On the search for the best Goan food in North Goa? These are my best finds over several foodie monsoons in Goa, updated for 2020!
My three weeks in Goa have busted two myths – that Goa is only about the beaches and crowds, and that Goan food has nothing to delight vegans / vegetarians. I’ve been indulging my taste buds in local delights. Home-baked Goan breads called Poi and Pao, seasonal vegetable curries cooked in Goan style, home-cooked appetizers and Goan sweets / desserts I had never heard of before.
Also read: Wake Me Up When September Ends
Here are seven Goan restaurants that delighted me, culinarily and otherwise. And for you seafood and meat lovers out there, my friend vouches for these even with carnivorous taste buds!
- 1. Venite, Panjim
- 2. Bhatti Village, Nerul
- 3. La Fayette, Chorao (a truly offbeat spot for authentic Goan food in North Goa)
- 4. A’tona, Nerul-Panjim Road
- 5. Nostalgia by Chef Fernando, Salcete (great for bigger groups seeking the best Goan food in Goa)
- 6. Andron, Nachinola
- 7. Voltaire, Bardez
- 8. Mum’s Kitchen, Panjim (one of the most reliable spots for the best Goan food in Goa)
- 9. Viva Panjim, Panjim
- 10. Royal Fantacy, Ponda (an unbelievable find for the best Goan food in North Goa)
- Where’ve you tried the best Goan food in North Goa?
1. Venite, Panjim
The first thing you notice about Venite is its charming decor. Little balconies lit up with dim lights overlook the street, each with a table for two. Lamps made from coconut skin adorn the rest of the restaurant, while a private group seating area has walls decked with old bottles, and rather creative paint and crayon graffiti. The mushroom pepper fry accompanied by finely cut french fries certainly whet my appetite. For main course, I indulged in a delicately spiced veggie vindaloo curry served with rice, while dessert was a sinful banana-caramel-ice cream combination.
The best part? This Goan join has been around since 1955, and many Goans (including my hosts) have been here as kids!
2. Bhatti Village, Nerul
Hidden away in the narrow by-lanes of Nerul village, near Panjim, Bhatti Village is a cosy joint run by a Goan family. Patrick overseas the customers, his wife cooks, and their children (old enough) wait tables. There are no menus; Patrick personally discusses food preferences with you and makes recommendations. We started our meal with a portion of mushroom rawa fry, followed by kidney beans curry and baby corn curry for main course, cooked with Goan spices and a hint of coconut, served with poi; a heavy but satisfying meal!
3. La Fayette, Chorao (a truly offbeat spot for authentic Goan food in North Goa)
This find was a complete fluke! We landed at Chorao Island late one afternoon, terribly hungry. Most small villages in the hinterlands of Goa shut shop from 1 pm to 4 pm for an afternoon siesta of sorts, and Chorao was sleepier (albeit beautiful) than any village we had seen before. La Fayette seemed to be the only restaurant on the island, and chances of it being open seemed dismal. We walked into a house with a few chairs in the verandah, a big beer barrel, and no one in sight, and hesitantly knocked at the door. A woman, who we clearly woke up, peeped out, opened the door, and invited us in. A sumptuous meal of egg curry cooked in Goan style, beer, and conversation followed; she assured us that she never closes her home restaurant, because people feel bad if they come and don’t get food!
4. A’tona, Nerul-Panjim Road
UPDATE 2020: CLOSED PERMANENTLY 🙁
We first saw A’tona from the Deltin Royale Casino ship on the waters of the Mandovi River in Panjim. A signboard and small lights glistened on the shore of the river, and we knew we had to check it out. The owner welcomed us with a warm smile, and though it was closed that night for a private party, let us sit awhile by the shore for a drink. Too bad we didn’t get to try the food, but I can’t recommend it enough for the ambiance alone; think the calm waters of the Mandovi, the stars above your head, and the shimmering lights of Panjim and the casinos in the distance.
5. Nostalgia by Chef Fernando, Salcete (great for bigger groups seeking the best Goan food in Goa)
I have incredibly fond memories of Nostalgia by Chef Fernando, despite the long drive out to Salcette / Ponda for a meal. The extraordinary Goan chef Fernando dug out some of Goa’s oldest recipes and secrets for his kitchen. Unfortunately, he passed away but his legacy lives on in this old Portuguese house frequented by locals. The huge vegan / vegetarian Goan selection reassured me that traditional Goan food wasn’t all about seafood or meat. Their seasonal Goan curries are a delight to be savored with sana – a small round, rarely found Goan bread). If you’re there close to monsoon, opt for the local brew urrak (cashew-based but lighter and more delightful than feni), best mixed with Limca.
6. Andron, Nachinola
Run by an eccentric ex-navy guy, Andron is the neighborhood Goan eatery you just have to try! The first time we went, Anthony said he couldn’t offer anything vegetarian other than fried rice and french fries, but told me to call ahead the next time. I did, on several occasions in fact, and his chef offered me everything from mushroom xacuti (a thick curry with a coconut base) and vegetable caldeen (a relatively spicy curry with a non-coconut base), both typical Goan dishes, to cauliflower curry and daal curry. The food was delicious each time, but what I liked even more was the ambiance – a few tables huddled together, with dome shaped yellow walls painted with scenes of village life.
7. Voltaire, Bardez
Voltaire is an obscure yet absolutely delightful eatery in Bardez. During the day, its balcony offers splendid views on the Mandovi River across the road. By night, you can still feel the presence of the river in the gentle breeze. Voltaire’s menu is unique in that it serves up authentic Goan dishes typically found in Hindu kitchens – as opposed to dishes like xacuti which has influences from the Christian community. At Voltaire, udamethi, a flavorful curry made with ambotik or mango, is my all-time favorite. You could also opt for a tonak, with a side of une, a local bread similar to pao.
8. Mum’s Kitchen, Panjim (one of the most reliable spots for the best Goan food in Goa)
On another late afternoon when most restaurants in Panjim were closed, Mum’s Kitchen gave our grumbling tummies some much needed respite. An earthy ambiance, complete with a koi pond and a rustic bar, Mum’s Kitchen is the local haunt for fine dining. Set up by a Goan couple with traditional recipes collected from various Goan households, the vegetarian options on the menu are extensive; I tried the ambotik curry (a sour seasonal vegetable, cooked in a thick sourish curry) and the tamre bhaji (wild red spinach cooked with onions and tomatoes), and loved both!
9. Viva Panjim, Panjim
This hole-in-the-wall joint Viva Panjim is my go-to spot for late dinners in Panjim. It is tucked away in a small by-lane, with cramped indoor seating and some chairs outdoors. They do a mean vegan / vegetarian caldeen as well as xacuti, though perhaps not as delightful as others in this list of the best Goan food in North Goa.
10. Royal Fantacy, Ponda (an unbelievable find for the best Goan food in North Goa)
Royal Fantacy (yes, with a c!) was pur serendipity! Enroute to a spice plantation, hungry and desperate for lunch, we ended up stopping at this decrepit ‘family restaurant’ to make peace with whatever they served. I couldn’t believe the first bite (and every bite since) of the slow-cooked mushroom xacuti, spiced with aromatic, freshly ground spices, presumably from the surrounding spice plantations. Hands down, the best food I’ve had in Goa yet. This slow-cooked meal is totally worth the long drive and wait.
Where’ve you tried the best Goan food in North Goa?
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