Yesterday, in the first half of this interview with Hemant Mathur, the chef talked about how he feels to be leaving Devi, where he is co-chef-and-owner with Suvir Saran.
Today, we get details on Tulsi, the new restaurant he is opening with his wife, pastry chef Surbhi Sahni; talk about how he and Saran managed co-cheffing; and get his picks for good Indian restaurants in New York.
Was it difficult to have a co-executive chef [Suvir Saran, co-chef of Devi]? Sometimes I think having two executive chefs would be somewhat like trying to have a co-writer. I would find it hard.
No, it’s not difficult for me, it was very good. A good combination. I spoke with Suvir, and he’s very excited for me. We have an understanding and good communication. We communicated all the time, worked on the menu, always talking. Because Suvir is normally traveling all over the world and I am not. He has more exposure, and I am always in the restaurant. He tells me, and I execute. This is a good combination. [For instance,] he went to Chicago and saw something that we can also produce here.
So will you miss having that arrangement?
No, I am excited also. And my wife [pastry chef Surbhi Sahni] will also help me with the menu.
What will be on the menu at Tulsi?
I am actually working on it starting next Monday. This week, I have a very big wedding in the New York Public Library. It’s their first Indian wedding. A sit-down dinner. I’m doing the menu.
That sounds like a big job. You mentioned before that you’ll be using different ingredients, like new meats, on the menu. Can you tell us anything about that?
Yes, we will just be using local farms. And different meats, like rabbit, venison. And some healthy food for lunch like grilled fish or chicken with different Indian salads. Because 46th Street is a good lunch area. It’s Midtown, the U.N. is near there.
And will you be doing mainly Northern Indian dishes?
All regional styles. I am doing a little bit from everywhere, but Northern is premier.
So you’ll have a tandoor?
Will you have any Rajasthani dishes?
From Rajasthan, I will have one dish.
I’m still thinking. I have to make sure it’s good for the restaurant.
What will the space look like? Is it large?
It’s not large, there are 65 seats. It will have contemporary design.
What kind of desserts will your wife be making?
Well, she is helping with all the dishes. But for desserts, there are two desserts here [at Devi] that we will do: mango cheesecake and chai pudding. She’s working on the rest.
Where do you go for Indian food other than your own restaurant?
I go to Bukhara Grill on 49th. I get the goat curry. Saravanaas I like for dosas and everything. What’s the biggest misconception Americans have about Indian food?
That Indian food is spicy!
What’s the most underrated ingredient?
… A lot of people come in and say they don’t want cilantro in their food. They don’t like it.
What’s the last movie you saw?
I just saw Badmaash Company in India.
Yes, I heard you were recently in India, where did you go?
I came back three weeks ago. I was in Rajasthan and Delhi.
Were you seeing family?
Yes, and in Delhi, Mr. Aggarwal [Rakesh Aggarwal, the original owner of Devi] asked me to look in on Veda [a restaurant owned by Aggarwal that Mathur opened for him].
Delhi is completely different now. There are a lot of stand-alone restaurants, like there are in Bombay. A lot of people are going out on the weekends …
Would you say it’s more Western?
In the metropolitan areas, yes, you can say that Delhi and Bombay are more Westernized.
Do you have kids?
Yes, we have one daughter …
Would you be happy if she wanted to be a chef?
Well, she is seven years old, so it’s too soon.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 9, 2010