The sheer abundance of seafood—the availability as well as the range—can be exciting and overwhelming for anybody visiting Goa. While beach shacks and most restaurants do a decent job with prawn curry-rice, kingfish fry and calamari butter-garlic, it takes a special kind of locavorism to sniff out the delicacies residents love.

Starlight, Arpora

The approach to this shanty restaurant might make you wary, but it is best not to go by appearances alone. “Everything rava-fried is awesome here," says Gayle D’Souza, a home-baker, listing all things that get beautifully fried to a crisp after being dredged in spicy red Goan masala and a liberal dusting of rava, from prawns and fish, to squid and mussels (in season). The one dish that draws D’Souza back to Starlight time and again is Crab Xec Xec (a fiery curry made with whole spices and red chillies ground with coconut, and simmered with tamarind). “It’s thick, nice and spicy, unlike the watered-down variants served in most places," she says.

Starlight, Baga-Arpora Road, Arpora, Bardez (083-22277965). Around 800-1,000 for two.

Ritz Classic, Panjim

Set up in 2001 by Rajesh Desai—whose father created a landmark for fresh, traditional Goan cuisine at Café Ritz 40 years ago—this unpretentious restaurant can be identified by the snaking queues outside. “We provide the freshest catch every day," says Desai, “and we serve it as a fish thali as well as Goan preparations." The rice plate or xit-kodi (literally, rice-curry) is Goa’s lunchtime staple—at the most basic, it will comprise rice, curry and fried fish—but the Ritz thali includes at least four kinds of seafood in four different preparations (like a fried fish, prawn curry, crab masala and clam sabji) along with kismur (dried shrimp salad with raw onions and coconut), a vegetarian gravy, pickle and sol-kadi (a digestive juice of kokum and seasoned coconut milk). Also popular are Squid Masala Fry, Baby Chonak (sea perch) and Crab Masala Fry.

Ritz Classic, First floor, Wagle Vision Building, 18th June Road, Panjim (083-22426417), and Ground floor, Patto Plaza, Gera’s Imperium-II, Panjim (083-22970298). Around 600 for two.

Texas

The Texas thali has clams cooked in a dryish spicy onion-based masala.

Texas, First floor, Hotel Neptune, Panjim (083-22226077). Around 600 for two.

Sheela Bar and Restaurant

Located close to St Jacinto Island near Vasco Da Gama, Sheela has a view of the river and a very popular xit-kodi, as well as seafood specials like squids, mussels and prawns. It is entirely possible to skip the mains altogether, and sample all the seafood on offer, in every fried and masala variant available. Nolan Mascarenhas, a north Goa-based marketing consultant, happily braves the 45-minute drive to Vasco Da Gama to enjoy the thali at Sheela. “The fish is always fresh, and they specialize in lesser-known Goan recipes, especially their vegetarian accompaniments," he says. “Their tambdi-bhaji (red amaranth) is excellent."

Sheela Bar and Restaurant, House No.39, Vasco Cortalim Road, Sancoale, opposite St Jacinto Island (083-22555675). Around 800-1,000 for two.

Anand Bar and Restaurant

Located opposite Vivanta by Taj in Panjim, Anand offers a stripped-down version of the fish thali. Loyalists go back for its non-fussy, home-made flavour, bolstered by side orders of fish and curry. Demand is high and, since they prepare limited quantities, it is known to run out of food, so make sure you aren’t late.

Anand Bar and Restaurant, Santa Inez, Panjim (083-22229201). Around 250 for two.

Amigos

Sitting in a quiet corner on the banks of the Nerul river in north Goa, Amigos has sparse interiors, a river view to die for and food that’s unforgettable. Twenty years ago, Sabita and Joseph Fernandes decided to open Amigos to give the world a taste of the treasures of their mother’s kitchen. The red snapper and crab prepared using a family recipe are very popular, and must be ordered 24 hours ahead. Mussels cooked traditionally, parboiled rice and home-style vegetables form part of a thali that changes every day. Uncomplicated yet immensely flavourful.

Amigos, Taribath, Nerul, Bardez (09822104920). Around 800-1,000 for two.

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