One of the most coveted locations, Goa is the ultimate holiday destination in India. And the most important part of any holiday trip is finding a good restaurant.
The restaurant scene in Goa has seen better days, especially after the pandemic. Initially, the popularity of Goa could mostly be attributed to its beautiful beaches and nightlife scene. However, the hospitality industry here, has been thriving ever since the end of the pandemic. This has led to a surge of new restaurant openings in the past year, and no, these aren’t all beachside shacks and hilltop diners. Fine dining too, has found its own space in Goa, with creativity and innovation forming the heart of many of these dining spaces.
So, if you’re planning to visit Goa anytime soon and are looking for a fresh new dining experience, here are some of the new restaurants that are worth trying out.
Elephant & Co
If you’re looking for an authentic “Goan” rustic experience, then you should definitely check out Elephant & Co. A successful chain that started in Pune, Elephant & Co. or ECO has now opened its doors in Goa. The restaurant has earned a community of regulars in its Pune locations, who return for every piece of ECO – the ambience, the mood, its progressive approach to food and drinks, etc.
Located in the picturesque Anjuna, ECO, Goa is the chain’s first outdoor-only space surrounded by plush paddy fields, coconut trees and an enormous mango tree that provides just enough shade on a hot summer day. Given the outdoor location, ECO blends beautifully into its surroundings combining the various textures that define the great Goan outdoors – beachy wood, gravel, greenery, and bonsai art. One of the biggest highlights of the space, however, is the long curving bar constructed in the vibe of tiki bars at the beach.
The menu at ECO is an orchestra of indulgent cuisine and eclectic cocktails. The food menu presents a mix of Continental, Asian and Italian cuisine. The expansive menu offers everything from salads, sandwiches and tacos to dumplings, flatbreads, skewers and more. The best part about the food at ECO is that it is all prepared with some of the freshest ingredients. The team has scouted the Goan markets for fresh produce, gorged on the local street eats like egg rassa in Panji and bebinca in Agonda and found a synergy with the state that attracts locals and tourists to its charming social life.
Complementing the wholesome menu is the exciting drinks menu featuring some truly fun curations like Feni-groni, a Goan take on the classic Negroni. It’s also hard to miss cocktails with names like Liquid Charlie, Wife Won’t Slap, Tropical Starfucks and Mad Hatters, making it a definite must-try according to Karan Khilnani, Partner at ECO.
EHV International, the company behind Indian Accent, Comorin and the recently launched Koloman in New York, launched their newest concept, HOSA in Goa. HOSA which means ‘New’ in Kannada is a creative, energetic space that explores the culinary diversity of South India, beyond the mundane and familiar.
Located inside a 101-year-old Portuguese bungalow, the interiors were designed by EHV’s Design Director Rohini Kapur who envisioned a modern setting that still complimented the charm of Goa. The result was a predominantly black and white setting enhanced with Portuguese tiles, avant-garde art from the South, elegant furniture and décor. A fairly large space, HOSA seats about a hundred people indoors, and another twenty-five in the patio. While every room in the restaurant boasts a beautiful ambience, the Art Room is one that truly stands out. Functioning as a gallery during the day, the Art Room transforms into a private dining area in the evening with a pre-function area replete with its own bar counter.
The menu is a major highlight for HOSA. A reinvention of South Indian cuisine, Chef Suresh travelled extensively over the South to discover dishes that are unique, and which can be represented in a contemporary manner while retaining their authentic flavours. And so, he works with classics like dosas, and appams accompanied by plates like Guntur crab fry or rich ghee roast. The menu also features a selection of small plates like puli munchi wings and gunpowder kid corn.
The cocktail pairings were created keeping in mind Goa’s tropical location. In addition to unique curations like wild mushroom pongal and the curry leaf cured snapper the cocktail menu also features classics, tikis and modern interpretations along with an extensive wine list. EHV’s Director of Development Vikas Bhasin takes special pride in the fact that despite the site constraints, the most sustainable practices possible have been put into this restaurant.
