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
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.