Salil Mehta, the chef and restaurateur who has earned plaudits for his Southeast Asian-inspired restaurants that include LAUT, the first Malaysian restaurant to earn a Michelin star in New York, returns to his roots, with the opening of Kebab aur Sharab (247 West 72nd Street) on December 29th. The restaurant will showcase the depth and breadth of India’s remarkable cuisine, inspired by the street food and comfort food offerings that Mehta grew-up with, including dishes from iconic restaurants and street carts in India.
Heading-up the kitchen will be culinary director, Dipesh Shinde, a Mumbai-native, who since the age of 17 has worked in some of India’s most renowned restaurants including Punjab Delhi and Farzi Cafe (one of Delhi’s first modern Indian restaurants). Shinde comes from a family of chefs, and brings generations of experience to the table including his mastery of a multitude of Indian cooking techniques. A central feature of the establishment will be the custom-crafted clay tandoor oven, that will produce made-to-order and hard-to-find specialty, roti and naan offerings including rumali, a bread that is extremely thin and served folded like a handkerchief hence its nickname “handkerchief bread.” The restaurant will also showcase a myriad of meat dishes, prepared through a dazzling array of different painstaking techniques, from the usage of the tandoor to stone grilling methods.
“When we were growing up in New Delhi, Punjabi families would come together to celebrate meals featuring kebabs and freshly baked roti and naan from the best street food vendors paired with whiskeys and cocktails. Kebab aur Sharab is a reflection of that culture and spirit, where food is made with love and served family-style,” according to Salil Mehta, “It’s a nostalgic dream for Dipesh and I that takes us back to my roots and I am looking forward to sharing our food and culture with New Yorkers.”
Kebab aur Sharab’s menu will feature items such as Punjab-inspired dishes including an array of fine kebabs, and long-lost recipes from regions such as Uttar Pradesh, and the spice-rich, seafood-laden state of Kerala. Aslam’s Butter Chicken, inspired by the famous street food vendor, Aslam in old Delhi, is a perfectly tandoor-grilled chicken, crispy and marinated; while the Dori Kebab is a delicious mixture of spices and minced meat prepared using cotton thread to prevent the kebab from falling off the seekh (skewer). This particular galawati (literally means mealt in your mouth) kebab dish was said to have been created for The Nawab of Awadh (rulers who governed the state of Awadh in north India during the 18th and 19th centuries, who belonged to a dynasty of Persian origin).
Kebab aur sharab’s “koyle se”selections (dishes cooked over coal in the tandoor) include the traditional, Kashmiri Chili Tandoori Chicken; succulent Lal maans Lamb Chops (a spicy Rajasthani meat dish marinated in smoked chilies and garlic); and a flavorful, smoky, Garam Masala Steak Tomahawk, accentuated by the blend of ground spices (fennel, bay leaves, black and white peppercorns, cloves, cumin, coriander seeds and red chili powder). Childhood favorites that Mehta grew-up eating such as Sardaji ka Fish Tikka, an iconic dish from Delhi, cooked in a tandor; and Grilled Tapori Prawns, a popular dish that originates from Mumbai.
Another centerpiece of the menu is the heady array of curry dishes, from the Andhra Chilli Chicken, a fiery chicken curry eaten in the north east of India; to the distinctive Korma Al Jawahar Jaisa (this dish of baby goat in a rich korma curry is inspired by one of Mehta’s favorite restaurants in old Delhi, called Jawahar).
Kebab aur Sharab’s interiors are inspired by the traditional Punjabi kothi or haveli, a traditional house in Punjab culture, that is built with a blend of Punjabi vernacular and colonial design elements, fused with contemporary design touches. Throughout the space, the national symbol of India, the majestic peacock and the colors of this creature is also visible, including a mural that can be seen on the skylight in the back of the dining room. Hand carved teak wood paneling and vintage wood artifacts from India feature prominently as well.
The main dining room seats 55-people and the enclosed sidewalk can fit-up to 20-persons, while the bar comfortably seats 18.