My restaurant reports from my Bombay trip in December have so far covered restaurants that largely serve traditional fare in traditional forms: Jai Hind Lunch Home, Just Kerala, Highway Gomantak, Soam and Swati Snacks. My two remaining reports are of restaurants that take traditional flavours and dishes and re-articulate them in more eclectic forms—though not in identical ways—for upscale diners. First up, a quick look at two dinners at O Pedro in the BKC area—a sterile conglomeration of office towers and expensive hotels for business travelers visiting those office towers. I was one of those business travelers staying in one of those hotels, and as O Pedro was a brisk 10 minute walk from my hotel, and as I was dining alone on my first night in the city I decided to give it a go. I liked the food enough to want to come back with company and try more of their menu. Herewith, the details.
But first a bit about the restaurant. Just over a year old when I visited, O Pedro is one of two new Bombay restaurants associated with Floyd Cardoz, probably the most important Indian chef in the US. Emerging from a fine dining background, Cardoz set the standard for modern Indian food in the US at the now-shuttered Tabla. In recent years he has focused more on restaurants that mine regional flavours in a contemporary idiom focused on small plates (with accompanying bespoke cocktails). Such, for example, is his Bombay Bread Bar in New York—where I hope to eat later this summer—which features an eclectic pan-Indian menu. Such too is his first restaurant in Bombay, Bombay Canteen which opened in 2016 and has become very popular. O Pedro is backed by the same partners but here the focus is more specifically Goan; or more accurately, Goan and Portuguese (Cardoz was born and raised in Bombay but is Goan). My plan originally had been to eat at O Pedro one night and at Bombay Canteen the other, but between wanting to try more of O Pedro’s food and my dining companion on the second night turning her nose up at Bombay Canteen it was O Pedro x 2 for me.
The restaurant is large and attractive even if the aesthetic is that uneasy one in which the feel of far more downmarket establishments is sought to be evoked in more expensive settings. Thankfully, it is not done here in a garish or over-the-top manner and the kitsch is kept to a minimum in the interaction with the staff (though you will get a big earful of it if you call the restaurant). My first meal was on a Saturday night and even though I got there well after 9 the place was jammed. I managed to get a seat at the bar which was comfortable enough for a single diner. The second meal was on a Monday night but the restaurant was still quite full. We started out at a communal holding table and by the time we were done with the smaller plates were moved to a table for two.
The menu is divided into quarter, half and full plate sections. At my first dinner the bartender recommended getting two quarter plates and one half plate. Well, he recommended one of each but I’m a glutton. This is what I ate:
- Crispy Fried Whitebait Portuguese style with parsley aioli: This was very nicely done but was not terribly interesting. I’d suggest that this is a better dish for a few people to get and share over beer than for one person to make their way through as a starter.
- Prawn Balchow; cooked with red chilli, garlic & toddy vinegar: This balchow, however, was dynamite and I’m very glad I didn’t have to share it with anyone. I mopped up the pungent masala with a couple of paos.
- Pork Chops Assado; grilled bone-in chops with a green chilli, garlic & toddy vinegar masala: Also rather good.
- Guava Cheesecake: This was recommended by the bartender and it was the one thing I was not enthused about. The cheesecake was too dense and the guava puree too cloying.
I started out with a beer and was then intrigued enough by the preparation and description of their Mr. Fernandez’ Fancy Drink cocktail—which features Paul John whisky, kokum and a tirphal infusion—to get one of those as well. Fine but nothing I need to drink again.
At the second dinner we got one quarter plate, one half plate and two full plates. Plus their maka-pao basket.
- Aunty Castro’s Fish Mousse; cooked in a tomato confit with ginger & olive oil: This was just excellent and easily the best thing I ate across two meals. I’m not sure if Chef Cardoz has it on the Bombay Bread Bar menu but he should.
- Maka Pao ZaI! House Baked Sourdough Poee, served with a choice of kalchi kodi butter, cheesy-black pepper butter, whipped pork-rosemary butter and choriz butter: Excellent freshly baked poee served with either your choice of four of their house-made butters or a selection of all four. Being who we are, we got all four. The choriz butter was excellent and I rather liked the whipped pork-rosemary butter as well (this is basically whipped lard). The other two didn’t make much of an impression.
- Crispy Soft Shell Crab ‘Kiss-Mur’; Tossed with chillies, curry leaves & fresh coconut masala: I quite liked this as well though the crab disappeared a bit into the batter.
- Prawn ‘Who Mann’; Spicy coconut curry with ambade & hing: This prawn curry, however, was rather ordinary and not particularly spicy either. We got an on order of red rice on the side.
- Pork Belly Amsol; Tamarind & kokum braised pork belly: On paper this sounded excellent but in reality it lacked oomph and the flavours didn’t seem like they’d come together. My friend took the leftovers home and I think she said it improved as it sat. We got bread to go with this as well.
We passed on dessert on this occasion. I had a beer and my friend had their gin and tonic which involve infused triple sec plus some sort of spice combo. She liked it enough to get a second. And oh yes, we were given some sort of welcome drink that I think was white rum infused with kokum.
For pictures of the food and space launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for price, service, thoughts on overall quality and value, and to see what’s coming next.
Service is friendly and capable and the servers—including the bartender on the first occasion—know the restaurant’s food well. And the food is on the whole quite good—though i was not as enthused by the second meal as I was by the first. On the whole, I would say that the smaller plates were what I would go back to eat again—especially the fish mousse and the balchao and the poee with the non-veg butters—and that the larger entrees were less convincing. Then again the menu changes often and it’s entirely possible that a meal on another occasion would have seen much stronger larger plates as well.
On the whole, convenience to hotels aside, if you’re in Bombay for just a few days and don’t travel there often, I’m not sure there’s a big reason to pick a place like O Pedro over the myriad excellent seafood places in the city. It is not a cheap restaurant. Including drinks and service it came out close to $40/head on both occasions, which renders the question of value a little iffy, considering two can eat excellently at a place like Highway Gomantak for a total of not very much more than $20. Of course, they’re not in the same genre in terms of either cuisine or other trappings but considering just the quality of the food I preferred my meals at both Jai Hind and Highway Gomantak to my meals at O Pedro—certainly to the second one. Indeed, in the general mod’ish small plates Indian genre, I probably preferred my meal at Gunpowder in London. But that’s a long way from saying that it’s not a good restaurant. If I lived in Bombay, and in Bandra it would certainly be in my rotation and if you’re coming from the US you should eat there with confidence that it will be better than probably any Indian restaurant here.
Only one more big Bombay meal report to go, at another restaurant in the BKC. And I may also inflict on you the spectacle of the breakfast buffet at a five-star Indian hotel. After that it’ll be on to Delhi. But coming up next on the blog will be a Twin Cities meal and then the last of my London reports.