Eating out in the New Normal

A Peek into the transitioned Foodscape of Goa

Text by: Nidhi Lall

The extraordinaire world of Goan food has been unmatched so far. The delectable seafood and curries is a delicious reflection of its history and heritage- that was an influence of the Portuguese dominance fused with local recipes and spices. There is no match for these contrasting flavours anywhere else in India.

With the advent of the pandemic, the food and hospitality industry took a hit due to the lockdown. But it did give the sector the time to innovate and iterate their serving style and menu that they have served so far.

Post pandemic scenario has witnessed a major transition in the food scene of Goa. With lakhs of tourists thronging to the Goa beaches at the beginning of 2021 after a year-long house arrest, they were welcomed with an entirely new hospitality landscape. Conceptual eateries with innovative menus, international food cuisine restaurants, cafes, food joints and bars have sprung up in every corner of Goa. Not only this, the option of coworking space with some great food, good coffee and drinks have also opened up.

The experts across the food landscape here in Goa, from chefs to restaurateurs, have identified distinct trends that attest to the transition in the way we eat, forever.

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THE TRANSITION IN THE WAY WE DINE

Keeping all safety protocols, the old and new food venues have made drastic amendments in the look, seating arrangements and other necessary set-ups within their eateries. For one, the seating arrangements have been made limited to avoid crowds. Servers, chefs in the kitchen, including the host are wearing masks. Digital Menus are the new normal. Scan the QR code and you get the menu on your phone. Many restaurants have even added a new outdoors section because most guests now ask for open-air seating. Many fine-dine restaurants and hotels are offering all-day dining, takeaways, and even home deliveries. Home Chefs is a new trend that picked up during the lockdown period itself and is perhaps here to stay. Safe and home-cooked meals by home chefs gave a respite to households burdened with home chores.

“Clean eating” is a definite and clear trend that the hospitality sector experts have identified. Diners are increasingly asking this question, more frequently than before the pandemic. Now they are opting for, ever before – sustainable, regional, local and healthy – that define as ‘real food’.

The food delivery services by Swiggy and Zomato were working in full-swing delivering meals from not only restaurant kitchens, cafes but also hotel kitchens and home chef kitchens. The demands poured in from the tourists and locals for home delivery and takeaways that kept their kitchens running till date.

What’s New in Town

When we say that a major shift has taken place in the Goan food landscape we meant the variety of international flavours that have made a grand entry apart from gourmet from other regions of India. Home styled cooking has majorly taken over the scene.

Home Chefs – The new jewel in the crown

In 2020, the Goan food landscape added to its folio – the home chefs – who made a huge impact. Home-based Goan chefs, hailing from diverse backgrounds, started their own ventures in a pandemic-riddled year, concocting dishes of varying kinds. In the process, they acquainted the state’s inhabitants with some unconventional cuisines as well. A few rekindled their memories of age-old recipes and added them into the scope of a menu, while others assimilated dishes from across the world into people’s platters. The home chef chronicles have given the foodies a wide spread of choices. From extensive breakfasts, Bengali fare, and Kashmiri yakhni, to Arabic shawarma, Bolognese, and authentic Goan homemade food, these connoisseurs are laying out an assortment of food from their kitchens.

Some of the most loved ones are worth a mention – Chef’s Flair by Allister Fernandes and Alisia Fernandes, KashMash by Chef Fahd, Nuun – unconventional Bengali cuisine, Patrão’s Deli by Pablo Miranda, MumMai by Elvis and Emilia Victor, The Family Legacy by Nusma for: Haleem, biryani, Eddie’s Suey My Way For: Burmese Khao Suey. Creating a delicious and creative storm in their kitchens, these home chefs have now become a name in every household.

Exquisite cuisine restaurants – – a breath of fresh air

Here are some new gastronomical eateries that will tingle your taste buds with new flavours.

Tamil table – South Indian cuisine

If you loved what you got at Gunpowder, you will definitely enjoy Tamil Table. There’s something to be said about the comfort of a small menu for a hungry diner. At Tamil Table, a tightly curated menu of South Indian fare presents enough options to fuel and fascinate every type of eater. The restaurant, as the name suggests, specializes in Tamil cuisine, by bringing feasts like slow-cooked mutton, Coromandel king prawns and mackerel vadai to the table. All of this pairs beautifully with the house cocktails, which revel in regional flavours. Knocking down the Nannari Highball or Vasantha Neer, surrounded by welcoming, almost life-sized terracotta bommai dolls and seated at a table outfitted with napkins featuring the humble Madras plaids and earthen tableware adorned with banana leaf is transportive, to say the least. At the back is a cavernous bar that can accommodate a small selection of friends for a private do.

This authentic Tamilian rendezvous is operated by Sacha Mendes, of the famed fashion store – The Sacha’s, along with her chef-husband, Karthikeyan S.

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Schandis – Persian food

Panjim beholds the passage to Iranian cordon bleu. Mumbai is familiar with Persian styled eateries, through the influence of the century- old existence of the Persian community. But it’s a first in Goa. Schandis, the superbly authentic Persian cuisine restaurant, serves scrupulously contemporary Iranian food that has rarely ever registered with the Indian palate. It opened just before the country went into the pandemic lockdown.

