Goa is a seafood lover’s paradise, for those who don’t just relish the intricacies of Goan cuisine but worship it. The ultimate culinary experience of those who swear by the Goa’s regional sea-food preparation is that of a well put together Goan thali. While thalis come in all shapes and sizes and are all equally enticing (depending on your choice of cuisine), there’s nothing quite like an authentic Goan fish thali. The crumbly texture of a perfectly-cooked fish fry, the piquant flavours of an authentic Goan curry mixed with soft white rice, and vegetables to balance it all out and remind you of the importance of greens in living a healthy life. Not only does it allow you to dive into a plethora of preparations and unique flavours, but it also takes away the stress of making the best choices.
Goan thalis, though available abundantly across all kinds of restaurants and dhabas, can be tricky when it comes down to making the most of your limited time there. There’s a fish thali on the menu of every restaurant on every street of Goa but not all of them are worth the money and time. But fret not, we’ve done the dirty work for you. Goa’s fish thalis might be innumerable but not unconquerable. While some come with a special dessert to end a hearty meal others, others are basic but finger lickin’ good. So read on and make sure that this year you enter Goa with your food recommendations sorted out for you.
Where: Zamblim, Calangute Road, Mapusa.
Anand Seafood Restaurant probably isn’t a place you’d spot from afar and want to visit immediately. Almost like a hole-in-the-wall joint, this place serves the most perfectly executed fish thali - the spices are just enough to ensure that the natural flavour of the fish doesn’t get overpowered, the fish is cooked just right and is deliciously crunchy while retaining its inner softness. However, the highlight of the entire spread is definitely the scrumptious Goan curry. Locals often use the word ‘khanawal’ to describe the ambience of the place - which implies a place where you get homecooked food in Marathi. Keep in mind that Anand seafood restaurant isn’t open throughout the day so we’d recommend reaching early and grabbing yourself a comfortable table, preferably away from the crowd. Expect a platter of limited (but enough) fish fry, curry, vegetables, and rice. For the unlimited version of the same meal, head to this restaurant on Mondays.
Cost: A satisfying fish thali at INR 130.
Timings: 11:30 am – 3:30 pm, 6:30 pm – 11 pm.
Where: Near Municipal Gardens, Vasco.
From a small shack frequented by locals to an entire restaurant with two dining rooms attracting the tourists of Goa, Anantashram has grown tremendously since its inception. Situated near the Municipal Gardens in Vasco, this place is small, cozy, and known for its delicious veg thali. However, it’s their fish thali that steals all the hearts. Serving a variety of dishes including rawa fried fish, a delightful fish curry that goes perfectly with the soft white rice and the assortment of vegetables is their normal thali. They also have a special thali which isn’t for the faint-hearted. Expect normal thali plus a whole range of other fish dishes. But of course, if you’re going for the latter dressed as a lone ranger, ready to conquer the world, then prepare for the food coma that awaits you. The proportions are more than enough and we’d recommend ordering the thali for lunch, instead of dinner. Unless you’re okay sleeping with a full stomach.
Cost: A normal thali at INR 150 and a Special thali at INR 400, available all days of the week.
Timings: 11:30 am – 3 pm, 7 pm – 11 pm.
III. Fat fish
Where: Agar Waddo, Calangute Arpora Road, Bardez, Baga.
The commercialisation of Baga, one of the most-visited areas of modern-day Goa, stands in stark contrast with Fat fish as the latter is soaked in traditional motifs. Overlooking the paddy fields of Baga, you can dive into the fish thali here knowing that you’ll be getting your money’s worth. Their Goan fish thali is every seafood lover’s dream featuring the curry of the day, tisro, crab xacuti, tarle sukha, vegetable with rice, fish fry, kismur, pickle, salad, and papad. All of this priced at just INR 350 - which is a great deal as opposed to going a la CARTA. But Fat fish is not just about the food, it’s about the overall experience which feels a lot like a ‘five-star’ restaurant in nature, but the prices on the menu make it clear that it’s actually not. Having said that, it’s located at a junction and isn’t that difficult to miss - which also makes it a popular spot. So expect a fair amount of waiting time but rest assured that it’ll be worth it.
Cost: A Goan fish thali at INR 350.
Timings: 12 noon – 6 pm, 7 pm – 12 midnight.
Where: Aguada-Siolim Road Baga, Arpora.
Set in a beautifully aged Portuguese house, the culinary joys of Starlight can be experienced while sitting in a large, airy verandah. The open-air seating means the restaurant is not air-conditioned but to sip on drinks, gorge on a delicious fish thali, and watch life pass by - isn’t that what it’s all about? The fish thali serves 11 items - 8 different Goan delicacies like a crab bowl, ambot-tik, a dry fish mix, a bowl of small clams, fish curry, a unique fish masala preparation, a bowl of veggies, salad. There’s also steamed white rice and one large piece of fried King fish, the flavours of which overpower everything else. It’s the variety of flavours on the plate that really stands out and leaves you satisfied by the end of it, just like you’d hoped.
Cost: A very satisfying fish thali at INR 240.
Timings: 10 am – 10 pm
Where: House No 278, Sacol Waddo, Assagao.
