About four years ago, Rina and Manish Mallick (who co-own and operate Rooh Chicago) visited Goa, the coastal state in southwestern India, and they marveled at the views, foods, and the energy coming from bars and restaurants. With its white sand beaches, parts of the state reminded Manish Mallick of Ibiza. That feel has made Goa a tourist destination for Westerners, but while many are there to party, some — like the Mallicks — are also interested in the state’s culinary history, a byproduct of more than four centuries of Portuguese rule.
The Mallicks, are majority owners of a group that opened the Chicago location of Rooh in 2019 in River North. Rooh Chicago is operated locally by the Mallicks, who are the majority owners and operators of parent company Shindig Hospitality Group.
The Mallicks have established a separate restaurant group from Rooh of which they’re the sole investors to bring a taste of Goa to Chicago. Newly formed Soiree Hospitality’s first project, Bar Goa, should debut in late August inside the former Slurping Turtle in River North.
Rina Mallick has translated her graphic design expertise (working with clients like Jeep, Sprint, and Asics) into sprucing up the intimate Hubbard Street space with capacity for about 80. There’s a 10-seat bar, and a second-floor hanging with tables that will overlook the madness that is Hubbard. Rina Mallick wants Chicagoans to feel like they’re on vacation with tropical vibes. Expect tons of plants, floral wall paper, surf boards, and teal shutters.
“This is going to be a place to come chill out, have some drinks, have some food, listen to great music and feel like you’re on vacation,” says Rina Mallick.
The Mallicks have entrusted Bar Goa’s drink program to Allie Kim, a beverage consultant and former head bartender at Momotaro, Boka Group’s sushi restaurant in West Loop. Kim, who is Korean American, quickly understood Bar Goa’s multicultural makeup and did her research coming up with several ideas like a kokum-infused syrup. One of the drinks is rooted in Chicago’s culture. Most dive bar fans know about the Chicago Handshake — shot of Jeppson’s Malört with a can of Old Style lager. Bar Goa will serve the ChicaGoan Handshake: A shot of Feni (an Indian liqueur made of cashew fruit) with a can of Spiteful Brewing’s tangerine radler: “We hope it becomes a thing,” Rina Mallick says.
There isn’t a lot of Goan food in Chicago. Fat Rice, which closed last year, would occasionally feature a Goan-inspired item, through Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo described their shuttered restaurant as having a Macanese menu (Macau is 2,600 miles east of Goa on the Chinese coast). Portuguese colonists arrived in India and 1498 and ruled the territory for 450 years. The Indian Army took the land back from the Portuguese in 1961. However, it wasn’t until 1987 that Goa was granted statehood.
The menu consists of bar food like fish and chips with semolina-battered kingfish, a type of mackerel found in the Indian Ocean. There’s also a pork vindaloo poi-wich, and green pea & chorizo hummus. Indo-Chinese food fans will be pleased by two fried rices: Mushroom with Madras mayo and prawn & chorizo. Bar Goa will also have chicken wings and peri peri fries.
Rina Mallick left her job as a creative director at an ad agency in March to focus on the bar. She’s says she’s addicted to the hospitality industry, and after helping to market Rooh, she’s developed a taste and wants to open more restaurants. Restaurant design is a sore subject for many in the industry as Chicago often sees the same firms used over and over again. It gets boring repeatedly seeing Edison bulbs. Rina Mallick has noticed that, and says designers are often afraid their interiors will need updating in a few years and don’t want to take chances. That’s why many designers don’t take risks and elect for more “timeless” interiors.
“But if you go bolder, you stand out,” Rina Mallick says. “And it’s more Instagrammable.”
Look for more updates on an opening date in August.
Bar Goa, 116 W. Hubbard Street, planned for a late August opening.