Shortly after the opening in September 2018 of Adda, an Indian restaurant in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, NY, chef and partner Chintan Pandya was confronted by a customer of his mother’s age who told him that he owed her an apology because the food was too spicy. for her.
âI said, ‘Ma’am, this is how food is supposed to be. That’s why we served him that way. Unfortunately, I’m not going to apologize to you for something like this, âPandya said.
This conversation stuck with him, as he questioned the client’s nerve. “I said to this lady, ‘Did I ever tell you the food wasn’t going to be spicy? It’s your choice. You walked in here. If you didn’t like it, you should have said as soon as possible. first bite that this is not the place for us, “he said.” Why would people in ethnic restaurants apologize to people for something they believe in? very junk and very bad.
This is how the name of the company he runs with his business partner Roni Mazumdar, Unapologetic Foods, was born.
âOur universe is about the authenticity of Indian cuisine, and that’s what we focus on,â he said.
Pandya himself is originally from Mumbai, India, where he trained at the Oberoi Center of Learning & Development with top chefs from the Oberoi hotel group. He cooked in hotel restaurants in India for eight years, traveling the country and taking notes on the home cooking he encountered.
His career eventually took him out of India to cities ranging from Singapore to Cleveland, ending up in New York at the Indian gourmet restaurant Junoon. Soon he met Mazumdar, and in the spring of 2017, they opened Rahi, serving upscale Indian cuisine in New York’s West Village.
This was followed a year and a half later by Adda, who received a prestigious 2-star review in The New York Times and place the group on the map.
âAdda is literally the food I love to eat,â said Pandya, left.
Because it’s a small space, he said, “nobody bothered me to prepare the menu there, so I put together a menu of what I like to eat.”
This includes vada pao – spicy potatoes in a bun with turmeric and garlic chutney – and Bheja Fry, which is goat’s brain with ginger, red onions, and chili, as well as tandoor-roasted entrees like lamb chops with ginger, garam and garam masala and chick with chili, vinegar and black salt.
âIt’s just irresistible food,â Pandya said. âWe didn’t expect him to get the accolades he received. We made a very honest product, and it just worked.
With the onset of the pandemic came Biryani Bol, a virtual concept whose name is derived from “Halla Bol!” a rallying cry from Indian protesters which means “raise your voice!” He sells the Lucknow style of the biryani compound rice dish in an earthenware pot to take out only from the kitchens of Rahi and Adda.
âIt’s going well, and just word of mouth,â Pandya said. “Today someone placed an order for about $ 300.”
Then came Dhamaka, which opened on New York’s Lower East Side in February after a year of delay. The restaurant’s name means “explosion” in Hindi, and it features the home cooking that Pandya discovered on her travels across the country.
âEven if you go to India, you won’t find this kind of food on the menu,â he said.
Customers can get Goat Belly Skewers, Roasted Whole Rabbit with Garlic and Cloves, and Baby Shark with Turmeric, Ginger, and Tomatoes, as well as the biryani that Pandya is proud of.
The awards keep coming in, and Pandya and Mazumdar have three restaurants that are slated to open by the end of the year: Rowdy Rooster, which will be their interpretation of Indian fried chicken, something that Pandya says doesn’t exist. in India ; Kebabwala, offering high quality take-out kebabs at a reasonable price; then a Brooklyn location of Masalawala, which Mazumdar opened in Manhattan with his father in 2011. The new version will feature this restaurant’s favorites, showcasing food from Mazumdar’s hometown, Kolkata, as well as regional Indian cuisine. by Pandya.
The chef said he’s unsure if his restaurants will be successful outside of New York City.
“New Yorkers aren’t the ones who want gaudy and glamorous things, âhe said. âThey want real, honest food and something they can relate to.
âIf you’re bad they’ll never come back for sure,â he added, âbut if your food is good and honest, they’ll come back again and again and they’ll support you.â
Contact Bret Thorn at [emailÂ protected]
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