Plated Recipe Editor Rachael Stuart gives us the lowdown on the Culinary Team’s latest field trip.
As our team of chefs and recipe experts continues to grow, we try to keep everyone on the same page in terms of cuisine knowledge, flavor inspiration, and ingredient discovery. We keep an ever-growing list of New York City restaurants we’re dying to try and schedule team lunches months in advance. This time, we were obsessed with the latest brainchild of Floyd Cardoz, a celebrated and respected chef in dining circles from NYC to India, and winner of Top Chef Masters. So, we made our way to Paowalla in iconic SoHo, a neighborhood packed with more boutiques than office buildings—a change of pace from our side of town.
As soon as we approached the intersection of Spring and Sullivan streets, we were greeted by the vibrant blue and yellow walls that set Paowalla apart from the rest of the block. Just inside the front door is a long cocktail bar, followed by a dedicated “bread bar,” equipped with a wood-burning oven. The word paowalla is a combination of Portuguese and Hindi that roughly translates to “a person who makes and sells bread,” drawing inspiration from the abundant pao, naan, and roti that Chef Cardoz grew up eating in Goa. A larger dining area in back is minimally decorated with iron block-printing stencils hung on exposed-brick walls. Colorful drawings of Indian food carts adorn the hallways near the kitchen and restrooms.
Given how hungry we (always) are, we order a lot and share it all, family-style. Luckily, the Paowalla menu is designed for exactly that; it’s divided into sections for freshly baked breads, shareable platters, and plenty of side dishes.
Perhaps the dish we’ve raved about the most is the egg Kejriwal, which might seem shocking in that it looks like totally normal, nothing-special egg and cheese on toast. Don’t sleep on this one, though! In this Mumbai country club specialty, a thick slice of doughy but crisp bread is topped with a poached egg, bright-green coconut chili chutney, and melty Cheddar cheese. As soon as our knife hit the egg, glorious sunny yolk spilled out, making every bite saucy, a little spicy, and totally decadent. (Fun fact: Fellow Plated Recipe Editor Leah Bhabha and her family belong to the same country club that created this dish, named for a frequent patron who knew exactly how he liked his eggs!)
Continuing with the theme of insanely delicious things on bread, we were also blown away by a “paonini” topped with wild mushrooms, roasted onions, and mashed potatoes (you read that correctly). When individually cut, fluffy pao look very similar to Parker House or Hawaiian rolls. The mix of textures in this playful dish is at once impressive and simple.
The bread menu (sorry, we’re almost done worshipping the bread…) is extensive, with no shortage of chutneys to dip every naan, paratha, or cheese-stuffed kulcha. We ordered two samplers to taste-test almost all of the chutneys. Big hits here were lemon with candied lemon peel; tomato with kalonji, another word for Nigella seeds; and classic mint cilantro.
A Taste of Paowalla, In Your Kitchen
You don’t have to make a reservation at Paowalla or even live in NYC to partake in all of this impressive flavor, because Chef Suz has dreamt up an at-home version of our favorite seafood dish from this inspiring lunch: roasted sea bream, crusted with a blend of freshly ground spices and coconut, served with al dente rice noodles. Our version swaps in tender cod (it’s a similarly mild white fish), which is topped with a mix of coconut oil, tikka masala paste, and shredded coconut to infuse the fish with tons of curry flavor, and create a crispy crust in the oven. Instead of noodles, we pair the fish with some simple garlic-sautéed spinach, plus a side of Jasmine rice. The rice is toasted in a little ghee (or clarified butter), then finished with peas, carrots, and crunchy almonds.
There’s still plenty of time to add Coconut Curry-Crusted Cod to your box for the week of May 28. If you’re entertaining friends or family for Memorial Day, it’s a surefire way to easily impress (especially if you add on our infamous No-Churn Ice Cream for dessert)!