The pandemic certainly boosted my home state’s popularity, moving it from a holiday place to the new #WorkFromHome destination. The influx of people boosted property prices and indirectly led to a slew of new restaurant and bar openings. Here then, are the newest restaurants to surface in Goa, offering everything from ramen bowls, mock meat to Indo-Portuguese fare and Burmese food.
The hottest new restaurants in Goa
Santa Rita Fast Food, Taleigão
Once upon a time, Espertina Rodrigues’ cutlet pao was a bestseller at the now-shuttered restaurant run by her son. Last year, her grandson Joel (and his wife Joslyn) decided to carry on the family legacy. Santa Rita Fast Food in Taleigão has a menu featuring Goan Portuguese fare including beef costelata (beef cutlets), pork cebolado (an onion-y pork dish) and bacalhau com natas (salted cod). Bestsellers are pork solantulem (with kokum) and chicken cafreal. “We have diners returning to eat the Pork or Kingfish Balchao because you don’t find that anywhere else,” says Joslyn, whose signature is the Serradura (sawdust pudding). Other sweet treats include Bolo Sans Rival (cashew cake) and Pastéis De Nata (custard tart). The air-conditioned restaurant features wooden tones, spots of green, and a large outdoor space. Ceu De Espertina Bungalow, Side of Hotel Shell Top, Odllem Bhatt, Taleigao, Panaji. Call 08322236688 / 7030769922. Instagram
Cháfé Braz, Panaji
Braz Gonsalves is one of Goa’s greatest jazz musicians. This February, on his 87th birthday, a jazz room opened in Panaji in his honour. Cháfé Braz is part of the Centre for Indo-Portuguese Arts (CIPA) and is divided into a café serving Indo-Portuguese food, and a jazz room. “The idea was to pay tribute to all Goan artists that have contributed to music here in India and abroad,” says creator, Orlando De Noronha.
De Noronha’s nephews run Cháfé (chá = Tea + café = Coffee) Braz’s verticals. Home chef Rhys D’Cruz brings his family recipes to the snacks and sweets at the café. Think almofadas de carne (beef pockets), apa de camarão (prawn pie), the popular rissóis de camarão (shrimp turnovers), serradura and more.
CIPA Goa, 7/2, DB Marg, opposite Captain of Ports Jetty, Panaji. Open till 6pm. Call 9850930253. Instagram
Lush, By The Cliff, Anjuna
It’s a view that cannot be beaten: watching the sun set into the Arabian Sea from a high cliff, overlooking an empty Anjuna bay will vastly improve your Goa holiday.
Lush is an all-white, open restaurant with a statement mural and plants all around. It is the ideal space for sundowners, or evenings dedicated to dance. Run by buddies Anurag Andrade, Sherwyn Dsouza, Amey Deshprabhu and Neal Lobo, Lush offers food that is multi-cuisine. The menu includes kebabs, salads, steaks, curries and sizzlers. Popular items include cheese-stuffed mushrooms and butter chicken. There’s a separate breakfast menu too and innovative cocktails.
St Anthony Praias Waddo, Anjuna, Bardez. Call 8010993209. Instagram
The lack of a good coffee shop in her neighbourhood Siolim, spurred chef Nisha Almeida to start her own. Dakté (Konkani for small) is a little café with checked floors, a cute cupboard of books, bright walls and “really strong” Wi-Fi.
Almeida and her partner Arjun Sikdar helm this family-run space, cooking up sandwiches, salads, pancakes, bakes, bowls, coffees, teas, juices and shakes. “Our menu has healthy as well as ‘not-so- healthy’ food,” says Almeida. Think naturally sweetened smoothies, sweet desserts, kombucha, and a bestselling gluten/dairy-free banana bread. The highlight is an all-day breakfast menu with scrambled eggs on toast, bacon and fried eggs, eight kinds of omelettes, and more.
Shop no 7, Porta Vaddo, Siolim. Open till 7pm. Call 8296708003. Instagram
Chefs Maia Laifungbam and Sanchit Behl run this izakaya and ramen house in Baga. The cute-sy vibrant outdoor space, dotted with succulents and plants, serves Japanese-influenced fare like soboro donburi, beef tataki, and pork katsudon.
“We did some chef’s tables during the lockdown and the Japanese ones proved popular. We decided to launch our own Japanese place using local produce,” says Laifungbam. Roboto makes its own miso, gluten-free soy, noodles, and gyoza and minimises kitchen wastage by reusing vegetable scraps. Ingredients like wasabi, yuzu, and Japanese teas find their way into their craft cocktails. Weekends are for long brunches, and karaoke nights are common.