Away from the chaos of the main road, Vinayak is one of Assagao’s many hidden treasures. A family-run place that exudes a very homely aura, Vinayak attracts a lot of tourists, including those who have settled in Assagao in the last few years. Unfortunately, the thalis are not listed on their menu (this is where we come to the rescue) so make sure to ask for the same. They actually have multiple varieties of fish thalis, with a unique combination of dishes served in each. Their signature fish thali is the perfect platter and consists of one fried fish served with dried fried fish flakes, white rice, mussels, and fish curry along with a side of pickle and some kokum curry. “Value for money” is how most customers would define an experience at Vinayak and we agree.
Cost: A fish thali here costs INR 200 (approx).
Timings: 12:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 7 pm – 10:30 pm.
VI. Ritz Classic
Where: Multiple locations in Panaji.
First things first, Ritz Classic has multiple branches in Panaji so don’t get confused when you open Zomato. Secondly, their fish thali is only served in the afternoon so make sure you schedule your day accordingly. A favourite in the area, Ritz Classic often has a huge queue of people lining up to gorge on their seafood delicacies which are heavenly. However, be prepared for the rush, you might even have to share tables with strangers. Their exclusive fish thali which is only available for lunch serves an assortment of authentic Goan delicacies like dry prawns, curry, rich, fish fry, and crabs.
Cost: Fish thali available at INR 280.
Timings: 12noon – 3pm, 7pm – 11pm
Where: Oppsote St Jacinto Island, Vasco.
A small family-run restaurant with simple interiors but great food, Sheela Bar And Restaurant is located opposite the St. Jacinto Island. They don’t have a fixed menu so every visit to this restaurant is a pleasant surprise with one of the employees informing you about the day’s specials and freshest catch. But amidst the rotating menu, it’s their fish thali that remains constant. It’s not as extravagant but simplicity is what this eatery is known for. That, and friendly hospitality that envelopes you from the minute you enter the restaurant. If you’re expecting a large variety of dishes, then this isn’t your place. However, if you’re someone who cherishes food in small quantities (like me), then you’re in for a great time. The thali consists of fish curry, one vegetable, fried fish, and rice - all in moderate quantities and very toothsome. Also, you can pick if you want regular rice or basmati. Also, to avoid the queue, call in advance and make a reservation.
Cost: A regular fish thali at INR 140 (INR 150 for basmati rice)
Timings: 12 noon – 3 pm, 7 pm – 11 pm
VIII. Peep kitchen
Where: Risara Luxury Taliegao Market Road Near Taliegao Community Centre. Panaji.
Peep’s glowing reviews do no justice to how spectacular the place actually is. A very neatly done up place that can house a sizeable number of people, Peep’s food attracts customers from outside of Panaji very regularly. On weekends, the rush can be maddening; weekdays however are good enough for last-minute plans. Their fish thali makes for great lunch grub. A nice, shiny round steel plate full of goan fish curry, fish fry, teesryo, vegetables, fish pickle that goes perfectly with the sol kadi - which is also included in the thali. Perhaps one of the few places that consider dessert as an important part of the meal, Peep’s fish thali comes with karanji - or gujiya, as some might know it. They also have an open kitchen, which is very hygienic and efficient.
Cost: A fish thali here costs INR 250.
Timings: 12 noon – 3 pm, 7 pm – 11 pm
IX. Spica Goa
Where: No. 3, Satt-Adhar Complex, Mumbai Goa Highway, Near Karaswada Junction, Mapusa.
A seafood meal is pure indulgence. Specially when followed by the array of delicious desserts like gulab jamun, caramel pudding, kulfi and more. We’ve heard that their sera dura, a unique sawdust pudding sprinkled with biscuit crumbs, is to die for. Moving on, seafood at Spice Goa is serious business and the staff even treats it such. They ensure that the catch is fresh and provide you will all the information you might need before picking a dish. Located off the Bombay-Goa highway in a small lane in Mapusa, Spice Goa is one of the better kept local secrets. The fish thali spells heaven in the form of fish curry, crab masala, kismur (a dried prawns preparation), clams, beans, salad, rice and sol kadi. The flavours of each item on the plate different in a way that’s going to keep you coming back for more each time you visit Goa.
Cost: INR 200 for a traditional fish thali (approx).
Timings: 11:30 am – 3:30 pm, 7 pm – 11 pm.
X. The Goan Room
Where: Premiero, Jetty Road, Dona Paula, Panaji.
Vegetarians step aside - the fish thali at The Goan Room is every foodie’s dream. With its large portions, delightful flavours, and pocket-friendly rates, this restaurant serves a platter full of perfectly cooked Goan delicacies you can’t get elsewhere. Expect a good serving of soft white rice, juicy fish fry, prawn curry, dry kismoor, kokum curry, tisryo sukha, a special goan bhaji, and salad. The flavours of both the curries are spot-on with just the right amount of spice. The tisryo sukha (clams) are also deliciously cooked. The authentic flavours comprising this thali can also be delivered to your doorstep. Located at Dona Paula, The Goan Room is not unheard of and many might even dismiss it for being too commercial but really, just give it one chance and we promise. Also, if you’re tired of shopping at Panaji then stop here for a leisurely round of fenni cocktails that you can’t lay your hands on anywhere else.
Cost: Pay only INR 170 for a fish thali at The Goan Room.
Timings: 12:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 7:30 pm – 11 pm.
Feature image credit: Glimpses of Goa/Twitter
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