Minutes after we had stepped on Goan soil and inhaled the sea-salt laced air, Aninda’s resolve to be on a strict diet disappeared. Within an hour of reaching Panaji, we were scouring the streets to find places to eat in Panaji. What we didn’t know is Goa wakes up late and eateries do not open their doors before 9:30 am and as we loitered through Fontainhas, I fell in love with the impeccable charm of Panaji’s old Latin Quarter while he grew more restless to begin an affair with Goan food. In the course of two days, we overshot our food budget though we hadn’t even eaten at all the places we had planned to! Both of us like to try local dishes and we discovered that Goan cuisine occupies a very interesting intersection between traditional Hindu Saraswat cuisine and Portuguese Catholic cuisine. Toddy or coconut vinegar, coconut, kokum, red chillies, chouriços, cashews, and tamarind are important ingredients in Goan curries.
Our favorite eateries in Panaji:
A number of factors make Black Sheep Bistro our favourite place to dine in Panaji. Owners Prahlad and Sabreen Sukthankar are firm believers in the farm-to-table philosophy and serve food that is “globally inspired” and prepared using “locally sourced” ingredients. The menu changes seasonally and the best idea is to ask the servers for recommendations. We had the Squid-Prawn Plancha, Crudo Nouveau made with freshly caught Modso fish, Blackened Creole Chicken, and the Chocolate Salami (a nut-studded chocolate cylinder made to make you sigh) for dessert. Each dish is a harmonious celebration of the bountiful produce of Goa. The food at Black Sheep Bistro is a sensory experience and it was one of our trip highlights. The owner is a certified sommelier and there is a curated collection of wines and innovative cocktails on the menu. Black Sheep Bistro is housed in a pale yellow Portuguese villa. The interiors are chic and have paintings by local artists on display. Apart from the food, what impressed me was a note on the menu encouraging patrons to converse with servers in Hindi and other local languages. Reservations recommended. (₹₹₹ |)
We ended up going to Kokni Kanteen twice! Excellent seafood and Konkani thalis are the USP of this place. The softly-lit interiors are decorated with miniatures of cooking utensils and a chalkboard with English-Hindi translations of local seafood. Old photographs of Goa and upbeat local music add to the authentic Goan charm. We ordered Chicken Kokni Sukha, Mori Recheado*, Mushroom Rawa Fry and Tisriyo Dangar and all the dishes were delectable. We recommend ordering the seafood thali or the catch-of-the-day. (₹₹ | )
Located in a narrow alley in Fontainhas, Viva Panjim is a small family-run place serving Goan staples like prawn curry, vindaloo, and xacuti. We tried the Prawn Koliwada, a spicy, deep-fried preparation that works wonders to your taste-buds with some feni or a chilled beer. If you are a lover of all things old, their heirloom furniture, vintage mirrors, hand-painted tiles, and chandeliers will win your heart. It is the perfect place for a lazy brunch with your family! (₹₹ | )
One look at the quirky graffiti-covered walls and dated furniture ensured that this was an eatery we would remember for days to come. We dropped in for an early breakfast and had the entire place to the two of us. What followed was cheese omelettes and tomato sandwiches alongside attempts to read all the scribbling on the walls. The coffee here was one of the best we tasted in Goa. Venité remains on our to-come-back list for its snappers, stuffed crabs, steaks, and squids. Drop in here for lunch or a lively dinner and do not miss the brightly painted seascape made with shells at the entrance. Also, order the day’s special for the freshest seafood. (₹₹ |)
Please inquire about disability access because the eatery is located on the first floor and we did not notice an elevator. (+91-8322425537)
Confeitaria 31 de Janeiro
This gem of a bakery is hidden in one of the many winding lanes of Fontainhas but we urge you to find it because Aninda swears that the piping hot beef pastries he had there were nothing like anything he had had before. If it weren’t for the heavy rain, he would have stuffed a bunch in his backpack on the bus to Vagator. Run by Gletta, this bakery sells delicious bread and cake, meat and vegetable pastries, and Swiss rolls alongside an array of sweet goodies. (₹)
What better introduction to the Goan concept of sussegado than digging into Goan choriço curry and Chicken cafreal over feni on the verandah of a heritage Portuguese house on a rainy afternoon? Truth be told, we enjoyed the ambience at The Verandah at Panjim Inn more than we enjoyed the food. The cool breeze susurring through the palm foliage, the antique furniture and collectables, and the homely, unhurried service ensured we had a lovely time and a long, uninterrupted conversation on our first afternoon in Goa. If you are not ready to leave, consider spending some time in the art gallery downstairs. (₹₹ |)
Places we had to miss:
Horseshoe Bar & Restaurant
Owner and chef Vasco Silveira’s restaurant has been serving authentic Goan-Portuguese dishes since 1980 and it is one of the best places to dine in Panaji. All the ingredients are locally sourced, spices are ground in-house and Silveira cooks most of the dishes himself. We already have the Goan Feijoada, Bebinca, and Bolo Sans Rival on our minds!
This place near Miramar serves an eclectic mix of Goan-Portuguese and Hindu Saraswat cuisines and has fantastic reviews but we couldn’t cram it in our schedule.
Thai n Wok
We hear it’s the best Thai place in Panaji. The owners are passionate about farm-to-table philosophy and they grow their own vegetables: reasons that qualify it for a slot on our directory of places to eat in Panaji.
Quite a few people recommended the famous Ritz fish thali that comprises four different types of seafood alongside kokum sol kadi and kismur. This place is frequented by locals who often end up waiting for 10-40 min for their daily rice and fish curry fix.
Another highly recommended eatery, Tato’s is all vegetarian and is known to serve a mean bhaji-pao.
The Bangali needs their late afternoon cha-telebhaja fix and what’s better than an institution like Café Bhonsle that has been serving an assortment of bhajis since 1920!
[₹₹₹: Above ₹1500 for 2; ₹₹: Between ₹500-1500 for 2; ₹: Below ₹500 for 2;
: Perfect for romantic dates; : Perfect for families with kids]
We are always on the lookout for recommendations and we would love to hear about your tryst with Goan food. What is your favourite Goan dish?