Just starting out, Porto & Poie has one big advantage over the city’s other Goan restaurants: it is within diving distance of the ocean. Today is Valentine’s Day, and this love boat is steered by chef Gracian De Souza, who is not only responsible for excellent pork aamsol, but also a playlist that you will find yourself Shazam-ing all night.
Lighting up an otherwise blah and previously very musty Royal Garden Hotel location - many restaurants have come and gone - Porto & Poie is a compelling reason to visit Juhu. After your beach Crossfit class, of course. Like most diners tonight, we’re also a set of two and are seated under a romantic canopy of trees. The Portuguese and Goan tapas bar and restaurant has a lovely al fresco section with a tiled bar and beach vibes, and we suggest you settle here while the weather still permits.
Edgar Allen Poie
Here’s how to get started: Peaty Paul John cocktails softened with cranberry tea and peppercorns, best paired with Vince Costa’s evocative black and white photographs of Goa and Portugal that hang on the walls inside. The cocktail menu is also full of backstories on Goa’s geography and (in)famous history, and we sip on a Cham Chapora, made with bourbon, curry leaves, pumpkin and sea salt, stiff enough to cross the Chapora with nothing but a straw. At this point, the service isn’t great – a table next to ours leaves after drinks because of an excruciatingly long wait for the food – and we hope the kink will be ironed out soon.
Meanwhile, slivers of tongue, marinated for 48-hours, come dressed in olive oil, lime and coriander, laid out on a charpoy of sautéed onions. Restrained and delicate, the dish slides us smoothly into the rest of our meal.
If you’re in the mood for something meaty, pork aamsol, nesting in carmelised onions and sage butter is an excellent choice. It’s subtle but also flavourful, and lends itself well to some serious mopping action with warm, yeasty poie. A more traditional option: coriander and roasted peanut cakes with green chilli are fresh and herby, reminiscent of Goan street food, hot off the carts.
Libon and Buns
If you’re on a date (or even solo), it's best to avoid Portuguese-style pan fried sardines served with charred tomatoes and red peppers — intensely fishy and guaranteed to eliminate all possibilities of being kissed. Portuguese feijoada, a hearty bean-and-pork stew, will have you silently weeping into your poie with joy. The pork and beans are cooked to melt-in-the-mouth consistency, in a gravy that is deliciously smoky and tart.
Bebinca is only slightly better than a store-bought version, so loosen your pants instead for custard tarts. These are not as flaky as the ones at your other favourite Goan restaurant, O Pedro, but come with a far more generous smoosh of wobbly custard, elevated by a accompanying shot of cold-brewed coffee that cuts through the rich sweetness. It is the happy ending your Valentine can never guarantee.
Getting there: Above Royal Garden Hotel, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu. A meal for two costs approximately Rs 3,500 with drinks.
Accessibility: Staircase, no elevator.
This review was conducted by Anisha Oommen, food journalist and co-founder of The Goya Journal.
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