5/2, Naikawaddo, near Dolphin Circle, Calangute. Call 918010831200. Instagram
Zwé at Golden Eye, Calangute
It’s a taste of Burma, found at a spacious restaurant in Calangute. Operating out an airy house with a tiled roof, Zwé serves Burmese (and Asian) recipes. “Zwe means perseverance in Burmese and it represents our ambition on a plate. We try to highlight Burma’s unique style of contrasting flavours, use of fresh and raw ingredients, and wholesome bowls,” says chef Trupti Chengalath, who has worked at The Bombay Canteen and O Pedro in Mumbai. She started Zwé together with chef Yong Hkum and Bonita Mascarenhas (whose father owned Golden Eye restaurant).
The restaurant serves craft cocktails, salad bowls, wok dishes, khow suey and curries. The salads are hit, especially the samusa salad, asing thoke (Burmese green salad), and lahpet thoke (tea leaf salad). On Saturdays, head over for retro music nights.
Golden Eye restaurant, Holiday Street, Calangute. Call 80076 65572. Instagram
Silly Souls, Assagao
The cuisine of Southeast Asian countries—with a small twist—finds space in this new Assagao eatery. “We want to make dining casual and fun. There’s no fuss or formality here. Be as silly as you like,” says owner Harsh Khaneja, who started the first outpost of the restaurant in Delhi, before bringing it to Goa. Silly Souls Goa is a spacious outdoor space, serving pan-Asian and European fare: soul bowls, tacos (served from a food truck), ramen, baos, noodles, dim sum, and more. It offers gluten-free and vegan options. A signature dish is Momo Jhol.
H No 452, Bhouta Vaddo, Near Happy Bar, Assagao. Call 7972789984. Instagram
Maka Zai, Anjuna
This bright yellow restaurant at a junction in Anjuna serves multi-cuisine food with a Goan twist. “Think of it as a cosy and homely extension of a person’s living room,” says Manav Chadha who co-founded the eatery with Vineeth Shetty.
Maka Zai (Konkani for ‘I want’) offers largely Asian food with elements inspired by Goa and other coastal regions. The signature creation is a poee mashup with a bao called a baoee, stuffed with mince, or Thai seafood. Also on offer are Thai, Chinese and Goan platters featuring items such as Thai green curry, Chinese crepes, and fish-curry-rice.
House No 1486, Bhattin, Anjuna. Call 9022099693. Instagram
Vee is a spacious outdoor vegan and vegetarian restaurant in Vagator. Under the shade of trees, diners can enjoy healthy treats.
Liv Porter and her husband Rahul Desat launched Vee as a place “that offers travellers healthy and exciting meals”. Desat does the cooking and his experiments include vegan omelettes and pizzas, granola bowls, sizzlers and steaks made of soya, tofu and mock meat like seitan, and vegan desserts. His mock meats burgers are popular.
House Number 540, Hilltop Lane, Lane Opposite Mango Tree, Vagator. Call 96199 22348. Facebook
The multi-cuisine bistro is the brainchild of Supriya Verenkar, who runs Vasco Square restaurant, ably supported by her husband, hotelier Vishal Khosla. Ruuh serves “inventive Indian and international cuisine”. “It’s a twist on traditional fare,” says Khosla. Their bestsellers are a galouti mutton burger, black sesame chicken tikka (with beetroot foam) and sizzlers (assembled at the table). The beverages are Khosla’s creations and include twists on familiar cocktails like a peanut butter Manhattan and experiments like clarified cocktails.
H 107/9(1), Florida Gardens, Vanelim. Call 883070690. Facebook
A mosaic-tiled floor welcomes diners to this Anjuna tapas bar. Splashes of mustard and blue dot the interiors. The seating (and WiFi) is conducive for a work from home environment.
At the helm are cousins Ashley Lobo and Marcelo Lobo. “Our passion for good food and good conversations got us together, and so we decided to start a place that was a local watering hole offering Goan-inspired late-night bites,” says Marcelo.
The menu offers familiar fare with a slight Goan twist. Think grilled cheese poee, salt triphal prawns and calamari and tendli pepper fry. A hit is the prawn ros omelette tacos and nachos.
854, Anjuna-Mapusa Road, Gumal Vaddo Anjuna. Open from 7pm to 5am. Call 9860535577. Instagram
*Disclaimer: The author is related to the owners of Mosaic.