Before we left Bangalore, our friend Josh gave us a few Goa recommendations. He said:
Go to Mandrem. Stay at the Dunes. Have dinner next to the Dunes at a place called Well Garden that makes awesome wood-fired pizzas. Aswem, the next beach south, has a fancy European restaurant called La Plage. You can walk there or take a short cab ride.
OK, you could say that he planned most of our Goa trip for us. The first day on the beach, we tried to find La Plage for lunch. We walked down the beach for about a half-hour, fording a knee-high river formed by the tides and scrambling over rocks along the way. We asked a few people we passed, both tourists and touts, none of whom had heard of La Plage. Ultimately we turned back and had lunch in Mandrem. Our hosts at the Dunes told us that we had gone the right way, just not far enough. They said we would be able to see it from the beach and to just keep going.
The following day we left around 11AM for our lunchtime adventure. We passed the river, the rocks, and a long stretch of beautiful beach with nothing but sea creatures and waves to keep us company. Finally we spied a line of red beach chairs under the waving palm trees, and a little bit beyond them was an enormous sky-blue sign signaling that we had arrived at La Plage.
The food at La Plage is about 3 times the price of your average restaurant in Mandem (which puts the dishes at $4-$7), but it has the nicest atmosphere in town and delicious food. The two vegetarian dishes we had for lunch were fantastic. The chilled avocado soup would have made the grade in a top California restaurant, and their tomato tart was flaky, buttery goodness. The “grilled spicy chicken” just reminded me that I should stick to vegetables and seafood in this part of the world (though the accompanying green papaya and peanut salad was yummy).
The next day we went back for more, and discovered our two favorite dishes. The first was gnocchi with porcini mushrooms. The gnocchi were homemade, deliciously chewy, and topped with real parmesan cheese and a porcini mushroom sauce that was rich without being heavy-handed. The second was the “La Grande Salade de La Plage”, which we had spied earlier on another table. It’s a collection of dips, cheese, and vegetables served with fresh baked bread.
We had a few more lunches there, and dinner with Sean and Freeman last night. Dinner was a bit of an adventure. Lauren and I again walked along the beach, but there were a few differences. It was dark, which we had planned for with our headlamps. However, when we got partway through the river crossing, we realized that the tides were much higher in the evening! Fortunately it was still warm enough out for our shorts to dry on the other half of our walk, and we joined Sean and Freeman for a dry cab ride home.
The other dinner hiccup was the food coursing. All of our dishes, from appetizers to main courses, arrived simultaneously. This meant that there was not enough room on the table for everything, and that much of the food got cold before it was eaten. The staff let us linger over cards for hours afterwards, but it was a shame to have such a rushed eating experience.
Overall the food at La Plage is delicious, especially the vegetarian dishes, and the lounge-y beach setting is paradise. If you’re in north Goa, it’s worth the journey (by cab or river crossing) to check it out!
Aswem, Goa, India
Daily: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner