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Some of the best Chicken Cafreal in all of Goa

Think of chicken cafreal and Florentine’s in Saligao immediately pops into the mind. For this particular dish, site Florentine’s ranks among the best in the state. I’ve been a regular ever since it started a little over 20 years ago as a palm-leaves-thatched shack adjacent to the owner’s house in a quiet corner of Saligao. It’s basically a small country-style tavern, a place where many have their fill of liquor before tucking into the chicken cafreal. A leg or breast of chicken marinated in this spicy green masala and roast-fried to perfection, downed with fluffy white ‘podis’. It didn’t take long for Florentine’s fame to spread and it became a must-visit place for the celebrity brigade. It was simple: if you were in Goa for a few days, you had to have the chicken cafreal at Florentine’s, for that true taste of Goa! The best part about Florentine’s, though, is the down-to-earth prices of the dishes, with half a Chicken Cafreal now costing Rs 130 only. Most people have the quarter portion which costs even less. But don’t expect half a huge broiler chicken. They use the local ‘ghaunti combios’ for that extra special taste.

Located off the Chogm road just behind the Saligao church, there’s a board indicating its entrance. You enter the small lane, take a left and there it is – the heady aroma of cafreal cooking suffuses the place. Over the years the palm-leaved shack has evolved into a huge two-storied restaurant and the staff is now immaculately groomed. Somewhere on its journey to fame Florentine’s, unlike many other true-blue Goan restaurants, decided to keep beef and pork dishes off the menu, apparently not to hurt the sentiments of certain touristy visitors, which is a pity. But then you can’t always have it all.

Of course chicken cafreal is not the only dish on the menu. Not quite gourmet, but all done the good old Goan way. Besides the Goan dishes, they also have a small Chinese section with fried rice and noodles. (This, too, could be construed as something of a pity because if your claim to fame is having some of the best chicken cafreal on the planet, it’s not exactly clear how faux Chinese fare fits in). During the season they also have ‘fresh urrack’ which they get from somewhere in Pirna. Get yourself a drink and order something to munch on. A popular favourite is the ‘Mussels Rava Fried’ with the de-shelled crustacean marinated with just that right coating of Goan masala and fried and served hot with a small salad. Nice. Also recommended are their Goan-style ‘Prawns Fried’, a few medium-sized fried prawns again with the coating of Goan masalas.

Apart from their cafreal, our favourite though has to be the ‘Mussels Xacuti’. Simply outstanding. The shellfish goes so well with the xacuti masala, the perfect balance between the sweetness of the coconut and black pepper in the mix.  But even the ‘Mussels Caldinho’ is good. In fact there’s a lot to choose from. Apart from the Chicken Cafreal, you can also have ‘Kingfish Cafreal’ or ‘Chonak Cafreal’. If you’re simply looking for the good old ‘Fish Curry Rice’, you can have it for Rs 140. For the same price you also get a lovely ‘Prawn Curry Rice’ or a ‘Fish Caldinho Rice’ which is also to die for.

The Cafreal masala boasts a very well balanced Goan gravy, neither too thick nor too watery. It’s the same with the Xacuti, Caldinho and Vindalho preparations, all of which can be had in chicken, fish and even vegetarian versions. Yes, they make a mean ‘Vegetable Xacuti’ and also ‘Mushroom Xacuti’, and of course the classic ‘Vegetable Caldinho’.

For those willing to spend a bit more, also on offer are some fancy seafood items – price on request. The fish recheado, specially the ‘Pomfret Recheado’, is also outstanding.

Round off your meal with the standard ‘Caramel Custard’, a steal at Rs 25.

One of the only drawbacks is that like with most traditional Goan eateries, they are not air-conditioned. While the service is friendly and excellent, very Goan style, they don’t use fancy serving tables or trays. It’s quite a sight watching the waiters balance three dishes in the left hand – one in the hand, another on the wrist and yet another up on the forearm near the elbow, and two more dishes on the right hand as they weave their way from the kitchen around the tables. How they never drop anything is miraculous. One last tidbit – have the chicken cafreal or any other gravy dish with the in-house ‘podi’ – it’s the best podi in Goa.

The Food: Truly Goan

The Service: Expert

Ambience: No frills

Something Special: The Chicken Cafreal

Contact: Florentine, Pequeno Morod, Chogm road, Near ANHC, Behind Saligao Church, Saligao, Bardez, Goa.

Tel: 2278122