Everyone who comes to Longuinhos tries to label it. Some say it looks like a saloon in a Hollywood Western flick. Others swear it has the same ambience as the better Irani restaurants in Bombay. Its has a timeless unhurried ambience of cool interiors, high ceilings and period tables and chairs.
The hallmark of any good restaurant is the presence of eager tourists and locals, Longuinhos has both. You could be dropping in for a chilled beer and a steak, or you could linger through a leisurely meal that stretches through three hours. It’s your call. Longuinho’s does not hustle you. In fact, they hate it when they are asked to rush a meal. The preparation of food is treated with the greatest respect here. There are no short cuts. Food has to be cooked a certain way without rush or compromise or cost cutting.
This was the wish of the late Longuinho Almeida Coutinho a gunner in the Navy, who bought Casa Portuguesa in 1950 and began catering to the Portuguese Military. The present airconditioned section of the restaurant used to be the billiard's room during the Portuguese regime. They used to prepare cod which was imported in such large quantities by the Portuguese that it used to be the poor man's fish. Now cod or bacalhau is a delicacy, very expensive and still served at Longuinhos (you have to order in advance). Longuinho's son Ilio runs the restaurant today and makes very certain traditions set by his father continue till today.
For instance Longuinhos is very strict about their masalas. These have been created by the owner’s mother Dona Floripes Almeida Coutinho. The special flavours that were conjured up in the kitchen 63 years ago continue till today. Hand ground on a stone grinder.
The restaurant serves Goan, Continental, Indian and Chinese cuisine.
Try the special Goan Biryani which is very popular. It is basically a fluffy pulao with other elements added to it like meat, fried onions and their special chutney. The biryani is their highest selling rice dish. But let’s start with the beginning of the day.
Longuinhos is open from 8.30 am to 11.00 pm. From omelettes to scrambled eggs with Goa sausages. Patties and sausage rolls are generally sold out if you land up after 11 am. There are customers who take packs of sausage rolls abroad in their luggage. The patties and samosas have a variety of fillings - beef, veg, egg, chicken or prawn.
Cakes & Desserts
Longuinhos is famous for its éclairs stuffed with custard, and their exclusive Bolo Sans Rival. They also serve cream cakes, rumballs, cheesecakes, fruitcakes, ice cakes and Tender Coconut Souffle.
The cakes are baked in wood fired ovens, so are the sausage rolls and patties. These have to be baked at a controlled temperature which is known only to the owners and the cooks. Baking in wood fired ovens is a tricky exercise. Sausage rolls for instance cannot be baked when the oven is very hot. The firewood comes from their farm. Wood fire gives a distinctly smoky flavour to the food.
Beef rolado is another favourite with a strip of pork inside the beef wrapping with a sliver of fresh ginger, chilli and garlic. Beef rolado is served with Goa sausages too. In the beef dishes Longuinhos offers Beef Crumb Chops, Beef Steak and Beef Chilly Fry which are in great demand.
Among the pork delicacies, Pork Balchao, pork chops, Sorpotel, Pork Vindalho (by the way it is vindalho and not ‘vindaloo’ as the rest of India pronounces it). Foreigners are also seen tucking into the spicy pork dishes.
The fish dishes are a must. There is a fine art to cooking fish properly. Different types of fish need different modes of cooking. Stuffed fish for instance takes 15 minutes to cook over a slow fire. It has to be cooked on a low fire otherwise the inside will not be cooked properly and the outside will be overcooked.
Among the fish dishes, the rich orange-red prawn curry is a huge hit, as is the dark red baby shark amotik. Prawn curry and amotik are the litmus test of the quality of an authentic traditional Goan cuisine restaurant. Longuinhos prawn curry and their amotik are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Mackeral Rechado and Fish Curry with fresh flaky fish in it, the Bombil Fry, lightly coated with semolina, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, is a melt-in-the-mouth delight. Then there’s the Fish Balchao. And stuffed crabs which are to die for.
Traditionally the owner of Longuinho’s always went to the market every morning to make sure they purchased only the best and freshest fish for their customers. Ilio’s father the late Longuinho Almeida Coutinho, did it. Ilio does it. Morning after morning day in and day out 365 days of the year, except on Good Friday and October 2 the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Ever since 1950 when this signature restaurant of Margao opened.
They serve chicken, fried, roasted, curried, dry, xacuti and vindalho
In the old days on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, Longuinhos kept open house for guests from midnight to the next morning. Drinks were free. This generosity of spirit kept patrons faithful to this home away from home. Some of their guests and certain foreigners come every single day that they are in Goa at a particular time. Some come at 3 pm and leave at 7 pm. They only drink beer, and in season – urak. Longuinhos is the only restaurant that serves Citrus Palm feni and a medicinal Dudshiri Palm which settles stomach problems and increases wellness. Their cashew feni is the best quality made on their own plantations. They have a supplier who has been bringing them urak for the last 30 years. Urak is the first distillate. It has immense health benefits but has to be consumed before the rains. After the rains, it changes in taste and texture.
And then there’s the Book
The secrets to great Goan cuisine have been published in a book A Day in a Goan Kitchen by Ivo Coutinho. You can have recipes for Goa’s (and Longuinhos) signature dishes, which not only tell you how to put ingredients together, but also how to select the best ingredients. The book also has little tips to make your meal even more mouthwatering.