What’s on the menu at Bar Goa, Hemant Bhagwani’s new tasting-menu restaurant

What’s on the menu at Bar Goa, Hemant Bhagwani’s new tasting-menu restaurant

Including an elevated take on chaat and chicken masala tacos

Bar Goa's riff on the Goan staple prawn balchao

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Name: Bar Goa
Contact: 36 Toronto St., 437-880-8317, bargoa.ca, @bargoato
Neighbourhood: St. Lawrence
Owner: Hemant Bhagwani
Chefs: Harjot Singh Sr., Trilok Singh, Diane Uppiah, Sanjeev Kumar
Accessibility: Steps at entrance; accessible washroom
Bar Goa is the third in a succession of concepts by chef Hemant Bhagwani inspired by his time in—obviously—Goa, India’s vacation destination on the Arabian Sea, popular with beach-goers and backpackers. After selling off Indian Street Food Co. and the Amaya Express chain in 2017, the serial restaurateur spent six months recharging in Goa and working on a yet-to-be-released cookbook.

Captivated by the sun-soaked state’s distinctive, culturally diverse cuisine, Bhagwani returned to Toronto to open Bayview Village’s Goa Indian Farm Kitchen in 2019, followed by Goa New York in Tribeca earlier this year. Bhagwani stresses, however, that each of the three sister spots has its own style and menu.

A spread of modern Indian dishes at Bar Goa

Bar Goa is a deliberate departure from the fast-casual restaurants that formed the foundation of his early career. “This one is more of a tasting-menu-style restaurant,” says Bhagwani, speaking via phone from Manhattan.

“Even though we want to keep our food serious, everybody now wants to capture things on Instagram—so I wanted to add some theatre to Bar Goa,” he says. For Bhagwani, that translates into deconstructing conventional dishes and staging elaborate presentations involving smoke and non-edible accents. “When people look at our food, it should feel like something they’ve never seen before,” says co-owner Sakshi Humne.

Co-owner Sakshi Humne
The food

Rather than focus on the state’s traditional dishes, Bhagwani wanted to shape the menu around what Goans eat today. Goan cuisine has long been known for its blend of Indian and colonial Portuguese influences, and Bhagwani says the area continues to be a crossroads of culinary cultures.

A chef puts the finishing touches on a chicken masala taco at Bar Goa

“I call it the Miami of India—it’s become a very multicultural city,” he says. “It’s not just about Goan cuisine anymore; it’s about how South Indian and North Indian dishes have been adopted as well as the growing influence of Europe.”

The emphasis at Bar Goa is on the seven-course tasting menu, which is offered in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions, but à la carte dishes are also available. Either way, diners can expect off-the-wall reworkings of familiar Indian dishes, globe-spanning fusion mash-ups and a lot of tableside flair.

Bar Goa's elevated take on chaat
With this dish, chaat is given an experimental overhaul. The classic puffed-rice-and-flour cracker base of the Indian snack is transformed into a crunchy tart, which is filled with other typical chaat components, like potatoes and chickpeas. The tart is topped with blackberries and pomegranate seeds for a pop of colour and served over a bed of dry ice. Hot rose water is poured over the dry ice tableside to enhance the aroma of the dish. $19


A pair of chicken masala tacos at Bar Goa
This chicken masala taco is one of several unusual fusion dishes found on the menu. Pulled chicken breast is cooked with curry leaves and mustard seeds, then wrapped in a small house-made naan and served as a handheld snack. $22


Bar Goa's riff on the Goan staple prawn balchao
A riff on the Goan staple prawn balchao, this dish features diced tiger shrimp swimming in a spicy vinegar-based balchao masala sauce. It’s served on a bed of house-made Japanese milk bread and garnished with thinly sliced radishes and edible flowers. Additional thick balchao masala sauce is dolloped over the dish tableside from a shot glass. $18


Bar Goa's Lahori chicken tikka kebab
Here we have the Lahori chicken tikka, which sees boneless chicken breast pieces marinated in seasoned yogurt for 24 hours, then cooked in a charcoal tandoor. The skewer gets an additional tableside torch for extra smokiness—and drama. It’s garnished with a betel leaf and served with a pool of butter and yogurt whey. $19


Bar Goa's legendary lamb chop, served with mango chutney, strawberry chutney and a mint-fenugreek sauce
The “legendary” lamb chop is a fixture on all of Bhagwani’s menus. The chops are marinated in a secret spice blend, then charred in the tandoor oven. On the plate, they’re surrounded by drops of mango chutney, strawberry chutney and a mint-fenugreek sauce. $19
The drinks

Inspired by the flavours of the food menu, the cocktails incorporate ingredients like feni (a nutty Goan liquor) and curry leaf. A roving martini trolley serves spins on the standard cocktail spiked with a choice of ingredients like vanilla, cardamom or jaggery.

Bar Goa's Paan Old Fashioned
For the Paan Old Fashioned, whiskey infused with paan is combined with Nonino Quintessentia, saffron bitters and Manuka honey. It’s garnished with a betel leaf. $22


The Kloya Cloud cocktail at Bar Goa
The Kloya Cloud looks farther east for its inspiration, mixing Japanese umeshu and yuzu bitters with a guava-infused gin base. It’s finished with a cloud of dry ice, because why not? $28

Bhagwani, a certified sommelier, also curated Bar Goa’s wine list. “I’ve created a list based on what pairs well with Indian food but also what people are liking right now,” he says. There are a little over a dozen by-the-glass options on a list that criss-crosses the globe from Niagara to New Zealand. There’s also a selection of local beers, including a lager from Goa Brewing Co.

The space

With whitewashed brick walls, gold accents, and black-and-white floor tiling, Bar Goa’s design points to the colonial Portuguese influence on Goa’s architecture.

The private dining room at Bar Goa
Diners enter through a front room primarily reserved for private events. This half of the restaurant sits within an office building, so the curtains are kept closed to cover the interior building view


Bar Goa's main dining room
The main dining room offers more natural light, with large street-facing windows along two walls


The main dining room at Bar Goa, with windows looking out to Toronto Street

Two-top tables in the main dining room of Bar Goa

Chefs behind the kitchen pass at Bar Goa, a modern Indian restaurant in downtown Toronto

The doors leading into Bar Goa, Hemant Bhagwani's new modern Indian restaurant