How Priyanka Chopra inspires Tequila golgappas at New York restaurant Sona

Udupi-born Chef Hari Nayak creates a contemporary Indian menu at Sona, a post-pandemic restaurant launched in Manhattan, New York, with inputs from actor-producer Priyanka Chopra

Priyanka Chopra added gol gappas. Nick Jonas championed gajar ka halwa. Chef Hari Nayak pulled all of it collectively, in an edgy, New York-inspired trendy Indian menu.

Recently launched Sona in Manhattan is already full of enthusiastic diners, regardless of the lingering shadow of the pandemic. Or maybe due to it, as individuals embrace the exuberance of eating out once more after a 12 months of takeaway.

In conserving with the celebratory temper, the restaurant provides brilliant, imaginative interpretations of Indian meals, with Udupi-born and New York-trained Nayak at the helm. The butter hen, nonetheless, is all Priyanka Chopra.

When David Rabin and Maneesh Goyal determined to create a uniquely New York restaurant with an Indian soul, they joined palms with the actor, who got here on board as a artistic collaborator.

‘Don’t neglect the classics’

“My cooking style is more innovative and global in approach. During tasting sessions, it was Priyanka who kept the menu grounded. She kept reminding me: ‘Don’t forget the classics’,” says Nayak, over a name from New York.

Chef Hari Nayak of Sona, New York
 
| Photo Credit: Melanie Dunea

“We have been working on this restaurant for three years, and she has been a part of Sona right from the beginning,” he says, including that the actor’s husband, singer-songwriter Nick Jonas additionally participated in tasting periods when he was on the town. “He loves Indian food. He loves paneer, and gajar halwa is one of his favourite things to eat.”

Chef Nayak provides with amusing, “If it wasn’t for Priyanka, I would never have added gol gappas to the menu. We have a clientele that is almost 90% non-desi, and seat about 300 every night. We need to teach them how to eat it…” Sona’s model of the favored Indian avenue meals options avocado and spiced tequila. “Everybody orders it before the meal now. That’s how they get the party started!”

Read More | Column: If Priyanka Chopra opens a restaurant in New York, can different Indian actors be far behind?

Deliberately defying categorisations, the meals is impressed by Indian flavours however hinges on regionally sourced substances. “I use cooking techniques that are modern, and food that is in season,” says Chef Nayak.

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1998, he labored with influential chef Daniel Boulud at his 3 Michelin-starred restaurant, Daniel.

The interiors of Sona in Manhattan, New York

The interiors of Sona in Manhattan, New York
 
| Photo Credit: MELANIE DUNEA

In 2007, he collaborated with chef Vikas Khanna to write down Modern Indian Cooking (Silverback Books). Then launched eating places in Kuwait, Riyadh, Dubai and Bangkok. His Indian homecoming was with Alchemy, at the Chancery Pavilion in Bengaluru, in 2018.

Discussing how powerful the pandemic was on the hospitality trade, and its influence on restaurant openings this 12 months, he explains that Sona was reshaped by 2020. “We planned to open in the summer last year. Then the pandemic began, and we had this fully built restaurant that we couldn’t run. We kind of gave up then. But the landlord was supportive enough for us to get through, and the partners were strong enough to be able to wait.”

Crab puri and caviar at Sona, New York

Crab puri and caviar at Sona, New York
 
| Photo Credit: Melanie Dunea

When they may lastly open, just a few months in the past, they realised the method wanted to be totally different, given the influence of COVID-19 on New York, and the world. “It was more luxurious, finer and refined before. We made it a little more approachable, a little more homey, a little more comfortable… we made it into the kind of restaurant where you would want to come again and again.”

Despite a rush of openings — Chef Nayak estimates there have been about 80 New York restaurant launches final month — Sona has been packed, and obtained a flurry of rave critiques.

Unconventionally Indian

The Indians don’t all the time approve, although. “Some of the worst reviews I get are from Indians — I sometimes get scared when I see them,” says Chef Nayak, including, “I would not dare to open a Sona in India.”

A meal at Sona, New York

He explains that the restaurant veers away from custom. For occasion, butter garlic crab is served with caviar right here; their Gruyere cheese dosa has an edamame arbi mash; and the tandoor roasted beets are paired with chaat masala hazelnuts.

“The stereotypical notion is that Indian food is all curry and spice, so I am purposely trying to change that perception,” he says. “For example, right now plums are in season: perfect, juicy plums from local farms. We reduce them with a little sugar, into a sticky, sweet syrup with a little tartness, then dip jalebis in them, staining them with that red, berry colour. Is it Indian? That depends on what you expect from a jalebi.”

While the meals is subtle, Chef Nayak veers away from showy strategies, preferring as a substitute to spotlight nice substances. “I’ve realised that as I mature as a chef, my cooking becomes simpler,” he says, including, “I believe in the basics: more so after that crazy last year we’ve had!”

2021-07-30 16:41:45

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