West Village Indian restaurant Rahi closes to make way for a new South Indian spot, Semma


At the end of September, the four-year-old West Village Indian restaurant Rahi from restaurateur Roni Mazumdar and chef Chintan Pandya discreetly lined its windows and closed permanently. In its place, Mazumdar and Pandya opened a brand new restaurant on October 12 named Semma, at 60 Greenwich Avenue near Seventh Avenue South, which focuses solely on highlighting everyday South Indian dishes.

“This is the first restaurant as a group that we do where we focus on a specific region of India,” Mazumdar said. “Our goal as a group has been to demystify what Indian cuisine has been for so long, and this is one more step in that direction.”

For Semma’s debut, Pandya entrusts the cooking to celebrity chef Vijay Kumar, who has already spent five years running the Michelin-starred restaurant Rasa in Burlingame, California. But while Rasa has mixed some Pan-Indian dishes like butter chicken on her menu, the gloves come off at Semma. In the same way that Pandya used Dhamaka to dig deep into specific regional Indian dishes like paplet fry from Maharashtra and macher jhol from West Bengal, Kumar shaped Semma as a platform for South Indian meals. which goes well beyond dosas and sambar which are most often associated with the region. Here, the chef focuses on seasonal dishes that highlight meat, coastal seafood, and vegetable crops like lentils found in small towns in southern India. “I really tried to go so deep, like, that’s literally how I grew up eating,” Kumar says. “We just wanted to bring this [experience] to New Yorkers.

Attu kari sukka, a dish of lamb with black cardamom and tellicherry peppers.

A red clay bowl filled with sprouted leafy pulses and other vegetables.

Mulaikattiya thaniyam, with sprouted mung beans, coconut and smoked pepper.

Kumar, who grew up in a small town in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, designed the menu with strong influences from his family’s farming background. Childhood memories of school vacations spent visiting her grandparents in their small village – catching and cooking snails with her grandmother and deer hunting with her grandfather – inspired Semma’s nathai pirattal, featuring Long Island snails made with ginger and tamarind, and a Chettinad maan loaded with kari deer. Mulaikattiya thaniyam, an appetizer bursting with fresh vegetables and fruits including sprouted mung beans, coconut and smoked chili, nods to Onam, an annual pre-harvest festival of India from the South celebrating the harvest of the year.

A patterned bowl filled with colorful cubes of squash, beets and leafy greens.

Uzhavar santhai poriyal, with beets, butternut squash and mustard leaves.

“These are things we don’t normally associate with India, because our image of India that we have painted so far in the United States is mostly from the big cities,” says Mazumdar. Semma’s menu has been wiped out of everything that wouldn’t be on a South Indian family’s table, including naan bread, basmati rice, and paneer.

A woman stands behind the Semma bar and pours liquors into a cocktail mixer.

Bar manager Yesenia Alvarez, who also developed Dhamaka’s cocktail program, plays with common South Indian ingredients like curry leaves and coconut on the Semma bar menu.

The restaurant itself has been gutted and redesigned with influences from the state of Kerala in southern India, a lush tropical destination dotted with palm trees that is often referred to as ‘God’s own country’. Raw, light wood highlights the dining area, and the team installed a thatched roof on the restaurant’s ceiling to mimic the atmosphere of a Keralan house.

A backlit wooden bench runs along one side of the restaurant's dining room.

In Semma’s dining room.

The decision to shut down Rahi – the group’s highest-earning restaurant, according to Mazumdar, although it was not as successful as Adda and Dhamaka – was not easy, Pandya says. However, the couple agreed that Rahi, who was selling a handful of South Indian dishes alongside (extremely popular) chili toast and masala fried chicken sandwiches, no longer matched the duo’s relentless mission to break up. stereotypes about Indian cuisine like a monolith of chicken tikka masala and saag paneer. And Semma is just the latest in a series of upcoming fall and winter openings for the group: Rowdy Rooster and Kebabwala, both in the East Village, showcase a variety of Indian fried chicken preparations. and kebabs, respectively, and an expanded Masalawala is slated for its November debut at Park Slope.

“We have a few old restaurants, but I think we’re getting closer to the number of different stories we can really tell on the Indian subcontinent,” Mazumdar said. “It’s such a constellation of different cultures. “

Three men stand next to Semma's bar, smiling for the camera.

From L to R: Roni Mazumdar, Chintan Pandya and Vijay Kumar.

Semma is open Tuesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are available through Resy.

Dinner and bar menu:


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