We asked writer and Goa resident, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, to pick his top 10 restaurants. Here’s a celebration of North Goan classics and a few secret surprises.
It’s only a season old but Anjuna’s sparkling new addition, Mahe, has set a new bar for marvellous in Goa. Be it the exquisite decor — a solicitously restored old house with echoes of Geoffrey Bawa — or its refined culinary vision. I was floored by the aubergine recheado and the Sri Lankan mutton curry. To hold on to their newly minted tiara, Mahe must persist with the spectacular quality: in Goa, indolence often interrupts steadiness. Regardless of its future, Mahe, what an awesome entrance!
2. La Plage
Why is La Plage so consistently excellent? Perhaps because the French owners run their own show, manning the kitchen and serving the dishes themselves. The Moroccan-style chicken, a Monday special, is a fave, while the paella on Thursday is total jazz. The staff is attentive, the decor whimsical. I avoid La Plage around Christmas, when India’s urban wealthy descend here with an air of entitlement that sets off trustafarian detectors. La Plage, where I dine once a week, remains legend.
Sakana is my go-to restaurant for the best red snapper sashimi, homemade miso soup and chicken katsu, among countless delicious offerings. In its new location, there’s a sprawling garden, a totally jake boutique (ikat kimonos are the big thrill) and the food remains remarkably, consistently superb. Also, Sakana is now open year-round, evidence of Goa’s marker as a destination transcendent of winter season.
The W arrived in Goa with a bravado that screamed ‘Delhi farmhouse rich’. What makes me skedaddle back here is Chef Tanweer Kwatra’s peerless magic (I rate him as one of Asia’s finest culinarian). What’s not to love at The Spice Traders? Duck salad, goat cheese wonton, salmon nigiri — all come up aces at a restaurant powered by the energy and imagination of a chef who knows his trade like a whiz. Do. Not. Miss.
Gunpowder is now a Goan institution, and while it merits inclusion on this list for its Malabar paratha and prawns mappas alone, its menu has grown dusty over time. As Goa’s local food scene gets refined, Gunpowder must pull itself by the bootstraps and show everyone it is still a classic (and that the crown is not a wonky fit). Sevak, the restaurant manager, is a jewel of efficiency and charm.
I picked a private dining experience at Grand Hyatt’s Chulha when two friends were visiting from outside the town and we were blown away by the extraordinary selection of North Indian meat specialities (and grateful that in the private dining, no children pace the aisles). But it’s really their chaat that I’m latto over. If you love sev puri but are wary of street-side vendors — no offense, gastro bugs — then head to Hyatt’s Chulha. Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse, served a chaat selection for the 25th-anniversary celebrations of her legendary restaurant with good reason: I mean, hey foie gras, but bhel puri is still the business. Always root for Chula’s fresh sugarcane juice!
I had supper at Diva with Bina Punjani, Goa’s best stylist and she had kittens over the pizza (spectacularly thin crust, all dressed up in garden basil) while I was blown away by the ravioli that teamed magically with a flavourful red Shiraz from an honourable wine list. Helmed by the absurdly talented Ritu Dalmia, Delhi’s Diva gets a well- deserved out-station home in Goa at the Andores Resort and Spa in Calangute. Pick just one thing? Pizza!
I took a bunch of serious art collectors to dinner at Bhatti Village one evening. It’s humble, unpretentious and delectable. My friends — the kind who keep a Michelin score sheet — were charmed and terribly impressed by the fried whitebait and cashew xacuti, served in a decor that makes you feel like you’re eating in someone’s living room. Some regulars here look like they spent years lobbying for drinking hour to commence at 11 am — another reason I unconditionally adore Bhatti Village.
Elegant, fresh, sophisticated, Bomra’s is a staple — I’m even willing to schlep it to Candolim, which I shun. Their pork from the North Goa village of Aldona teams beautifully with the pickled tea leaf salad. And a dazzling selection of desserts, such as tender coconut panna cotta, makes this joint beloved to locals and visitors. Tip: go for lunch; most people assume it’s open only for dinner (so there are fewer diners). The service is warm and exceptional.
10. The Project Café
A relatively new entrant, I’d go to The Project Café for its exquisite decor and the Thai-themed dishes. Through the year, founder Drasty Shah hosts art shows, the design pieces are on sale, and I’d chalk up a date night here — request for a private setting by the pool.
This Anjuna pizzeria makes my cut on the basis of my meals here when it opened in spring 2018. The wood-fired pizza was exactly what I relished when I lived in Rome, perhaps even better. In the months since, the restaurant expanded on its offerings — resulting in some questionable detours — but pizza still remains boss. With a tighter menu, less optic time on cocktails and focus on pizza, Melt could become our local pizzeria of panache.
This is not a gourmet joint. But it’s so gloriously located in a quiet lane in Siolim, overlooking a small beach, I head here for the gloaming light. Come sundown and it’s absurdly romantic and when their Russian DJ spins a set, I feel sent up to a low-cal nabe of Ibiza. Quirky selection of local brews and reliable calamari and you’re all set to pop the big question: Honey, can we open up this marriage?
On the Horizon
Mojigao: Darling treehouse-like location, handsome bread; menu needs a spit and polish.
Baba’s Wood Cafe: Owned by the charming Maria Grazia, its salmon with rocket and the pasta selection is unfailingly delish.
Burger Factory: Out on Morjim Beach, I go to watch millennials break up over pitcher cocktails (forgive the service woes here).
Matcha: A tiny tin shed in Anjuna, it’s Japanese, authentic, minimal, and whimsical.
La Botanique: With a French chef who knows her Sunday roast, we’re glad it is open year-round.
Flour Power Bakeria: An Indo-Swiss couple bake everything by hand, including the best sourdough in Goa.