A Mumbai Restaurant Celebrating the Flavors of Goa

A selection of dishes at O Pedro in Mumbai.

Despite the nostalgia for Goa, the petite state on India’s western coast, held by Mumbai residents, restaurants featuring its cuisine — seafood-forward, infused with vinegar and heat, the legacy of four centuries of Portuguese rule colliding deliciously with Indian flavors and ingredients — are scarce in the city. So when rumors began circulating that the all-star team behind Mumbai’s cult favorite Bombay Canteen — including the celebrated New York City-based chef Floyd Cardoz — were planning an ode to Goa, city diners immediately began clearing their calendars.

While the group has strong ties to the state — Mumbai-born-and-bred Mr. Cardoz is Goan; Yash Bhanage, the chief operating officer, studied there; all of them visit frequently — it wasn’t what they initially had in mind. When they first came upon the space that would, last October, be unveiled as O Pedro, it was actually Mexican cuisine they first intended to spotlight.

The pivot makes some sense: just as Mexico is a common American destination for spring breaks and honeymoons, Mr. Bhanage said, “for a lot of us in India, it’s Goa.”

In the end, the group went with a fusion approach, incorporating Portuguese fare as well. “It does feel like Goa, but not really,” Mr. Cardoz said. “And that was a goal that we had. We want the food to be authentic and also be playful.”

I was primed for my meal at O Pedro, which came just a few weeks after my first-ever visit to Goa, spent dabbling in vindaloos, cafreals and xacutis. Its location, in the Bandra-Kurla Complex, a business district studded with glossy office towers, is bland, but first impressions dissipated once I stepped into what might have been the shabby-chic lair of an eccentric Portuguese-Goan grandmother: cane chairs, tiled walls, dishes as décor, blue-painted pillars, lace curtains. But instead of grandmothers, the lively room is packed with Mumbai movers and shakers — entertainment industry execs, media moguls and models among them.

There were some ambrosial highs: the sweet potato peri-peri with Goan cheese fondue seemed swathed in a tangy smoke; the stir-fried lotus root was heady with ginger and chile and channeled a pleasant tartness from a touch of kokum fruit. But there were also unexpected lows, like a forgettable lamb chop that lacked heat. And some attempts at fusion simply confused us: The smoked pork ribs vindaloo, while flavorful, wasn’t packed with the vinegar-and-fire punch you’d expect from a vindaloo.

“This is my mother’s recipe that I’ve adapted,” Mr. Cardoz told me later. “Every vindaloo is different. When you’re eating a vindaloo at home, you will serve it in a certain way. For a restaurant, you sometimes have to change it up a little bit.”

The Margao choriz and bacon pulao topped with fried egg — which garnered mixed reactions from my friends — also has a poignant origin story: “It’s the last meal that my grandmother made me that I remember,” Mr. Cardoz said.

The meal didn’t catapult me quite to Bombay Canteen-level highs, but O Pedro is a place I’ll still return to to revisit some favorites, to explore new corners of the expansive menu, and to soak in that festive Goan feeling.

O Pedro, Unit No. 2, Plot No. C-68, Jet Airways — Godrej BKC, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (E); An average meal for two, without drinks or tip, is around 3,000 rupees, about $45.

In Other News

© 2020 US News. All Rights Reserved.