Juhu’s nondescript Goa Bhavan Canteen is known to be a budget-friendly home-style eatery. But has the joint become a tad too homely? Kiran Mehta lives to tell an amusing seafood-inspired tale
Goa Bhavan Canteen
Walking into Goa Bhavan Canteen is like walking into a friend’s apartment, albeit one who isn’t anywhere close to being a neatness-freak, and one who often breaks the rules of decorum. As we stepped into the canteen, despite turning up 15 minutes before opening time, (7.45 pm instead of the opening hour of 8 pm), we were welcomed with a warm smile and ushered into the crammed space.
An assortment of fish and prawns ready to be prepared in the Goa Bhavan Canteen
Miraculously, 22 seats — many of which are welded together — fit into this room. The best table in the house (room, actually) was already taken by what appeared to be regular customers. Beaten to the chase, we had to settle for the next-best: seats that were blocking other tables, and were surrounded by sealed packs of bottled water, inches from the reception/cashier; this also meant having to crane one’s neck to watch TV.
The Fish Thali is the star on the frugal menu, and is pocket-friendly too. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Homely, and how!
Having turned up before opening time, we waited patiently as our uninhibited hosts, the staff, began to waltz in. They placed their backpacks behind the reception, pulled out clothes from said backpacks, (thankfully) disappeared into a private corner, and reappeared to place clothes behind the defunct reception. Next, a senior staff member walked out of the kitchen, agarbatti in hand, and prayed before a shrine that housed Christian and Hindu deities. When he was done, it was 8 pm, and time to take our order.
We asked him for a menu card, and were told there was none. But at the speed of light, the menu rolled off his tongue. Having only caught a key word, ‘Thali’, we requested him to repeat the menu, slowly. It’s then that we learned that the canteen serves Fish Thali, Prawns Thali, Chicken Thali, Vegetable Thali, and a variety of fried fish.
Eat like a GoanWe asked for our starter, Surmai Fry, to be brought together with our mains, a Chicken Thali and a Prawns Thali. The Surmai dish consisted of two pieces, glazed with semolina. It was crispy, mildly spiced yet flavourful. Each thali was plentiful and came with rice and chapatti (or you can choose one or the other), chicken/prawns curry, a humble portion of vegetables, two pieces of small fried fish, a bowl (yes bowl, not glass) of Sol Kadi, salad and pickle.
The chicken pieces were tender and cooked in tangy, spicy coconut gravy; the prawns too were succulent and cooked in coconut gravy. While both dishes had a coconut base, the curries remained distinctly different. While the meat and fish are limited, the curry is unlimited.
The pieces of fried fish in the thali, too, had the same texture as the Surmai Fry, due to the semolina. The salad added a touch of the raw, while the Sol Kadi was the perfect way to wipe off this hearty, home-cooked meal.
We took away the Paplet (Pomfret) Fry — which even a day later, despite the semolina coating, hadn’t gone soggy. At the end of the meal, with no menu, we had no idea about the prices. We soon found out that the Chicken Thali and Prawns Thali are more than reasonable at Rs 170 and Rs 160 respectively. But we find the Surmai Fry, a tad steep at Rs 260, and the same goes for the Paplet (Pomfret) Fry at Rs 350. All in all, a great value-for-money find that deserves a visit for its authentic Goan food, especially if you’re willing to overlook the ambiance, or the lack of it, rather.
Time: Daily, 1 pm to 3.30 pm, 8 pm to 11 pm
At: Gulmohar Cross Road, JVPD Scheme, Juhu, Andheri (W).
Goa Bhavan Canteen didn’t know we were there. the guide reviews anonymously and pays for its meals.