Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Guest Post: New restaurant, Flavors of India, marries first-generation dreams with second-generation savvy
Note from the editors: This guest post comes from Molly Belmont of the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. Her story gives the behind the scene look at Albany's newest Indian restaurant.
Hardeep Singh is only a little nervous about this week's grand opening of Flavors of India, the latest Indian restaurant to open in Albany's increasingly competitive international food scene.
What he feels mostly is vindication—here, in the fully renovated restaurant, replete with gleaming brass fixtures and opalescent tile, is the physical realization of what he has been trying to explain to his family for months.
It wasn't always easy to sell his family on his vision for Flavors of India: a modern, upscale approach to traditional Indian cuisine that targets a savvy young demographic who is as concerned with walkability and wi-fi as they are with food. But in the end, Singh's parents, Gian and Parkash Singh, uncle, Dalip Kapur, and brother-in-law, Jagit Singh, the restaurant's owners, opted to trust the exuberant young marketing professional to create a successful restaurant for them.
“When my parents finally realized, 'Hey, let's back off a little and let him do what he needs to do,' it became a lot easier,” Singh says. After all, Singh, 31, is a public relations professional who makes his living telling businesses on how to reinvent their themselves and capture a younger demographic.
What Hardeep Singh and his family--which includes Kapur, a former partner at the highly successful Aroma Bar & Grill in Great Barrington--are looking to do is to reinvent the Indian restaurant locally, creating delicious healthy food that is served in an upscale, modern setting, and appeals to an 18-35 demographic.
The first factor is, of course, location. Flavors of India is located in a building on Townsend Park, just a block away from Lark Street and the more affluent Center Square neighborhood, and a hop, skip, and a jump away from stateworker lunches and downtown. The building was once home to Caribbean restaurant Brisas del Caribe, and prior to that, Clayton's, but today, you'll find no remnants of this tropical identity.
“We completely gutted it and started over,” says Singh. The restaurant has been renovated from the ground up and then finished in a decidedly modern style. Absent are the heavy tapestries and dark corners that dominate so many Indian restaurant interiors. Instead, what you'll find is an open floor plan set with contemporary banquets, separated by wooden screens. Gone are the fusty red tablecloths that dominate the décor in most Indian restaurants. Instead what you'll find at Flavors of India is beautifully bare tabletops featuring parquet-like insets polished to a high shine and modern looking paintings featuring mythic scenes.
Singh acknowledges that he is the latest Indian restaurant on a block that already features five, but explains that when it comes to menu and ambience, Flavors of India will stand in a class by itself. The restaurant is undoubtedly the most upscale on a block, and promises to be a good fit with the area's emerging identity as a Restaurant Row.
Only this year, this block of Washington Avenue that abuts Townsend Park will welcome three new restaurants, including Umana, an African-inspired bistro and wine bar, and Terra International Cuisine, a Vegan restaurant and bakery. These restaurants join longtime businesses like LaZeez, Aashiana, and Hot Spot, and Singh says there's already a collegial atmosphere among the restaurant owners. “The chef at the African restaurant is actually a good friend of mine,” says Singh. The two have chatted about their menus, which both offer samosas and discussed individual culinary challenges. “We were talking about the goat curry [samosa] that he's doing, and I'm like, how are you going to get the goat dry enough to not seep through after it's been fried, and he goes, 'That's what I'm going to have to work on to make that work.'”
Cultural exchanges like these offer exciting prospects for Albany's diners, many of whom are only just coming of age in this new, increasingly international city, and it's that very audience that Flavors of India promises to cater to.
Flavors of India will host a VIP Reception for friends and media, Friday November 22 at 10:30am. This event will be followed by a private family reception, Saturday, November 23rd. The restaurant's official Grand Opening will take place Monday, November 25, 2013, at 10am.