you might know, is a staple diet in Morocco and neighboring countries like  Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. The Veg Tajine (Vegetable Stew) served with couscous was out of the world. The taste of every vegetable was distinct yet so subtle that I simply closed my eyes to enjoy it. The accompanying sauce was like a cherry on top adding zestiness of chili to the dish. Risotto somehow suffers from the syndrome of being non-spicy and hence, not liked by Indians. However, risotto can be enjoyed again with its subtle flavors which emanate from its original ingradients. And the flavours are never ‘in your face’ kind as with Indian dishes. The risotto with roasted pumpkin and saffron was divine.
Roasted Pumpkin and Saffron Risotto
How I wished that I should have tasted Panna Cotta, the Italian delicacy. However, we were running late and hence didn’t have the luxury of enjoying Panna Cotta. May be some other day!
Conclusion is very simple here too. The best place to have lunch in Goa! So although La Plage is low on spread, it scores heavily on taste. Don’t miss this place!

Lunch for 2 – INR 1400
RATINGS  : Taste – 10/10  Ambience – 10/10  Service – 9/10  VFM – 8/10


Vote of Thanks - This blog or trip wouldn't have been possible without the guidance of Mr. Maulik Sharedalal, our guide on all aspects of life as well as THE BEST RESTAURANTS TO DINE ACROSS THE GLOBE! :)



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