Joe’s River Cove (Goa, January 2023)

Our base of operations when in Goa is our friends’ house in the village of Velim in South Goa. Our normal order of business after eating breakfast is to head to Cavelossim Beach. We then either spend the whole day there—eating a passable lunch at one of the beach shacks—or taking a break to drive to lunch somewhere else in South Goa (for example, to Pentagon). It’s not that there aren’t places other than the shacks at which we could eat at in that general vicinity. But the choices are either the overpriced Fisherman’s Wharf or places on the Sal river like Star Light, which have a charm of their own but where the food is generally not particularly memorable. Joe’s River Cove is another of these places on the river. We passed it twice a day in January 2020 on the way to and back from the beach. On this trip, we finally made it in, on a day when we took a rare break from the beach to relax at home during the day and when we didn’t want to drive a long distance for dinner. Here’s what we found.

The first thing you may notice if you look at my review of Star Light is that Joe’s River Cove is an altogether larger and fancier affair. It has more in common with a place like Pentagon than the other casual places on the banks of the Sal. Of course, the menu at a place like Pentagon is not very different from the menus at the casual places—the difference is really in the nature of the daily catch seafood on offer. Pentagon has lobster, for example, whereas places like Star Light only have fish and prawns. Beyond that the menu at all these place—whether expansive or more limited—is going to be the same multi-cuisine proffer where North Indian, Continental and Indian Chinese are the emphasis with the Goan food more or less an afterthought. This, by and large, is true of Joe’s River Cove as well. The Goan section of the menu is not small but it’s only a small part of the whole. And just as at Pentagon, you can’t get Goan breads or sannas (fermented rice cakes) to eat any of it with.

The smart thing at places like this may well be to skip past the Goan section and order from one of the others. But coming to Goa from Delhi, we are not very motivated to eat kababs and tandoori chicken in Goa, and nor are we particularly excited to eat sizzler platters or pasta or Manchurian chicken. The Goan food at places like this is still quite a lot better than that on offer in most parts of India—and certainly it’s a lot better than anything available in the US, where the only requirement to call something Goan is to add some vinegar to it.

And so, we ordered from the Goan section, probably annoying the cooks in the kitchen in the process. What did we get? Rava-fried mussels. The mussels are coated in semolina and fried to a crisp. A very good thing to eat with beer and I had a Kingfisher on hand. Also from this end of the menu: roast (beef) tongue, pork chilly fry and squid butter garlic. All were tasty enough. We only got one larger dish: the pork sorpotel and this was quite creditable as well. Of course, there was no pao or poee to eat any of it with and so we had to stick with rice and naans (the boys do not complain about naans being the only breads available at places like this).

A fruit juice and a couple of mocktails (the boys feel very sophisticated drinking mocktails) rounded out our order.

For a look at the restaurant and what we ate, click on a picture below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for thoughts on the general ambience and service and to see how much all of this cost.

We arrived for dinner very early by Indian standards and found the restaurant empty. I was just saying that it’s a good thing I hadn’t bothered trying to make a reservation when the manager told us he would seat us but hoped we wouldn’t linger too long as the restaurant was going to be very busy soon. This seemed unlikely given how large and empty it was, but, sure enough, it began to fill up steadily and by the time we left, almost all tables were taken, the parking lot was full and people without reservations were being turned away. This on a Wednesday night. If your visit to this part of South Goa might bring you to Joe’s River Cove, plan accordingly.

Service was very pleasant when present, but not always present when needed. But you’d have to be an even bigger asshole than me to be exercised about this at a place like this (there was one such at the table closest to us and enduring his loud complaints was the one unpleasant thing about the meal). Cost? With tip, about Rs. 3200 or just about $40. A pretty good value. We took leftover sorpotel home and finished it at dinner the next day.

Alright, back to Seoul tomorrow. I’ll probably have a look at Namdaemun Market.



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