Panchali Mahendra On Bringing A Blend Of Indian And Japanese Cuisine To Delhi
She explains the challenges of marrying two contrasting flavour profiles
With over 70 restaurants under her belt, Panchali Mahendra of Atelier House Hospitality, has now set her sights on India's rapidly evolving food and beverage industry. In an exclusive interview with BW Applause and Everything Experiential, she discusses the concept behind INJA, which marries Indian and Japanese cuisines. Mahendra explains why she chose The Manor in Delhi as the location, blending of cuisines and more. Here are edited excerpts from the interview.
You have 19 years of experience in this industry. Why did you choose to enter India now? Have you seen any growth in the fine dining industry in India?
I have worked in over 70 restaurants globally in 20 years of my career in the industry. I feel India is a rapidly evolving marketing for the F&B industry. The local produce is extremely rich and valuable, but one of the biggest challenges was to source international ingredients. But with increasing accessibility, that is not the case anymore. New concepts are well accepted and innovation is welcomed. There is tremendous interest in the Indian restaurant scene at a global level. I felt it is a good time to enter the home-ground. But it had to be with a first of its kind concept.
The Manor is a perfect setting for INJA, how was the choice of venue decided upon? Why did you choose Delhi to set up your first restaurant in India?
We hadn’t decided the city or a location when the concept was being developed. Our India partner, Manav Thadani, suggested to consider a space at the Manor, which was available. We realized it was the old location of Indian Accent. When we visited the space, it fit the concept perfectly. It complemented the fundamentals of the cuisine with its subtle and warm offering of the ambience. We did our research further about the positioning of the restaurant, and it checked all the requirements.
Have you observed a growth in demand for Japanese food? What are the future trends you foresee in the F&B industry in India?
Japanese cuisine has been at the forefront of the F&B trends across regions for a few years at a global level. In India, there has been an influx of Japanese concepts across metropolitan cities, it will only continue to grow as it is one of the Top 5 most loved cuisines.
How did you choose to marry Indian and Japanese cuisine? Since they have completely contrasting flavour profiles, don’t you feel that one overpowers the other in your menu?
Japanese food is very delicate in nature with clean and subtle flavour profiles and a high emphasis on techniques. With Indian cuisine, there is a strong influence of diverse ingredients, giving it a very complex flavour profile. Getting the balance right with these cuisines is not easy. It has been a journey of deep research in strategically combining the cuisines to find the perfect harmony of textures and flavours, that complement each other rather than overpower or dominate. We also discovered that there are a lot of similarities in the two cuisines. For example, Japanese Yakitori is similar to the Indian tandoor, Tako yaki is similar to paniyaram, Gyozas are like the north eastern momos. We have consciously steered away from making it a gimmicky concept as we wanted to offer a truly remarkable experience.
What is your main target audience for the restaurant?
We don’t have a specific target audience. It is an experience for anyone who is open to new experiences with food, dining, and cocktails. Considering the location and the accessibility of the space, we believe that we will have a lot of guests coming in from the residential vicinity around, but we are ready to welcome everyone. I just learned that a 7-year-old dragged his parents to INJA as he was intrigued through Instagram and wanted to try it. So, it is age no bar, if this excites you, we are ready to welcome you.
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