Chef Floyd Cardoz has been around in the New York dining scene since the 1990s when he made a name at now shuttered modern Indian restaurant Tabla, after which he wandered somewhat aimlessly around other restaurant projects like North End Grill (which I haven’t visited while he was there) and White Street (which wasn’t the most delicious experience on my visit). A chef who grew up in Mumbai, chef Cardoz has displayed a knack for navigating across disparate culinary influences and inspirations, but with mixed results at times. Therefore, when he returned from a sojourn in Mumbai to open a new Indian restaurant in SoHo this year, I was wondering whether he had some form of revelation that led him to cook food more faithful to his root. And, after my recent visit with my girlfriend to Paowalla, I’m glad that he returned to Indian cooking in the Big Apple.
Pao is a form of Portuguese bun in the region of Indian with heavy influences of Portugal. The menu at Paowalla appropriately starts with an assortment of bread and chutney options (there is also a giant oven on the corner of the dining space where all the magic is happening), followed by small and larger plates. Some of the small appetizers also have these bread elements, such as the marvelously delicious shrimp curry pie that had rustic flavor of the curry working so harmoniously with the roasted beet salad that accompanied the pie, or the egg kejriwal (think an Indian street food version of egg toast) that was such a satisfying dish despite its simple appearance, with the way cheddar cheese and coconut chili chutney added something extra to the egg that was subtle but quite pleasant. For appetizers without the breads, baked crab with coconut and Goan spices had an excellent balance of flavor that my girlfriend and I very much enjoyed.
Both of the larger plates we ordered were delicious as well. I wished the curry leaf chicken tikka came out slightly more tender, but the smoky feel to the chicken was starting to grow on me throughout the meal. On the other hand, the dogfish with coconut, tomatoes and chilies wrapped in banana leaf was nearly flawless, with expertly prepared fish and the aromatic curry flavor that was something I hadn’t seen in other Indian restaurants before. For dessert, we regretted ordering the saffron yogurt “srikhand” (we felt the dish had too much funky spice in it), but we had no problem devouring the delightful vanilla bean kulfi with caramelized apples and cinnamon.
Getting a reservation doesn’t seem too difficult at Paowalla, but the dining space was nearly full on a Sunday night we visited so I would still suggest booking in advance. There is full bar with some intriguing Portuguese wine selections that you can try to complement your meal. I liked the modern vibe of the restaurant’s décor that was fitting for a trendy dining space in SoHo. This year has been quite a productive year in New York City in terms of new Indian restaurant openings, but my dinner experience at Paowalla will likely be the one that sticks for a long time with the way chef Cardoz has brought forward the Indian cuisine to the modern dining with compromising the authenticity of the country’s flavor. I would definitely love to come back to explore other dishes at the restaurant in the near future.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
Address: 195 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (212) 235-1098