Go From Goa To Portugal At O Pedro

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GO FROM GOA TO PORTUGAL AT O PEDRO

O Pedro is a Goan-inspired restaurant in BKC by the team behind the popular Lower Parel restaurant The Bombay Canteen. It serves well-known Goan dishes such as Xacuti, Sorpotel, Vindaloo, and Cafreal along with lesser-known dishes such as Veal Tongue Prosciutto, Red Snapper Poke, and Roasted Cauliflower Caldeen. There is a wide variety of options for vegetarians as well as meat eaters.

O Pedro, Unit No 2, Plot No C-68, Jet Airways – Godrej BKC, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai 400 051. Phone: 022 2653 4700

READ MEHER MIRZA'S STORY

On a Tuesday afternoon at O Pedro, we order — voluptuous sweet potato Peri Peri larded with Goan cheese fondue; buffalo milk cheese and roasted peppers with parsley vinaigrette with toast; duck Feijoada, slow-cooked slabs of duck resting on a floor of coconut-inflected Goan pink beans. And to finish, Aunty Li's Serradura with a shiver of orange running through it.

And it's not just the food that is an homage to Goa. The decor at O Pedro suggests an allegiance to everything from old Panjim bars and Goan villas thick with bric-a-brac to the bustling Mapusa market. Even its picture windows with the light summering in evoke languid days on Goan beaches.

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O Pedro was opened by the same team that steered Bombay Canteen to its heights, i.e. Hunger Inc Pvt. Ltd. partners Sameer Seth, Yash Bhanage, and Chef Floyd Cardoz, who himself has deep roots in Goa. Some of its menu is taken up by the more traditional dishes like choriz chilli fry and fish curry that Mumbai expects out of a Goan restaurant, but the remainder is restlessly cosmopolitan, cleaving to familiar Goan flavours while inflecting them with a touch of whimsy. For instance, Crispy Pork Chicharones Ambotik dressed up with a chilli and chatpata spice mix; mackerel, wallowing in a coconut gravy that is infiltrated by vivid chilli and green mango with a tousle of crunchy puffed rice, becomes an homage to the Hawaiian poke while simultaneously harking back to memories of Goan fish curry and rice.

The team worked to shine a spotlight on Goa's myriad food traditions. “We experienced Goa’s rich diversity in cooking styles,” says Sameer, “from the Catholic, to the Hindu Saraswat, to the Portuguese influences, to its baking traditions. We saw the culture of brewing that exists till date in Goa that has inspired all the infusions we do behind the bar... While researching, our travels started in Goa, eventually leading us all the way to Portugal.”

In Portugal, a careful study of the cuisine led them to range all across the country, travelling to Lisbon, Porto, and a clutch of small towns. “Mealhada is famous for restaurants serving Leitão or suckling pig,” says Chef Hussain Shahzad, “and it really did live up to its porky reputation. While we all ate our way through Portugal, I also worked at a few restaurants that gave me a deeper understanding of the cuisine, the ingredients used and the techniques involved.”

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Consequently, the food makes forays into Portugal's more demure flavours like the cataplana – the lobster, red snapper, shrimp and squid sluiced with a bright shellfish and tomato broth with roasted peppers. Or the celebrated pasteis de nata, the Portuguese custard tarts with burnished crusts. Or the Portuguese doughnuts in which water supplants milk to make a fluffier, blither doughnut, soft as goose down.

The menu also offers wood-fired seafood roasts that are fuelled by mango and jackfruit wood, but the oven, looming in a corner of the restaurant, is operational only at night. “Cooking over open fire and coconut wood is deep-rooted in Goan culture,” says Chef Hussain, “from the hot smoking of choriz in Velha Goa to the beach barbecues at Baga and Calangute. In fact, even on our travels to Portugal, one of the best dishes we tasted was the grilled sardines cooked over an open fire in a small seaside town near Porto. More importantly, we wanted to celebrate the bread baking tradition from Goa at O Pedro and that is also done in wood-fired ovens. So when we were designing the restaurant, it was a no-brainer to have a wood fired oven built into the kitchen.” From the oven comes Goa's beloved poee as well, served here (thankfully at both lunch and dinner) with a variety of butters warmed by choriz, pork fat, cheesy black pepper, and balchao flavouring. I would return for the poee alone.

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At O Pedro, drinks are accorded equal importance to the food, the alcohol also acting as emissaries from Goa and Portugal. Take the Ginja, Lisbon's sour cherry liqueur. "Since we don’t get Ginja here, we made our own,” says Beverage Manager Rahul Raghav, “where we infuse maraschino cherry and brandy along with spices and use this in the Lisbon Cooler cocktail on our menu.” Excise laws stifle O Pedro from bringing in local alcohol from Goa; the staff get around this by working on various infusions — kokum-infused rum, a tirphal tincture, and an aamchor syrup, amongst others. “One of the things I noticed in Goan homes was how people infuse seasonal fruits and spices to mellow the harshness of the local alcohol,” says Rahul. “Infusions, therefore, became a great way to bring the flavours of Goa into the drinks."

But in the end, we finish our afternoon with three beers: IBC's Belgian Wit and Four Grain Saison and Pedro's Naariyal Pani, which blends beer with coconut water — artful, intriguing and proudly local. Just like the food.

Chef Hussain Shahzad's Menu Recommendations

I would recommend they eat the Raw Papaya Kismur or the Silgardo’s Bean Hummus to start with and follow that with either the Nishte Rawa Fry or Grilled Pumpkin Foogath Toast, as these would be a nice mix of what is traditional and what is inspired on the menu.

For mains, I would suggest the Panji Green Watana Rassa with a side of the Goa Bun or the Portuguese Tomato Rice with House-made Buffalo Milk Cheese. And of course you can’t go wrong with the Beryl’s Fish Curry with a side of the Goa red rice. For desserts, it’s either the Lisboa Pastel De Nata or the Bebinca.

Rahul Raghav's Favourite Places to Drink in Goa

Curlies Beach Shack near Anjuna and Joseph’s in Panjim, where Uncle Gundu behind the bar, plays songs from his phone, and serving small bites made by a neighbour.

Sameer Seth on his Favourite Places to Eat in Goa

Bhatti Village and Anand Bar for typical Goan fare, Pinto’s for their tongue sandwiches, Ras Omelet at the Mapusa bus stand, the seafood thali at Ritz, Ashok Bar for the best Xacutti, and Nostalgia for Portuguese influenced Goan food.

For non-Goan food, Gun Powder for South Indian food in a beautiful setting, and Bomras in Candolim for modern Burmese food.

Photographs courtesy O Pedro (except seafood cataplana photo by Shivani Shah)