They have dense, dark Ghormeh Sabzi Herb- And-Lamb Stew, and impeccably golden Tah dig with scorched rice. Meticulously authentic Iranian food is now available in Goa. The menu at Schandis is exquisite. As the word SH-andis signifies expertise in kebab-making. Persian culinary perfectionism reigns: yoghurts mixed with cucumber and mint, or finely diced shallots, or smoked eggplant; chopped fresh salads braced with lemon juice and olive oil; skewer- grilled kebabs (instead of the ubiquitous goat meat, they use lamb, painstakingly sourced from Karnataka).

Hossein and Hediyeh Haghighatgoo, Iran born, got fascinated with the beach and wilderness of Goa and decided to recreate the Tehran neighbourhood right here in the heart of Panjim.

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Mezmiz – Middle Eastern

Slightly drifted from the hustle-bustle of the heavily trafficked Porvorim-Sangolda road, is located this quintessential Middle Eastern cuisine restaurant. Nestled in a beautifully done-up Portuguese villa, Mezmiz recreates the middle- eastern vibe through their amazingly delicious hummus, baba ghanoush, kababs and raan.

Think comfort food and community eating. That’s what Kush and Nazneen promote in their little hideaway. Everything from their pita to the dips is made in-house, with the freshest ingredients. To add to the fun, they serve spiced red sangria, ave agave (tequila and pomegranate molasses) and homemade ice cream.

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Roboto Goa – A Japanese & Korean Contemporary Street Style & Izakaya Style restaurant

This charming vibrant outdoor space with a neat garden spread serves Japanese-influenced fare like soboro donburi, beef tataki, and pork katsudon. They cook up a storm using Japanese recipes fused with local produce. They make their own miso, gluten-free soy, noodles, and gyoza. They ensure minimal kitchen wastage by reusing vegetable scraps. Ingredients like wasabi, yuzu, and Japanese teas are used to create crafty cocktails.

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Zwé at Golden Eye, Calangute – Burmese cuisine

Bringing the taste of Burma to the Goan susegad landscape. Filling the air with Burmese and Asian aroma, Zwe aims at highlighting Burma’s unique style of contrasting flavours, use of fresh and raw ingredients, and wholesome bowls. They serve creative cocktails, salad bowls – especially the samusa salad, asing thoke (Burmese green salad), and lahpet thoke (tea leaf salad) – wok dishes, khow suey and curries. On Saturdays, get entertained with retro music nights while having a hearty and delicious meal.

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Silly Souls, Assagao – The cuisine of Southeast Asian countries

The cuisine of Southeast Asian countries is served with a small twist. The chef gives a casual and fun dining experience, literally asks you to get as silly as you like. Hence the name – Silly Souls Goa.

It has a spacious outdoor space, serves mouth-watering soul bowls, tacos (served from a food truck), ramen, baos, noodles, dim sum, and their signature dish – Momo Jhol. For those gluten-free and vegan eaters, you will not get disappointed.

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Tataki – Asian food

This new immersive Asian dining in Panjim is novel in more ways than one. Thankfully for us, it’s not going to be a seasonal beauty so we’re hoping to spend a rainy weekend here on the balcony, overlooking one of Panjim’s pretty street corners. The interiors are equally (if not more) charming. So, go, get yourself their oak barrel-aged whisky cocktails, some fine Asian fare and you’re set. We recommend day drinking (Blush of Rose cocktail FTW) and Goan chorizo fried rice, Udon noodles with pork belly and Vietnamese style beef.

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Amavi by Sumera, Calangute – fusion food

With seating spread over 3 levels, this sprawling chic restaurant boasting unique architecture is all about comfort, style and understated elegance. The place is dotted with plants and the brick walls, brown and rust tones in the decor, lend this place a touch of glamour. The brainchild of Chef Sumera Bhalla, her inventive and sophisticated European food, with top-notch quality ingredients and innovative cooking techniques, stand out. The Seafood and Chorizo Paella and Beef Wellington are the highlights.

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Meiphung–BagaCreek – Northeastern cuisine(Nagafood)

This one is as much a day place as a night hangout. Having gathered a fair share of love from the locals as well as tourists, this is one place that surprises you with its authentic North Eastern and Thai preparations. It’s really a breath of fresh air when you’re done with the shacks and craving a change of seasoning. Try their Singju, Tankgkhul pork, momos and Pumpkin chicken. Wash it all down with rice beer.

Photo by Rajat Sarki on Unsplash

To sum it all, a new ecosystem has been created where the amalgamation of global and local, old and new cuisines are serving hungrier but more experimental food lovers. The trend has also moved towards conscious eating. The pandemic changed a lot of beliefs. People have become aware of food and nutrition like never before. The trends, henceforth have opened new avenues for even chefs to transit from conventional style to innovative platters. The shift in consumption patterns is here to stay. The industry will thrive no matter what!

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Author: Nidhi Lall
Nidhi Lall is a wordsmith with a passion for written word. She has worked in the field of advertising and marketing for about 15 years. She also has an inclination towards designs and visuals, and she knows how to give a face to written words. Mostly a solo explorer, Nidhi chooses to walk the unbeaten path. Nidhi is currently following her heart, working as a freelance content writer and digital media consultant with multi-clientele. She is also part of Planet Goa family, as a Content Contributor.

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