On his quarterly visit to Mumbai, chef Floyd Cardoz reveals his plans to introduce America to Meghalayan fare and whether The Bombay Canteen is indeed opening a Bandra outpost
Chef Floyd Cardoz at The Bombay Canteen. Pic/Bipin Kokate
In Between bites of sponge soft Pav Bhaji Porterhouse Roll and Roasted Hara Channa Salad at The Bombay Canteen, we're all ears as chef Floyd Cardoz regales us with stories about his days at a city five-star. "Once we were asked to change the entire menu in one night. We had no clue what to do," he shares, as executive chef Thomas Zacharias chimes in, "It's a big challenge. So, here, we change the seasonal menu gradually, pushing a few ingredients out, and introducing some in." Sameer Seth, partner at TBC, also joins us for the informal lunch at the restaurant as we catch up with Cardoz.
Roasted Hara Channa Salad. Pics courtesy/The Bombay Canteen
"Every time he visits, we plan a trip together to try local cuisines in different cities and see if we can adapt it here," shares Seth, who has visited Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bengaluru with the chef in the past. Next week, they fly off to Goa. "Travel is where my inspiration comes from," says the senior chef, who returns to Mumbai three months after teasing our palates with dishes from his Manhattan outfit, Paowalla, at a weekend brunch pop-up. The agenda: to celebrate the Lower Parel restaurant's second birthday, keep track with the ever-expanding culinary scene in the city and research dishes that he can introduce in New York.
Veg Mutton Kofta
A staffer wearing a caricatured Bappi Lahiri T-shirt puts flavours from across India on our table. The dishes feature on the restaurant's winter menu — 'Veg Mutton' Kofta with meat-textured jackfruit kofta in mildly spiced Kashmiri yakhni gravy, Short Rib Nihari where carabeef is soaked in a Lucknowi gravy on a bed of barley pulao, and Tava Shrimp & Calamari 'Kothu Roti'. "Even in America, Indian cuisine has moved beyond curries and butter chicken," shares Cardoz, adding, "I cook bheja, kaleji and vindaloo often. Now, I am eager to introduce regional fare there. For instance, Meghalayan pork with black sesame, which I had tried at the home of a lady who is from the northeast. I also want to check if I can carry ponkh (tender green jowar) and amaranth with me."
Meanwhile, even the city's culinary cauldron has undergone a sea change in the last two years as more restaurants try farm-to-fork and India-inspired fare, something that TBC pioneered. "I am not worried. All boats rise with the tide and good competition doesn't hurt anybody. They can even copy my dishes; imitation is the best form of flattery," shares Cardoz, who now plans to bring in more regional ingredients into the TBC kitchen. For the job, the team has brought on board a professional, Garima Pareek, who will travel for research across the country, connecting with regional farmers and trying to source authentic produce. "This will help sustain the small farmer communities across India because often, their kids don't wish to continue in the same field, and the industry dies down," he reasons.
As we wait for dessert that promises Mahabaleshwar strawberries and cream, we try to confirm recent rumours about The Bombay Canteen planning to open a second outlet in Bandra. While Zacharias refutes it entirely saying, "No point opening it there; people won't come here," Cardoz gets candid, "People approach us with spaces. Since the time I have arrived here, three people from Jaipur, Bengaluru and Delhi have asked me if I could do something with them. But if it is not the right fit for us, we won't do it. Right now, we are building a strong infrastructure at this restaurant. We cannot open new restaurants at the expense of this one's quality suffering. But never say never.
If something works out, we would surely like to expand."