This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
Charles' mastery on the grill is summed up by the steak at Panino
I’m a firm believer in looking at the state that we live in from the eyes of a native. The more I look at Goa, the more I realise that its beauty and charm lies in its villages, the last few acres of green, far away from the beaches. It is in the process of such reflection that I stumbled across ‘Panino – The Little Goan Bistro’, tucked away in Majorda.
Now, on principle, I don’t like multi-cuisine restaurants, but with the target audience of the domestic market, I also get why the owners of establishments choose to go that way. Panino, in particular, serves everything from Goan to North Indian, to Chinese and grilled goods. The project of Valentino Fernandes, who’s dedicated 16 years of his life to the hospitality sector, Panino is a place where Goa meets other worldly concepts. It has a large seating space that is rather welcoming, and on the left-hand side of the property, has four little gazebos, which are a little more secluded, for more intimate and cosy affairs.
Panino has of course, over time, established itself for certain dishes that are completely standout servings. These include the likes of the ‘Stuffed Prawns’, which are large and fresh, and marinated and stuffed with garlic and cheese, before being batter-fried. Another off-beat but popular item is the ‘Sausage Spring Roll’, which comprises local sausage, stuffed into a Chinese-styled spring roll, that is served with Schezwan dipping sauce. And at Panino, it is evident that they love working with sausage – their other popular starter is testament to that fact. By and large, ‘Stuffed Mushrooms’ are a commonplace dish on multi-cuisine menus. However, here they are done a little differently. A Goan choris stuffing is used to fill the fresh button mushroom caps, before breading and frying them.
Prawn too has a popular place at the establishment, with the ‘Breaded Coined Prawns’ being an apparent crowd favourite. The signature dish of the restaurant is made up of a prawn mix on bread, which is dusted in semolina and fried…but an oddly popular dish is the ‘Vegetable Crispy’, which is something that even meat eaters (read myself) enjoy. It features a host of vegetables, from cauliflower to beans, to potatoes and peppers, being dunked in a batter, and fried to a crisp, all the while being tossed with the chef’s signature sauce.
To be honest though, for me, the piece de resistance is Panino’s weekly Friday night affair. The grill-centric event features hobby-chef (who is as good as any trained one that I know), Charles da Silva. The man is a genius when it comes to getting the doneness on meat just right. And it’s not just the cook, but also the butchery skills that are top notch. The pork ribs and chops are not just flavourful and tender, but trimmed beautifully; with just enough fat for flavour, but not too much, so as to make them disgusting. There’s a little bit of fat on the steak, in terms of marbling, but it’s there to give the meat that buttery, silky feel.
Coming back to the aforementioned steak; at the time of ordering, Valentino, known affectionately simply as ‘Vally’, threw down the gauntlet. His exact words were “I challenge you on this. If you don’t like the steak, it’s on me.” Perhaps I should have claimed, because I didn’t like the steak…I LOVED it; it is possibly the finest in the south, and though I’m not a very big eater, I ordered another. When one does what I do, for as long as I’ve been doing it, one gets to hear all kinds of claims from restaurateurs, and sometimes they can be tall ones. Steak, in particular, is a favourite claim for them, but Panino delivers on their claims, and then some.
There are other things on the grill too, including prawn, surf and turf, chicken, and vegetables. However, the steak is the big hitter in this line-up. Another noteworthy mention, for those who have young children, is that Panino also has a children’s menu, which is fairly well fleshed out. And if, at the end of such an expansive feast, you have sweet leanings, as I almost always do, the ‘Banana Fritters’ are what you absolutely must order. They are molten, creamy and decadently divine.
I honestly believe that there is much that Panino quite literally brings to the table, with great food and well-trained, efficient and friendly staff. I’m definitely returning there on a Friday night, at the very least, and if you haven’t been there yet, it is time you made it a part of your agenda.
Panino sums up Goa in a nutshell; food that is comforting, flavourful, and which is flavoured with hospitality, above all else.
The Friday nights in particular, are immensely popular at Panino.
The average cost of a meal for two (minus the libations) would be an approximate of ₹1,500 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
Majorda Beach Road, Dongorim, Majorda, Goa 403713
Food is a huge part of any culture and for me, chancing upon a good meal is synonymous with having a great day. The What’s On My Plate series of posts is where I discuss food, great places to eat, and anything gastronomically moving. This could be anything from a great place to eat, to an obscure kind of food, to an origin story. After all, there is no love like the love of eating.