Viva Panjim Restaurant Goa

Viva Panjim Restaurant Goa

Just a 5 minute stroll away from my Mitaroy Goa Hotel in the neighbourhood of Fontainhas is a small restaurant that serves the best prawn curry rice I have ever eaten.

Panjim, the capital of Goa, is known for its amazing restaurants. I know people who stay in North Goa but still come to Panjim every day to try out the restaurants here.

Viva Panjim, located in a Heritage Home in the UNESCO Heritage Zone of Fontainhas in Panjim, is a real treat for sea food lovers. Popularized by the Lonely Planet Guide and the Rough Guide, you can see foreign tourists making a beeline towards the restaurant which is tucked away in a quiet, side street.

Whenever we eat at Viva Panjim, we prefer to sit outside on the portico rather than inside this heritage house. A Goan feni with lime is a great way to start off the meal, with a side order of fried mussels. I then move on to my favourite prawn curry rice accompanied by another round of Goan feni with lime.

The consistency of the prawn curry is just right – not too thick and not too watery. The ingredients in the prawn curry rice are secret but the result is a unique, orangish hue. The portion is really large with a good serving of rice and atleast 6 huge prawns.

The Owner of Viva Panjim and a family friend of ours, Linda sits at her desk every day and keeps a sharp eye on the waiters to see if they are doing their job. Linda’s stern face breaks into a smile when a new guest walks in. She knows most customers who are either old friends or loyal guests and she greets them by name. 

Most first time guests swear by Viva Panjim and quite often, you see familiar faces of guests who religiously visit Viva Panjim for at least one meal every day.

Once we polish off the last of the rice and prawn curry and wash it down with a last Goan feni with lime, it is time to slowly make our way back to our private Suite at my Mitaroy Goa Hotel and partake of a very welcome afternoon Siesta!

Stay Romantic!

Mihir

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Goan Urak – The Taste of Summer

If you have been to Goa, then you must have tried feni – the local Goan fiery brew made from either cashew or coconut. However, I sincerely doubt that you have had Goan Urak, truly the Taste of Summer.

Having been to Goa for the last 23 years myself, I am ashamed to say that it was only this year that I discovered this local Goan elixir. My friend John Pollard kept raving about it on Twitter. He praised it to high heavens, even going so far as to call it the Taste of Summer !!! I had heard enough and when I went to Goa at the end of March, the first thing I did (okay, maybe not the first!) was to head to my local pub and order myself a bottle of Urak.

Unlike feni, which is clear, Urak which is the first flush of feni is a cloudy beverage with sediment floating at the bottom. Wine lovers may know federwasser or sturm and feni is the Goan, cashew equivalent. While its cloudy character may put off a few, connoisseurs are able to look beyond the cosmetics and accept this natural Goan spirit for what it is.

Goan Urak, unlike feni, is meant to be drunk with Limca or lemonade. While you pour only a quart of feni, Urak servings are a taste more generous, filling almost half the glass, since the volume percent is only 12 – 15 % when compared to around 45 % of feni.

I topped my glass up with chilled Limca or lemonade and took my first, deep gulp.

And I was in seventh heaven!

Truly, Goan Urak was the most amazing thing I had ever tasted in my 25 years ! I love my malt whisky and my Goan feni, but Urak was just something different. It was the Taste of Summer and something beyond.

The head of summer was quite at its zenith but one glass of Urak with lemonade was indeed the cure. The taste of Goan Urak is difficult to describe. It has a pungent aroma of young cashew tinged with a slightly lemony bitterness. But the bitterness is only slight. While the lemonade cuts out most of the bitterness, I found myself searching for the taste of Urak amidst the sweetness of Limca.

I don’t know how Urak does it, but suddenly I didn’t feel the latent heat of the Goan summer anymore. The Urak went down my throat so smoothly that before I knew it, I had finished the bottle and was feeling an eerie sense of bliss!

It was only at around midnight or so that I felt a nice buzz in my head. Later I learnt that Urak, unlike goan feni, does not give you a high immediately. It is only when you sit in front of a fan or let the breeze blow over you on the beach that you feel nice and high.

I enjoyed Goan Urak many more times on that trip to Goa and indeed, sometimes I can still feel the taste of Urak on my tongue.

Ah, the pleasures of Goa!

P.S. Please note that one is not advised to drink Goan Urak and sit on the beach after that. My bartender told me that Urak and the sea breeze can be quite a lethal combination that has indeed led to many deaths. So please stay safe and don’t try this.

Stay Romantic!

Mihir

O’ Coqueiro Restaurant Goa

O Coqueiro Restaurant Goa

No Couple’s Holiday to Goa is complete without a visit to O’ Coqueiro Bar and Restaurant.

While you have famous Goan restaurants like Brittos on Anjuna beach, Infantaria and Souza Lobos on Calangute beach, O’ Coqueiro is by far one of the most romantic restaurants in the whole of Goa.

O’ Coqueiro (pronounced as o-co-ke-roo) means Coconut tree in Portuguese. The O’ Coqueiro restaurant is housed in a sprawling, old Portuguese-style ancestral bungalow right on the Mapusa – Panaji highway in the small village of Porvorim. Rather plain by day, in the evening the lighting and greenery give it a romantic atmosphere that is hard to describe.

While you can sit in the A/C section called the sala de jhantar (dining hall in Portuguese), we chose a table in the garden under a starlit sky.

When the waiter came to take our order, we immediately chose the house special – Chicken Cafreal (pronounced as kaf-ri-el). A greenish coloured chicken curry, the Chicken Cafreal was first created here at O ‘ Coqueiro, many moons ago. I pick a Goan feni to wash down my meal.

And then the highlight of the evening begins.

We chose Friday to go to O ‘ Coqueiro since that is the day when the legendary Goan mandolin player, Emiliano and his band play at O ‘ Coqueiro. And Emiliano (who is an old family friend of ours) doesn’t disappoint. He belts out a few Goan songs that get the couples around us tapping their feet.

As the food arrives, I cannot wait to tuck in. I first go with Chicken Cafreal and Goan Paav bread. The Chicken Cafreal is a delight, lightly spiced and flavoured with mint and spinach, if I am not mistaken. For my second course, I chose Chicken Cafreal with rice. I am not quite sure which combination is better so I suggest that you try both!

For desert, we order the Bebinca, a traditional Goan layered cake that takes hours to bake because it is cooked one layer at a time. The Bebinca is good but I still maintain that the best Bebinca I’ve tasted is made in a small bakery in Fontainhas.

As we finish desert, Emiliano strikes up the music and a few couples venture out onto the dance floor. An old couple catches my eye. They must be married over 40 years yet the glimmer of love in their eyes is unmistakeable.

I only hope that I am that lucky in love…

Stay Romantic!

Mihir

Emiliano plays every Friday at O’ Coqueiro Bar and Restaurant in Alto Porvorim, Bardez, Goa. Please check local listings before going to avoid disappointment.