The Indian state of Goa is known for many things, including tourism. Water-sport enthusiasts and partygoers often visit the area, partaking in activities such as jet-skiing, surfing, marveling at the wonders in the National Institute of Oceanography and attending events such as the Sunburn Electronic Music Festival.
That same party vibe is ubiquitous at Bar Goa (116 W. Hubbard St.; www.bargoachicago.com ), a River North gastropub that also spotlights cuisine with new items that focus on the Indian (and, specifically and unsurprisingly, Goan) tradition.
Because Goa is home to incredible Indian seafood dishes, Chef Sahil Sethi has brought his take on Goan fish curry to Bar Goasuch as whole sea bass wrapped in banana leaf and served in a fiery balcao sauce with lemon and basmati rice. (By the way, Bar Goa's website even includes a glossary of Indian/Goan termssuch as "xacuti," which refers to something that consists of Kashmiri red chilies, poppy seeds, coconut, onion and spicesso you're not totally in the dark.)
Appetizers also reach into tradition, such as black tiger prawns, savory butter chicken croquettes, pork vindaloo sliders (my favorite app), dahi bhalla (lentil fritters, sweet yogurt, tamarind, mint chutney and house spice) and fried-chicken xacuti wings. Other selections include green-pea hummus and an intriguing tuna-watermelon combination.
Entrees include prawn-and-chorizo fried rice, lamb keema (a traditional Indian dish made of spiced ground lamb, onion, and usually peas or potatoes) and Goan chicken curry, which my dining companion really enjoyed. Now I've had my share of chicken sandwichesbut Bar Goa's fried chicken cafreal sandwich is probably among the top five I've ever had (and the experience was probably enhanced after I followed the server's suggestion and put the aioli and the butter sauce on the bird).
And vegetarians and vegans should not feel excluded, as there are items such as roasted cauliflower and mushroom fried rice.
As for desserts, they're both must-haves. While the chocolate torte ticked all the boxes, the light and frothy pineapple serradura (with whipped cream, biscuit crumble and, of course, pineapple) was a culinary revelation. However, guests can bring a cake or dessert to celebrate a special occasion for $25/dessert.
Drinks are also an adventure. The Edge of Indiawhich I absolutely lovedis an olio of ghee-washed Goan gin, banana liqueur, Amaro Montenegro, lime and cardamom bitters. My friend was not as fond of her Shimmering Sands drink until someone brought over some more mezcal that apparently "evened out" the cocktail. She immediately took to Pick Your Passion, though. However, if exotic cocktails aren't your thing, there are the Ginger Flower mocktail as well as beers, wine and spirits (including an impressive list of scotches and whiskeys).
So immerse yourself in Bar Goa's fun vibe. It's the closest you'll get to the coastal spot without paying for a flight.
Note: Bar Goa is also on several delivery apps.
Note: This visit was arranged.