“Paowalla,” means “a person who makes and sells bread”. Floyd Cardoz’s Casual Soho Indian restaurant features two tandoor ovens, as well as a dedicated bread bar with a wood-burning oven to highlight the Goan ethnic breads. The menu incorporates Indian spices and unique cooking techniques, like wood roasting to highlight local and seasonal produce, offering a taste of modern-Indian cuisine.
With the opening of Paowalla, Cardoz brought the flavors of his home country stateside, showcasing his Indian heritage in a modern American lens. The food at Paowalla covers all the regions of India and celebrates the wonders of Indian street food along with lesser known dishes. “The morning sounds used to be interspersed with the horns of the paowalla who used to come to the door with freshly baked bread,” Floyd Cardoz reminisces. It is to celebrate such warm, personal stories that he opened Paowalla in New York’s chic SoHoneighbourhood.Cardoz works with local American ingredients to bring life to the nuanced Indian flavours. “For instance, in Bengal, there’s a tradition of frying pumpkin flowers. So, I use that to make fritters of squash blossoms, which are a huge favourite in the US,” he said.AtPaowalla, seasonal, regional ingredients are given a refreshingly new shape and style in progressive dishes such as Seafood Bhel, Shrimp Balchao Stuffed Calamari, Milk-Braised Raan and Horlicks and BadamKulfi.
“Indian food needs to keep going forward. Back in 1998, when Danny Meyer and I started Tabla in New York, the idea was to prove that Indian food is not about Chicken Tikka Masala. There was a need to change the perception of Indian restaurants as mere curry houses. And that’s what I seek to do now also, to look at things differently.” “So, you will see him making a dosa with a fried egg on top, served with garlic chutney, avocado and Refried RajmaChilaquiles or a Ghee Roast Benedict with Curry Leaf hollandaise. I also use dosa batter to make a waffle. People know these ingredients. Let’s see what we can do differently with them,” says Cardoz. The menu will bring New York some of the flavors we remember from the beloved Tabla of old, updated with what Cardoz has learned with time and from his travels. “I don’t think Indian food needs to be so afraid,” he tells me. “I want to let myself go a bit, to introduce people to the amazing thing that is Indian food. I’m sick of people just doing chicken tikka masala and people thinking that’s Indian food. Indian cuisine has influences from Portugal, from France, from England. Bombay Canteen allowed me to rewrite the rules with my Indian food a bit. This new menu is not about ‘let me play it safe’. It’s not in a box.”
The menu will focus around modern Indian small plates that are local, seasonal, approachable, fun, and fearless. With chef de cuisine Zia Sheikh at his side, he’ll pull in the flavors of his native Goa along with his time traveling in the country. Biryanis will be adapted from his time in Hyderabad, the capital of India’s Talangana state. In Kolkata, he saw innovative plates of seafood and vegetables, and so will play with things like cooking in vegetable leaves on the new menu.He’s particularly excited about the brunch he’s dreaming up, potentianally including variations of the traditional Indian breakfast of lolis and eggs. There’s a smile in his voice as he shares, “You’re gonna love this, because I did this for you: have you ever had waffles made with rice flour? I’m playing with one made from rice flour and coconut milk.