San Francisco is a foodie’s heaven, the kind of city where you can find authentic and delicious fare from any region in the world. To my delight, I was recently invited to try a new Indian restaurant in the Marina District — Viva Goa. Claiming to be the only authentic Goan restaurant in Northern California, I found the invitation impossible to resist.
Having never been to Goa, I had no idea what to order. I didn’t even recognize the names of any of the dishes. The owners did their part by being extremely attentive and explaining the menu thoroughly, but I was still unsure.
While mulling over the menu, two vans parked outside of the restaurant, and a pack of men came through the door. They had heard about this new Goan restaurant from their friends, and traveled all the way from San Jose to try it. Proclaiming they were Goan and ready to be fed, the men ordered the fish curry, pork vindaloo (vindaloo originated in Goa), and chicken xacuti.
Figuring this was an excellent “in” to the cuisine, I put my faith in the group’s selections and ordered the exact same. Once my meal arrived, I was sent straight to foodie heaven. The fish curry, which the owner noted is the staple in Goa, was tangy and spicy with notes of tamarind and ginger. The chicken xacuti, a traditional Goan curry, kept my palate pleased with its fresh coconut, poppy seeds and dried chilies. Then came the vindaloo – the dish that sent me flying through the gates of that foodie heaven. It is different here than the vindaloo I’ve tried in Northern Indian or Pakistani restaurants. It’s less watery, and not as spicy. I could taste all the wonderful spices and the juicy meat.
Vindaloo was originally a Portuguese dish, which took its name from the two main ingredients: “vinho,” or wine vinegar and “alhos,” meaning garlic. Over time it was spiced up and changed by the indigenous peoples of the ex-Portuguese colony of Goa. I’ve noticed that other Indian restaurants use a great deal more chili powder in their vindaloo, while others have taken the “aloo” portion to mean potato, and thus introduced diced potato to the curry.
Besides the three dishes I tried, Viva Goa also offers other Portuguese influenced food, such as macaroni soup, beef assado (roast beef), chicken cafreal (spicy fried chicken), and pork chops. Before I left, I tried the traditional Goan dessert- Bebinca- very delicious. It’s made of refined flour, coconut milk and egg yolk. It reminded me of a layered bread pudding.
All in all, it was a great experience that I would highly recommend. I was also thrilled to learn that Viva Goa delivers to my neighborhood, North Beach. I love good food, but I love it even more if it comes to my house.
2420 Lombard St, San Francisco, CA