My Dinner at Pao Walla
August 17, 2016
This is a Tingmo. I wish I had taped the description our extremely beautiful waitress dreamed up, because it was the most remarkably sensual description…. I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like this. “All of our breads are delicious, but you can find many of them in other restaurants. But this Tibetan bread is the softest, sexiest thing you’ll ever eat. The yeast dough is rolled into ropes, then looped into a spiral and steamed into a texture unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Your mouth will be very happy.”
Dipped into the chutney sampler – I loved them all, but was particularly partial to the sprightly lemon and the searingly spicy chile versions – it was the perfect beginning to our meal at Floyd Cardoz’s new Pao Walla Restaurant.
I’ve always been a Floyd fan; I loved his food at Tabla, and when he was a contestant on Top Chef Masters in 2011, he made one shockingly delicious dish after another. (He won). Here he’s doing something that feels very close to his heart; this is casual restaurant is serving Indian food you won’t find at other restaurants.
On a sticky hot night it was the perfect place to be, and we ate progression of dishes so hot and delicious we just kept ordering more. After the tingmo (such a wonderful word!) we had
fluke ceviche with green mango and heart of palm in a sauce sparked with the strange appealing sourness of kokum, lightened with a splash of lime.
An oddly appealing egg kejriwal: French toast took a trip to India and liked it so much it decided to stay. Sweet, cheesy and garlicky all at the same time, it’s one of those dishes that arrives seeming bland and stays to tease and intrigue you.
Liver masala – like no liver you’ve ever tasted. Tangled in spice and vegetables, it comes out fighting all those other flavors – and wins! (The roll on the side is a pao – a soft Portuguese-inspired bread.)
Cucumber salad, an Indian version of the Chinese smashed cucumbers; a simple dish with surprising complexity.
Shrimp with black pepper and lime; perfect finger food.
Calamari stuffed with a complicated mixture. Onions, I thought. Squid ink. Cilantro. And then I stopped thinking and simply ate for the pure pleasure of it. We were ordering blindly now, loving the scents rolling around the room, intoxicated by taste. A chicken and chile dish arrived, burned our mouths and made us happy. We ordered more breads, ate more chutney. And finally, we shared a single cool and lovely dessert.
This is wonderful food, wonderful fun, and if I were you I’d go now, while the heat wave is blanketing the city. It’s the perfect taste for this time of year – and you will go home happy.
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Oh my! Thank god when Gourmet receded, you were left standing! Can’t you just please dine out every night and tell us these bedtime stories? 1000 nights to go, Scheherazade!
Can I eat with you?
Well said! I too am a diehard Floyd Cardoz groupie. We were at Pao Walla on Aug 17 my birthday and were not disappointed. So glad both of you (Ruth and Floyd) are back.