It goes without saying that when in Goa, one must dip into the abundant treasures of the sea. Assuming you love seafood, of course! If you have an indomitable appetite for it, this list should set you up for your next visit to the sunshine state. You can dig in to a fish thali (or Xit-Kodi, rice-curry, as it is called locally) at just about any lunch home, eatery, restaurant, or dive bar around the corner. Seemingly basic and almost pedestrian when compared to the fanfare of live catch on display, the ubiquitous butter-garlic preparations and the like, the Goan fish thali only looks deceptive. Few other things are as wholesome and depending on where you try it, this meal can be had in under Rs. 80-100.
If there’s one restaurant most people will name the final word on Goan seafood, it is Ritz Classic in Panjim. Nothing short of an institution, the eatery goes back 40 years to very small beginnings. Authentic, honest food always has takers and today, the eatery has three branches in the capital, and does a lunch service of around 200 thalis per day. Make sure you reach well before lunchtime to avoid the snaking queues that inevitably lead to Ritz. Very popular are the Squid Masala Fry, Baby Chonak and Crab Masala Fry. But even if you stick to the thali, you will not be disappointed for it is a whopper of a meal with fried fish, prawn curry, crab masala and clam sabji, served along with condiments like kismur (dried shrimp salad with raw onions and coconut), and pickle. All to be eaten with rice, and a side of a vegetarian gravy and sol kadi (a digestive juice of kokum and seasoned coconut milk).
Ritz Classic in Panjim is like an institution and dates back to 40 years. Photo: Revati Upadhya
The classic rice plate varies in size, quantity and composition, but at the core, they will always consist of rice, curry and fried fish – at the very least. If you’re in Panjim, another place to try a frugal thali is Anand Bar and Restaurant opposite Taj Vivanta. At Rs 80, this is a serious steal.
However, if fresh fish is what you fancy, with the rustic embellishments of a fuss-free riverside experience head to Amigo’s with its bare-bones appearance, but a view to wow you. Run by Sabita and Joseph Fernandes, be sure to order the Red Snapper and Crab 24 hours in advance. This is as rustic as it gets – with other menu favourites like mussels curry, par-boiled rice and gravy, served with veggies prepared the Goan way.
Crab lovers must visit Starlight in Arpora, known best for its Crab Xec Xec–a classic curry made with whole spices, red chillies, coconut and tamarind – that will leave you with fiery memories long after your meal is done.
More recently, the thali at Fat Fish in Baga is gaining popularity. A sumptuous fix that covers all the basics, it is a filling value-for-money deal. Bolster it with an extra order of Prawns Peri Peri or Calamari Butter Garlic to try some of their other specials.
Spice Goa serves homely fish preparations. Photos: Facebook
If you’re off the beach-track and find yourself in the areas around Mapusa, Assagaon or Siolim, head to Kamalabai in Mapusa to sample their seafood fare. Popular for their lunchtime thali, they also have an extensive menu of other delicacies worth digging into. Also in Mapusa is the homely Spice Goa that serves some amazing home-style seafood cooked using local ingredients, the freshest spices and traditional recipes handed down in the family of Aparna and Atul, who run the place. Worth mentioning is the Modso Masala and Crab Xacuti.
Further down south, en route to the airport, at the turn off to Sao Jacinto Island, Vasco, is Sheela Bar and Restaurant known for its rava-fried everything. Fresh mussels, calamari, ladyfish, kingfish, prawns – all dredged in spices and rava, sizzled to a crisp – make for excellent starters with a chilled beer. Should you want to order a meal, the menu is extensive, but the appetisers are filling and will leave you spoiled for choice.
Close to Margao, Sharda Classic is well known for its thali, but attracts loyalists who come there to enjoy the Shark Ambotik, a spicy, but tangy red curry that gets its hit of sourness from locally-made vinegar.
You can’t really go wrong with a plate of xit-kodi virtually anywhere in Goa, but try and sniff an authentic lunch home, or a classic restaurant like in the list above – the sort of eateries that have a reputation built on for traditional recipes, value for money and a flavour that’s hard to replicate.