Kasa and Koox, Vagator
Looking for authentic Japanese flavours in Goa? Head to Kasa N KooX for an experience like no other. The story behind the name is by far the most fascinating one ever. Wanting to opt for a Japanese name, founder Shweta Gupta picked out the katakana syllable メ (me) in the gojūon script order and wanted to pair it with the letter K, which she believed was auspicious. And so, filling the blanks between the K and X, Gupta opted for the name KooX. Although the restaurant is called Kasa N KooX, the restaurant is a threefold space: KooX is the main restaurant offering lunch and dinner, Kasa has small bites and morsels inspired by Ishigaki (a Japanese island paradise known for its food and white beaches) and the after-dark SpeakEasy Bar, which is an exclusive members-only space for post dinner aperitifs and cigars.
The menu here is presented in the form of a PDF; interestingly the KooX Rooftop Asian Grill beverage menu is about 12 pages long while the food menu is somewhat shorter — about 10 pages. Listing both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, the menu screams authentic Japanese flavours with plates like Sushi, Gyoza (a Japanese crescent-shaped dumpling), pork belly, New Zealand lamb chops and more. The USP of the restaurant is the Robata-Yaki BBQ Grill where food is cooked in Robatayaki style, a Japanese method of barbecue. The Robata-Yaki dishes are served with table sauces like wasabi, smoked ponzu sauce and Sichuan chilli sauce.
Adding a fun twist to the menu, you might find yourself with a plate of Mexican tacos, a fun twist attempted by the chefs to create a Japanese fusion.
Lollo Rosso, Anjuna
For those looking to bask in the glory of green flora and fauna combined with a relaxing setting, Lollo Rosso is the place to be. Nestled amid lush greenery in the interiors of Anjuna overlooking a scenic paddy field, Lollo Rosso features a large open area defined by earthy tones and naga bamboo furniture. The thriving green plants inside complement the abundant greens of the palm and other fruit bearing trees outside, setting the tone for a surreal culinary experience. While the space is predominantly neutral, it does get a fun pop of colour with the tropical jungle themed bar.
The menu is all-inclusive, although it does focus on South Asia cuisine presenting a variety of sushi, dim sums and bowls. The bowl meals, which come from over 15 different countries including Palestine, Santa Fe, Indonesia, Korea, Thailand, Greece, Turkey, and Burma. Each of these is inspired by the founders’ personal travel anecdotes and is created with careful consideration after conducting extensive research about their respective origins. To put into perspective, the Palestine bowl has garlic labneh, Fulmedames, zattar-grilled chicken/aubergine, the Santa Fe is filled with Adobo and Tomato sauce rice, and the Stroganov comes with mushroom and pepper sauce glazed chicken/lamb.
A fun fact about the restaurant is that over 80 per cent of the raw materials used are imported from their local origins. The breakfast menu too is designed to include unique flavour profiles to give a completely different experience. Some must-try dishes include Palestinian Eggplant, Gochugaru and Sesame Chicken Little Bowl, Stroganov Bowl, Buffalo Chicken Sushi and the Indonesian Rendang Bowl. Pair these with their fine gourmet cocktails that complement beautifully, and you have a guaranteed trip to culinary heaven.
Revamping old Goan bungalows into a cosy restaurant is the hot new trend in Goa. And while many of these properties are fairly new or belong to the recent past, they hardly stand tall against the 120-year-old villa in Assagao, now known as Maai.
Set in the by lanes of Assagao, MAAI beautifully blends Portuguese design with enigmatic décor. Retaining the charm of the bygone era, the interiors of Maai are painted in a pale-yellow hue with classic Portuguese architecture and upcycled décor. The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating areas The indoors has a more formal setting with wooden chairs and dining tables lined against Portuguese-style windows, elegant chandeliers, and long-stem fans; the walls are adorned with plenty of paintings, vintage photographs that add a vibrance to the space. The outdoor seating is a whole other experience. A courtyard-style seating area, the space is furnished with lounge chairs and wooden benches, making it the perfect spot for a casual dining-out experience.
While the ambience is unforgettable, the menu is even better. Maai is among one of the few restaurants to serve Portuguese-inspired dishes, and it does so by combining it with Indian and Western specialties by preparing the dishes with locally sourced spices and ingredients. The resulting curations represent a replication of home-cooked by mothers. Some of Chef Balaji’s personal recommendations on the menu include edamame hummus, pepper spiced mutton, beetroot galettes, raw banana cutlets, pan seared prawns and pepper spiced mutton.