It is difficult to imagine a more idyllic setting for an alfresco restaurant than Thalassa, which sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean. While the sun is still out, you can't take your eyes off the lovely Vagator coast. When it's dark it's still the sea dominating your experience as you feel the breeze on your face. And you never stop hearing the ocean's own symphony, as the waves ebb and flow.
In my eating out experience, Thalassa reigns supreme. If you are planning a trip to Goa, reserve an evening for Thalassa. Talking about reserving, do not arrive at the restaurant without a prior booking. In the evenings there are usually many people waiting for a table at the restaurant, which is extremely popular with both tourists as well as well-heeled Goans.
Thalassa calls itself a Taverna. The word taverna, which comes from Latin, means a small restaurant serving Greek food in a rustic setting. Thalassa lives up to the taverna tradition; the setting is unmistakably Mediterranean in a rustic way and draped in white, with terrazzo flooring, a wooden look and feel, and cane furniture. The aroma of fresh food, Mediterranean spices and the ubiquitous olive oil wafts in from the kitchen and mingles with the sea breeze in the restaurant's upbeat atmosphere, making for a heady sensory experience.
The high point in the dining experience comes when you suddenly hear the sound of breaking crockery. Since the sound is loud and insistent you wonder whether the largest table in the restaurant has collapsed. It hasn't. It's just that the restaurant's guests are throwing their plates on the floor with barely restrained delight. This is the cue for a traditional Greek dance which is performed every once in a while at Thalassa.
Guests join the lady who owns the restaurant and her sons in the festivities and to the sound and steps of Zorba the Greek, and the sound of smashing crockery, they dance with abandon and delight.
The evening that I visited Thalassa, in place of the traditional dance, there were svelte and elegant women dancers who delighted the guests with their energetic and elegant dance movements
The serving staff is young, smart, knowledgeable and friendly. If you are unfamiliar with Greek food and are struggling to decide what to order, just ask the stewards to make suggestions. They gladly will. The restaurant opens in the morning at about 10, and is alive and buzzing for the next 12 to 14 hours.
You must be wondering what kind of a restaurant review this is where I have written five or six paragraphs and haven't yet even begun talking about the food. Well, the ambience and setting of Thalassa does that to you. But, okay, let's turn our attention to the food.
Order a bottle of wine and focus on the starters, which are delectable and light. Go for the dips, be they aubergine, tuna, feta cheese or yogurt-cucumber dips. They all come with pita bread. I also had Dolmadakia, grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs. There's also the meatballs, prawns, sausages, mussels, calamari rings, olives and varieties of cheese. It is difficult to imagine a Greek meal without salad, so plan to have one of the many salads on offer at Thalassa. I had the Horiatiki, which was brilliantly fresh (Horiatiki is a salad with tomato, onions, cucumber, olive oil and feta cheese, with a sprinkling of oregano on top).
With so much to savour for starters, you can scarcely have a major main course, but at Thalassa some of the main dishes are finger-licking good, especially the kebab wraps, the lamb or beef mousakas, or even the spana korizo (which is spinach and rice cooked in a pot with olive oil, spices and feta cheese). Of course, if you are in Goa and want to do as Goans do, you will ignore all of this and aim for the seafood platter and other grilled fish items that are enormously popular at Thalassa.
To round off the meal, you should sample the baklava, a rich Mediterranean pastry. Get to Thalassa about 5.30 pm, watch the sunset and have a leisurely dinner, which you will not forget in too much a hurry.