A new cafe in Goa’s picturesque Fontainhas can be your go-to place for clean eating on a holiday
Grilled cheese sandwich
This writer first met wellness chef and food consultant Moina Oberoi at a preview of a now-shuttered fitness food cafe in Bandra six years ago. We felt Oberoi, who is a fermented food specialist, was the perfect ambassador for the food she curates—her glowing skin being a great example of one of the many things good gut food can do for you. Oberoi also started Mo’s Kefir (shut during the pandemic), a superfood brand that specialised in kefir milk, and was in fact, nominated by this newspaper for the 2019 edition of The Guide Restaurant Awards.
Almond orange upside-down cake
Fast forward to the post-pandemic era, Oberoi has packed her bags here and opened a cosy café in the picture-perfect area of Fontainhas in Goa. Called Mo’s Cafeteria—Mo means ‘and’ in Japanese—the food at this simple-yet-beautiful café is inspired by Goan dishes with a sprinkle of Japanese elements. It’s hidden, in a good way, in the locality known for its colourful heritage buildings and new-age cafés and boutiques—you’ll be tempted to walk around and take a few photos before you get welcomed by the aroma of fresh coffee at Mo’s. They also have guilt-free desserts to go with your coffee, or you can choose from their many small plates, filling salads or sandwiches. There’s an alfresco section, but we choose to sit indoors to avoid the intermittent rain.
Soba Noodle salad
The rainy outdoors calls for a coffee start, and we order a Vietnamese cold brew (Rs 280) and a coconut guava smoothie (Rs 280). Both pair refreshingly well with our appetisers, prawn balchao raw banana chops (Rs 240) and wasabi peas croquette (Rs 220). The dishes are served with their tasty in-house ketchup and Japanese cabbage salad. Raw bananas overpower the flavour of prawns, but make for a healthier, non-greasy alternative to potatoes. The croquettes are great as a snack, perfectly crisp from the outside. But this writer finds the combination of wasabi and peas a bit underwhelming, having eaten so many ‘hara bhara kebabs’ in our life. The food feels light and will easily goad you to order more, like our next sampling of Goan chorizo and pork pate (Rs 290). Served with poee bread, salad and gherkins, the pate shows how Oberoi is an expert at making local dishes modern and light. What feels like a big portion for a small plate is quickly wiped off even by our not-so-regular-pork-eating friends.
Chicken xacuti salad
There is a tempting sandwich section too, from which we call for grilled cheese (Rs 290), albeit a healthier version that comes wrapped in katra pao, has rocket leaves, caramelised leeks, and loads of cheddar and feta. If you aren’t a fan of mustard, just ask the chef to go easy with it in this sandwich.
Next up is spicy mushroom and soba noodle salad (Rs 320) and chicken xacuti salad (Rs 350). The xacuti has generous portions of perfectly grilled, mildly flavoured chicken pieces on a bed of mixed lettuce, cherry tomatoes, poee croutons and almond flakes with some extra sauce on the side. The soba one is a fibre-rich veg salad with red cabbage, carrots, spring onion, peanuts, sesame seeds and a peanut rayu dressing. Several dishes down, we still have room for their gluten-free desserts. The banana cake square (Rs 250) with cream cheese icing melts in the mouth and just one square will not be enough. The almond orange upside-down cake (Rs 250) is equally divine with strong hints of cinnamon. And the Belgian chocolate tahini rice cracker doughnut (Rs 140) is a godly marriage between a snack and a dessert. Though pricey, the desserts make for guilt-free indulgences. The staff deserves a special mention, as we end up sitting at the café beyond their open hours and aren’t rushed.
Mo’s offers Goa-inspired food made with local and Japanese ingredients; the al fresco section has a great vibe
With its great coffee and cakes section, a tempting list of sandwiches, and filling salads, we will surely take a trip to Fontainhas again when the rains go away and sunlight pours in Mo’s Cafeteria’s al fresco section.
What: Mo’s Cafeteria, Rua Miguel Vicent Abreu, Panaji, Goa
WHEN: 8 AM to 8 PM
Mo’s didn’t know we were there. Sunday mid-day reviews anonymously and pays for meals.