These Restaurateurs Want Everyone In America To Eat Indian Food


Ten years ago, Roni Mazumdar carefully added a Bengali dish from his childhood – beetroot, carrot, potato and pea chops called vegetable chops – to his restaurant’s menu. masalavala, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

“No one buys,” said Mr. Mazumdar. “I remember parties that were going to go bad and two weeks later I was like, ‘Why are we wasting it? We can also make chicken tikka masala.’”

When he and chef Chintan Pandya opened Rahi In 2017 in Greenwich Village, Mr Mazumdar thought they should be contemporary by serving truffle khichdi and smoked salmon chaat. Mr Mazumdar said the venue is more about keeping up with culinary trends than showcasing Indian food.

But with the openings Add in Long Island City in 2018 and Dhamaka In February, on the Lower East Side, the partners stopped trying to stick to an existing narrative and began writing their own stories. They put India’s bold, regional flavors front and center, instead of hiding them behind truffles or tikka masala.

a number of restaurants such as Ghee Indian Cuisine in Miami and Basharam In San Francisco, they gained followers for their focus on regional Indian cuisine. But few have achieved this on the scale that Mr. Mazumdar and Mr. Pandya aimed.

From the aromatic Lucknow-style goat-neck biryani in Adda to the fiery, pork- and herb-laden Meghalayan doh khleh In Dhamaka, the food at these restaurants speaks with exclamation points. Both places received rave reviews from critics and Mr Pandya received a 2020 James Beard award nomination.

As the country reopens, Mr Mazumdar, 38, and Mr Pandya, 41, are planning an aggressive expansion in New York this year. It will include two fast-casual restaurants in the East Village, kebabwala and bully cock; A new location and menu for masalavala; and a redesigned Rahi inspired by the incoming chef Vijay KumarSouth Indian heritage. Adda will also move to a larger location about a mile away and plans to obtain the liquor license.

The partners’ ultimate goal is to go far beyond New York.

“Until we really get to the heart of the country,” said Mr Mazumdar, “I don’t think we can really advance Indian cuisine.”

But opening an Indian restaurant is complicated. Mr Pandya said Americans expect to pay less for tandoori bread than for burrata salad and dictate the level of spice.

“Did you go home and ask your mother, ‘Can you make a 5 chicken at a spice level of 1 to 10’?” said.

“We’re putting an end to the idea of ​​appealing to everyone but the Indian palate,” Mr. Mazumdar added.

Mr. Pandya has long wanted to build a fast and casual Indian restaurant with national reach and is inspired by the popular New York taqueria. Los Tacos No. 1. (Curry Now is a successful Indian street food restaurant with locations around the country.)

Los Tacos No. “An outstanding product,” he said for 1.

The first of the team’s fast-casual restaurants, fried chicken-based Rowdy Rooster, opens on First Avenue and Ninth Street in August. Mr. Pandya reviews multiple Indian fried chickens, from pakoras to Chicken 65, a spicy snack that supposedly originated at a hotel in Chennai. A month later comes Kebabwala on Second Avenue and Fifth Avenue, which will focus on classic kebab preparations such as chicken tikka and ara kebab.

In Rahi, 39-year-old Mr Kumar, who has recently become a chef, rasa It will introduce a menu of regional south Indian dishes in September in Burlingame, California. In Natham, a village in Tamil Nadu, he grew up with dishes such as maan kari, coconut venison, curry leaves, coriander, cumin, and star anise; and blood poryal made by cooking nutrient-rich goat blood with turmeric, cumin, lentils and coconut. She said she wanted to show her dinner that South Indian food is more than just dosa and idli.

Opening in November in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street, the revamped Masalawala will make its way into retail, selling staples like basmati and atta alongside spice mixes and sauces. It will also offer an all-day menu of regional Indian comfort foods such as pigeon chettinad flavored with star anise and coriander, and patrani macchi, a Parsi fish steamed in a banana leaf.

“He brought two very special perspectives to Indian food,” Mr. Mazumdar said in restaurants. “One side was this idea of ​​high-end cuisine, which should automatically be with foreign ingredients”, and the other is “generalization of Indian cuisine”.

Building a deeper understanding of Indian food among all Americans won’t happen with just one restaurant group, he said.

But maybe they can make the road a little smoother for the next Indian restaurant.


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