Chef Floyd Cardoz must really love bread. Otherwise, changing his Indian restaurant Paowalla, where we had a very delicious meal (https://kenscale.com/2016/12/08/paowalla/), to a casual concept with more colorful murals didn’t seem to make a ton of sense. The new place, Bombay Bread Bar, seems to focus on Paowalla’s previously popular bread offerings with a ton of kulcha (Indian flatbreads) and chutney (referring to spicy condiments made from different fruit or vegetable ingredients with spices) options. Of course, there are more “regular” dishes on the menu. Maybe Paowalla’s price point wasn’t in line with the expectations of New York diners who typically don’t expect to spend $75 or above per person at an Indian restaurant (Paowalla was certainly not a cheap restaurant)? I get that economics can oftentimes dictate the outlook of a restaurant (especially in a city like New York where the costs for rent, ingredients and staffs can quickly drain your precious income overnight), but then I also have been restaurants achieve a lot of great things with a casual take on the food. Unfortunately, Bombay Bread Bar made me think that the quality control from the previous kitchen probably wasn’t carried over. There were oftentimes more misses than hits with the dishes that my wife Jun and I had ordered.
To start our meal, we ordered laccha parantha bread with three different chutneys. The bread was just OK; among the three different chutneys, we (not surprisingly given our penchant for spicy food) liked the spicy chili the most. Tomato kalonji was solid too, but tamarind’s spice was a bit too strong to complement the bread. When the rock shrimp came wrapped in banana leaf, I was hoping it would be as good as the dogfish that similarly came in a banana leaf wrap when we dined at Paowalla. While we liked the spicy kick of the black pepper on the shrimp, the seasoning also came out a little too strong that after three pieces of shrimp, each of us wasn’t sure how to make of the dish. Lamb curry with mint, lentil and cracked wheat, while lacking the spicy flavor, came with a nice hearty touch but even for an appetizer dish, the meager portion of lamb in the curry left something to be desired. For a main dish, we shared Goan pork ribs vindaloo with chilies, garlic and vinegar. We were looking for a little bit more authentic flavor to the vindaloo but it came away a little bit too sweet, perhaps to accommodate American diners who may not be able to handle spicy very well. The meat itself was very aptly slow cooked with excellent texture, but the flavor of vindaloo curry was an unfortunate buzz-kill to the dish.
I didn’t have much trouble securing a table for a Sunday dinner about a week in advance online, but the restaurant does seem to have a crowd, mostly on the younger side, looking to have a fun, casual dinner. I can tell that the restaurant certainly tried to reshape its identity as a younger version of more gentle Paowalla, but there was something a little bit off in the overall transition (maybe we are getting old and tired with anything resembling a party space). There is a full bar with a variety of cocktail options inspired by India’s ingredients. Overall, Jun and I thought the same level of consistent execution that we had seen at Paowalla was simply not present at the current version of Bombay Bread Bar. We both loved Paowalla’s approach to Indian cooking, showcasing culinary traditions of different regions in an honest and soulful manner; Bombay Bread Bar looks like it will instead try to be the next Tao of Indian food.
KenScale: 7.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.5/10)
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 7.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 7.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 195 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (212) 235-1098