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Pete Wells Finds Delectable Breads and Maddening Service at Paowalla

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The Times critic files on Floyd Cardoz’s Manhattan comeback

The dining room at Paowalla
Nick Solares

Pete Wells is pleased with chef Floyd Cardoz’s return to Indian food in New York at Paowalla in Soho. Overall the restaurant is no match for the now shuttered Tabla, but the Times critic is a fan of Cardoz’s breads, snacks, and entrees. Wells writes: "It’s more productive to view the things it does well (and there are a lot) as a bonus, without getting caught up in the ways in which it doesn’t quite live up to Tabla." Like Ryan Sutton, Wells thinks one of the things Paowalla does well is make bread, which is baked in an oven left by the space’s previous tenant. He writes:

A lot of the menu is made up of small plates, many of them snacklike and many served with bread, to the benefit of both bread and snack. The melting roasted bone marrow is terrific spread on sliced pao and drizzled with a thrilling chutney of fresh herbs and curry leaves. Potato fritters are sandwiched between halves of pao in a fun evocation of wada pao, a Mumbai street snack.

Still, a lot of the dishes fall short, and Wells is even surprised how tricky it is to get a vegetarian meal at Paowalla. Here he is on some of the misses:

I wanted more flavor from the pork in baby pig vindaloo and a higher sour-to-sweet ratio from the sauce. And I wanted the bacon-and-chorizo biryani to be different in any number of ways: less saturated with smoke, more aromatic with spices, and probably cheaper than the $57 Paowalla is charging for it, although I might not whine about the price of this family-size portion if I had liked the way it tasted.

Wells largely finds the service "maddening," but a sprawling menu offers more than enough reasons to try Paowalla once. "Whether you will come back depends on how much you mind the peculiarly disjointed dining space and service." He gives Paowalla two stars.

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