All that's Cooking Inside Modern Indian Restaurants

If you think you’ll get just the staple fare , you’re wrong. Discover the three types of Indian Restaurants and What to Expect from them

Henna Achhpal

If Indian cuisine is not among your top choices when it comes to looking for dining out options, by the end of this list, you will be hunting for the best Indian restaurant around you to make a dinner reservation.

Suggest Indian food and most people are likely to turn their nose up and quip, "Why go out for a meal that you can eat at home?" With only so much of the Indian millennial’s disposable income devoted to dining out, and cuisine options from around the world vying for that pie, it's understood why Indian food doesn’t make the cut to the list of dining out options. The argument may have been valid till a decade ago, but things are slowly beginning to change with renewed focus and efforts of modern chefs, who are now rediscovering Indian cuisine and making it hep.

Walk into an Indian restaurant today, and if you expect just tandoori kebabs, kadhais ladled with creamy lentils and a naan basket to take your pick from, you're going to be in for a surprise.

To set it straight, your favourite food app may throw up restaurants under the unfair umbrella term of Indian cuisine, but the fact is that several types of Indian restaurants have mushroomed in cities around the world while you were not looking. At the recent edition of the LF Epicurean Guild Awards 2019, we brought to the fore Indian restaurants under three broad categories – traditional, modern or progressive and emerging—who are reviving the diverse Indian culinary traditions and putting Indian cuisine on a global platform. Here we simplify the three broad categories dotting the world of Indian cuisine that are a must-try. Based on the kind of Indian restaurant you find yourself in, here’s what you can expect and not expect, from the meal to the bill of the night.

Traditional Indian Restaurants

Head to one of these restaurants when you’re craving authentic home-style food that reminds you of familiar tastes and aromas from your mom’s or grandmother’s kitchen.

Preserving traditional recipes and cooking methods is the philosophy that drives the head chefs of these kitchens. Trained in the traditional methods and practices, traditional Indian restaurants explore diverse the culinary offerings of a region or community and introduce ingredients and recipes that are slowly disappearing from modern kitchens. Their interactions with home cooks from various regions of the country, inspire them to recreate recipes, handed down the generations, to please the urban diner's palate.. These restaurants narrate cultural stories not only through their menu, but also with their service and ambiance. 

Karavalli at The Gateway Hotel in Bengaluru and Dum Pukht at ITC Maurya in New Delhi are fine examples of restaurants keeping the modern diner interested in traditional Indian cuisine.

Also read: Traditional snacks and sweets from different parts of India

Modern Indian Restaurants

Don't go in expecting food that looks anything like you have seen at home or eaten in any other typical Indian restaurant. Simply put, modern Indian or progressive restaurants promise Indian food which is packed with familiar flavours plated in a contemporary avatar. No matter which modern Indian or progressive Indian restaurant you find yourself in, the chef's reinterpretation of an ingredient or meal that you have grown up eating, will leave you coming back for more. And what more, don’t be surprised if you become a fan of all those typical Indian foods that you have disliked earlier. These chefs also do a fine job of bringing in international cooking methods and techniques and introducing trending ingredients into classic Indian recipes. Their mission is to reinvent the Indian food experience not only in terms of taste and flavour, but also texture, technique and plating.

The Indian Accent at The Lodhi in New Delhi, Masque in Mumbai, and Avartana at ITC Grand Chola in Chennai are pioneering the progressive Indian cuisine movement with their in-depth knowledge, quest for pushing the culinary boundaries and constant innovation.

Also read: 5 fusion Indian dishes that are too good looking to eat

Emerging Indian Restaurants

Eating out at an emerging Indian restaurant is not just a gastronomic affair, but also an educational experience. While cuisines from around the world continue to reach Indian shores, several restaurateurs and chefs in India are shifting their focus and curiosity to hyper-local cuisines from the many pockets of this diverse subcontinent. Over the years, Indian food had unjustly come to be represented by the broad and ambiguous categories of north Indian and south Indian food. While the former became limited to the confines of select Mughlai and Punjabi dishes, the latter was restricted to the dishes made popular by Udupi restaurants as the culinary flagbearers of their regions. When, in fact, each state and region of India has its own culinary offering and cooking technique to boast. Chefs at emerging Indian restaurants are breaking barriers by bringing to the young millennial's unexplored cuisines from unheard corners of the country. The food brings to your attention a different part of the country, narrates its history and introduces you to ingredients and flavours that you never knew existed, leave alone have an affinity for.

O Pedro in Mumbai is introducing urban diners to the unique flavours of Goan-Portuguese cuisine, meanwhile, The Bombay Canteen in the same city is plating up recipes from different regions of India that never found a place in the menus of mainstream restaurants.

Also read: Chef Thomas Zacharias on why Indian food is the best


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