Bayview Village has snapped up the latest Hemant Bhagwani restaurant, dubbed Goa. Hemant has been on a mission to not only deliver elevated Indian eats to the Toronto masses- something he says that is currently not available, unless you’re headed out to Mississauga or Brampton, where there’s a huge cultural demand for Indian food. Honing in on specific regions has been on the forefront of this mission, he recently opened Kolkata Club as an homage to that area and era- like a time capsule of cultural heritage and experiences.
The photos that dot the room, the paint colour, the glimmering chandeliers were all nods to his time in Goa. He snapped many of the photos himself, injecting his memories and moments not only on the pretty plates that are ushered out of the kitchen, but to the small nitty, gritty details that make a restaurant cohesive and memorable.
Mall walkers be warned, this ain’t your standard Amaya fare. Hemant isn’t pulling any punches with this menu, and has gone to the trouble of importing spices (or carrying them back by the suitcase personally) to ensure each dish is both authentic and original. It’s bold and beautiful, a fitting combination for the tony mall in North Toronto. And while mall walkers may roll in packs through here, they’ve responded with enthusiasm to the menu and the living room aesthetic that Hemant designed.
From an in-house bread program ($3, plus another $3 for butter), to desserts that are unique creations by a import Dubai baker, Hemant and his wife Fatima, who runs FOH left no stone unturned. Tasting menus are part of the part of the program, notably including a vegan and gluten-free option with a wine or whisky pairing (all require 48 hour notice).
I was completely smitten with the Shrimp Balchao ($19), shrimp is an excellent protein, here, delivered doused in super spicy balchao masala with lentils and quinoa- both of the moment grains, carefully constructed as a rather guilt-free dish.
Nifty noshings like the Grilled Cheese & Soup combo ($16) offer respite from the heat, and make for a satisfying and quick lunch. Heftier portions like the Goan Seafood Curry ($28) are not to be missed, or Goa’s take on the classic-can’t-leave-off-the-menu Butter Chicken ($19) gets the royal treatment with the addition of porcini mushrooms.
Spicy Cafreal Chicken ($17) is part of the the small plates menu, but packs a punch. It’s spicy and tender, and again, wisely paired with luscious greens, cucumber and avocado, which tones down the heat and brings a bit of balance to the dish.
Drinks help contain the burning, and are equally as thoughtful. Estrella Damm on tap is current, and Goa Blonde Lager is also on offer. Bottled beer comes by way of Steamwhistle, Muskoka Boneshaker and Mill Street Organic. Cocktails are curated, with Betel Gin ($12) acting as a lively take on a G&T, here with juniper berries and St. Germain Liqueur. The carefully constructed Gulabo ($12) matches the malls upscale theme, decked out in pink and popping with prosecco. On point non-alcoholic drinks like Kombucha ($7) or Vegan Mango Lassi ($7) make for tasty inclusions.
Desserts are decked out too, Hemant hired from a pastry chef from all the way from Dubai to deliver on some sweet finishes, and excels with the Chocolate and Tamarind Cake (lead photo $12), and wonderfully creative Corn Pavlova, ($12) because popcorn deserves to be in all dessert forms, honestly.
Goa is open at Bayview Village from lunch to dinner, seven days a week. Check their page for special events and features. Thanks Goa for having Auburn Lane in!