When the discussion about where to eat arises, we are presented with hundreds of options, because over the years, Goa has become home to various dining establishments that cater to every taste, budget, mood, and ambiance. However, for those times when the reason for eating out is not just because the gas is over, or it’s too late to cook, or the kids have just cashed in their subscription to Lucifer day-care, we look for something that is a cut above – but where do we go?
The term ‘fine dining’ is a term that gets thrown around quite frequently in conversations about food. Here in Goa, a coastal state known for its tourism, the selection of legitimate fine dining restaurants are few, especially since the majority of the dining population prefers a casual atmosphere. This is compounded by the fact that the average diner does not really understand or cannot properly identify a fine dining establishment. To help you make an informed decision the next time you’re looking for an option to celebrate that third wedding anniversary that you forgot, we’ve put together a short list of key elements to look for in a fine dining restaurant.
A Formal atmosphere
Most fine dining establishments aim to maintain a formal atmosphere. In a place like Goa you may not be expected to don your Sunday suit, but you’d definitely not want to show up in your birthday suit! The pseudo-formal atmosphere requires that patrons be well dressed in semi-formal attire (dinner jackets and dresses maybe), and maintain a polite tone during dining sessions. A great example of a formal atmosphere is Bottlejack Bistro in Porvorim. The dim lighting and separated upstairs and downstairs dining atmospheres sans the loud live music of many casual diners makes it the perfect venue for a formal dining experience. Additionally, for larger parties requiring a private space, owner and chef Karlton D’Souza lets you choose one of two private dining areas that can comfortably seat eight to ten patrons.
Pro tip: If you’re a group of 6 or more people, ask for a meeting room.
Upscale location and decor
Back in the day, the defining factor of a fine dining restaurant was white table cloths and silverware. The modern fine dining establishment may skip the white tablecloth for the sake of aesthetics, but the fact remains, the restaurant itself will maintain a theme that is classy and in line with their cuisine and plating. A fine example is the The Verandah at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Bambolim. Serving primarily Italian cuisine, the restaurant employs a theme that blends the deep brown rawness of solid wood furniture, with the polish of jade green marble floors. Add to that the open kitchen with it’s aromatic exchanges and the bold geometric ceilings, and you have yourselves all the makings of a 5 star dining experience.
Pro tip: Order one of the signature pizzas to see the open kitchen in action.
High quality produce
Fine dining is not about getting a quick meal during the week, nor is it about copious amounts of food on a plate. A fine dine restaurant instead aims to make dining an experience – and this reflects in the painstaking selection of quality produce. For most fine dining establishments, the search for the best produce is a never ending pursuit, with head-chefs or owners often at the front lines of produce procurement ensuring that only the best makes it to the table. A Reverie in Calangute exemplifies this need for the best by constructing a menu that is built around seasonal offerings that are organic and farm fresh, and constantly evolving so that no two visits are ever the same. While dining here, it is best to ask the head server to recommend something on the specials menu, or share your preferences. A Reverie is sought after for their personalized dining experience with owners Aakritee and Virendra Sinh going out of their way to accommodate a patron’s dietary restrictions or allergen considerations.
Pro tip: Inquire about the catch of the day to ensure the freshest produce.
The fine dining experience is often described as ‘art you can eat’. Plating portions are arranged meticulously, a construct that blends all the five senses of smell, sight, sound, feel, and most importantly, taste. Though portions often appear small, as discussed earlier, fine dining is about quality over quantity, and it shows in the elaborate presentation of even the most minimal of courses. A visit to The Lazy Goose in Nerul is a must if you want to experience the beautiful and functional plating of Chef Rohan D’Souza. Baked baby crab shells delicately carved out and stuffed with crab meat, soup spoons that cradle a morsel of prawn in a jus of wine and cherry tomatoes, and serving boards adorned with edible flowers and micro-herbs are just a few of the platings that have made it to countless Instagram profiles. If that’s not proof of art on a plate, then not much else is.
Pro tip: Visit for lunch to get the best food pictures.
Top Shelf wine and wine pairings
A good wine is the cornerstone of a fine dining experience. Wine’s pair beautifully with a variety of fine dining cuisines such as French and Italian, and also compliments a plethora of meats and vegetarian offerings. Ordering the right wine to pair with the course you have decided on can be an overwhelming experience, especially when the wine list is extensive, hence a true fine dining restaurant will often have an experienced wine sommelier on hand to make the perfect recommendation. Prahlad Sukhtankar offers an unparalleled wine pairing experience at his fine dining establishment, Black Sheep Bistro in Panjim city, by educating guests in proper wine appreciation, and by introducing a number of fine wines that are sourced from local wineries. These majorly Indian wines pair exceptionally well with the pioneering fusion cuisine that is on the menu.
Pro tip: Ask Prahlad for a crash course in wine tasting. He’ll be happy to oblige, and you’ll probably learn something new.
Have you experienced true fine dining in Goa? Share your experience in the comments below.