WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS: PRIMROSE MONTEIRO-D’SOUZA
Imagine a roundel of delicately-charred blue cheese lying in wait on a bed of the crispest salad greens, dotted with the crunch of walnuts and the satisfying toothiness of dried figs recently resuscitated by red wine. You’re in an esoteric space, brick walls interspersed with hanging horizontal slats and PVC pipes artfully repurposed as light wands. It seems almost impossible that, in a little corner of Calangute, in a former art gallery (aha, that explains so much!), you will find dishes like the Warm Danish Blue Cheese Cloud, the Marinated Crab Cakes (to be eaten before the blue cheese, please), and Beef Wellington in its jacket of pastry. Chef Sumera Bhalla of Amavi by Sumera relies only on word of mouth to get people to her little shrine to fine food; she is but one of a new tribe of restaurateurs offering food lovers a new incentive to travel to North Goa.
The sunshine state has always been the one you could visit repeatedly. There were the beaches, the typical Goan fare for the carnivores, North Indian food for the less adventurous, and South Indian staples for the vegetarians, all washed down with generous amounts of feni, or feni-based cocktails. The food and drink was often just sustenance for the beach-bumming and partying that are hallmarks of a good Goan vacay. Add to that this newest offer: a feast for the senses, in a handful of restaurants run by people for whom their ventures are very obviously a labour of love. That includes, of course, Amavi,less than a year old. More easily found on the Calangute-Candolim strip is Koi Asian Dining, where owners Shefali Gandhi and Aziz Lalani are hands-on in ensuring that your dining experience is exquisite. The food does its part, of course – the Crispy Duck Rolls, the Koi Pork Ribs, the Khowsuey and the desserts are all excellent – but Shefali assembling your bowl of said khowsuey for you adds that very personal touch.
Italy finds itself on a plate at Pomodoro Italian Bistro in Dona Paula. Most of the charcuterie comes in with Vanna and David from Puglia, and all the pasta is handmade to her painstaking standards. Ask for the spaghetti Bolognaise and the Carbonara, but also, if you’re lucky with clams being available, the spaghetti alle vongole. Among the pizzas, the Quattro Stagioni, with artichokes, is a must-try.
If Mexican is your thing, Habanero in Baga comes with the big sombreros, but also generous helpings and a microbrewery on site. The Macho Nachos make perfect starters, and the Tres Leches Cake and the Churros con Chocolat the perfect finish, but, if you’re still looking to heighten that happy ending, take yourself to Cream Choc at Anjuna, to find great gelato flavours that you’ll want to take back to your hotel. Which you can. Want to carry food farther? The locals buy their bebinca from Simonia in Mapusa Market. Take a sweet cue from that.