This is for my love of dining out and sharing my favorites with you.
Scroll down to check out honest reviews of restaurants
I’ve visited and dined at.
Petisco is a softly lit gastrobar, with staggered green and gold patterns that define contemporary chic. Spread across three levels, it is well-appointed with dark wood and brick hues emerging as an even theme. It is an informal yet ostensibly formal louche dinner spot.
Everyone needs a pick-me-up now and then. For us, this was between shopping and making the long drive home. The promise of a hot drink and a snack was too delicious to pass up and we end up at The Chocolate Room in Margao.
Red Ginger, no doubt, takes all the anxiety out of the quest for quality Asian cuisine. It’s impressive without being ostentatious. This new location is quite spiffy. There is a nice sit-out, a lovely interior and cozy looking first floor.
Perched on top of a cliff at Anjuna-Goa, Purple Martini has a vantage point. The most breath-taking view you can imagine. It’s a pat on the back. A splash of rain on the cheek. An exuberant hug of welcome.
Buzz is a crucial lever of the restaurant scene. It will put more patrons in seats and napkins on lapels than grand taste, fancy seasonings or organic produce. Tataki has made moves on Panaji- in a swashbuckling yet subtle way by placing itself in Panaji’s most happening corner.
Located in Campal Goa, the Black Market doesn’t demand attention, but commands it regardless. The ambience, the meals, the music and the dessert can be appreciated in isolation- but it’s all part of the same adventure.
Located in the vibrant Latin Quarter of Goa, Fontainhas, accessed via a tiny inner road and an easily missed entrance, Viva Panjim rests in a quaint heritage cottage. Crammed with tables and chairs, and cluttered with knicky-knacky pictures, this restaurant will never be ornate or lavish. And, therein lies its charm.
Martin’s layering of successive generations of cooks, customers and Goan sensibilities is one source of its lingering charm to locals and tourists.
Riverside dining with break-taking views
You find your way into a lane leading off Colva Beach, drive up a road flanked by green fields, and park by a seemingly long living room, overlooking carpets of green. A hinterland meal fantasy come true.
At first glance, Leda Balcao looks like a typical Goan heritage home converted into a restaurant. All scarred dark wood furniture with an open side, through which you spot the odd cow grazing.
On second glance, the room is as handsomely attractive as a furniture store, with a glorious bar, soft natural light and artistically placed mirrors that make the room stretch on forever and ever. Amen. Then there’s the ambience. Leda Balcao doesn’t buzz. It settles into you like a warm comforter on a rainy day.
Once we found our table, it was time for some starters and drinks. Peri Peri Prawns and Chicken Cafreal Bruschetta seemed like the perfect start for a snack-sip-chat dynamic. The Bruschetta came first. Apart from its immaculate presentation, the taste and crunch punched out flavour after flavour, turning the mundane into magnificent.
Peri Peri Prawns were next. A genteel marriage of the local catch, and grilling technique, these pinky orange pieces had an aftertaste that could go on for hours.
The Sangria we ordered was a perfect foil to the prawns and just as potent. The Old Fashioned wasn’t listed on the menu, but was served up on request.
The menu itself is quite vast, listing practically everything from Desi specialities to Goan favourites. Can’t stop gushing about the Appams. They were everything we wanted them to be, and more. Soft, crisp and simply melt-in-the-mouth.
The last thing we tasted was the Serra Durra. It was served in a dainty cup and taste-wise was super delicious.
There was much we didn’t try. But if these are anything to go by, expect the rest of the menu to be just as amazing.
The service is warm, laid-back and gracious. In the best way. The staff, from the boy at the entrance to the manager and stewards, flow in graceful unhurried waves. Always there, but never hovering.
There is a calm rhythm to Leda Balcao that pleases both the eye and the palate. As good vibrations go, this place definitely checks the boxes. Not to forget, the quaint Balcao at the entrance that makes for a good photo op.
Leda Balcao is the epitome of what dining in Goa should be like these days : sublime, semi-commercial but still possessing heart. And unashamedly relaxed, in all manner of things!
Johncy Bar & Restaurant, Benaulim
Seaside. That’s what stays in your memory after lunch at Johncy Bar & Restaurant, Benaulim. Lots of seaside. It’s not just the delectable view of foamy waves, but the way the sand stretches out peacefully, for as far as you can see.
Good food only gets you so far. The rest is down to the cheery chatter and clatter of dining out.
Mood.Pulse. Ambience. Call it what you want. It’s the one thing most likely to bring us back to eating out and it’s the thing we’ve missed most in lockdown.
At home our world is tiny. Inside restaurants, our world is big, however small the space. But Johncy is decently sized and well-spaced out. At least for the times we live in.
Johncy Bar & Restaurant rests easily on Benaulim Beach, an area where I’ve not eaten in any meaningful sense for the last three months.
We browse roughshod through the menus, while the venerable waiting staff sprays sanitiser on the chairs, tables and even the menus.
We take our seats amidst couples and families that have dared to step out in these challenging times. To make things more interesting, a cute puppy kept ambling over for scraps. That’s the thing with beachside restaurants. All ages and species must play nicely together. Even the crows who made a cameo appearance :). Oh, please please don’t perch on our table. Yes, fly away as far as you can. Oh phew, there’s the waiter! And lunch!
A Rawa fried prawns to share, sits on a plate looking easy enough to negotiate. While not excellent, the dish was good and moderately well presented. All restaurants have mastered the art of using rawa and it has now become a happy thing to do to almost any ingredient.
The marinade used for the prawns was well-seasoned. For the rest of the week my breath will enter rooms before the rest of me. And it was so worth it!
The Chicken Xacuti was the next contender. We did not expect this to be so laboured over, but we were pleasantly surprised. Definitely seemed like a fair amount of sweat and tears were poured into its creation and provenance. My dining companion claims that it’s certainly the most delicious Xacuti she has tasted. No, that’s not something I expected her to say. Ever!
Elsewhere, there’s Prawn Curry Rice, something I’ve been dying to devour for ages. The curry, swimming with prawns was okayish but nothing to rave about. And the rice..was well, just rice! For better or worse.
Our tryst with food ended with the Creme Caramel Pudding, a wonderful sweet layer of sugary caramel custard, plated with a ribbon of coffee sauce around the rim. And then we stopped. Because we are good people who care about our bodies.
Overall the food was edible, pleasing, at times delicious and certainly served with care and patience. No fuss, little frills. The whole experience was underscored by the soundtrack of softly crashing waves.
Johncy Bar & Restaurant has oceans of promise. It is not a place pinned down by formality. That’s what works in its favour. In some ways, it anchors quite properly in the category of a family beachside restaurant. Totally random. But definitely welcome!
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