When Hemant Mathur was in the kitchen at Devi, the place became the first Indian restaurant in the city to earn a Michelin star. When he opened Tulsi in 2011, the mark of distinction followed — that restaurant has held a star each year since. Looking for a new challenge, Mathur has taken the reins of six of this city’s Indian spots, via the restaurant group Fine Indian Dining. “I’ve been running one restaurant for ten years, so this was a good challenge,” says Mathur. “This is a good group; it can do more.” Now on board, he’s reworking the offerings at all six places to showcase different regional cuisines, and he’s just unveiled his first full menu revamp at Haldi (102 Lexington Avenue, 212-213-9615), focusing on the food of Kolkata.
Kolkata, Mathur explains, has three culinary communities — Jewish, Bengali, and Marwari — and Haldi’s menu will offer something from each. From the Bengali canon, he’s cooking Kolkata-style fried fish, shrimp curry with coconut and tamarind, and stewed flounder. From the Jewish community, he’s highlighting beetroot cutlets and minced chicken balls with curry. Marwari fare is mostly vegetarian, he says, and he’s doing dishes like grilled pumpkin and peppers stuffed with potatoes and chickpea flour.
The menu also covers more familiar items, like kebab and biryani. And for dessert, the kitchen will offer a Kolkata specialty, rum balls with sweet caramelized yogurt.
After this, Mathur will turn his attention to Chola, which currently serves a large menu that draws from both northern and southern India, and then the rest of the group, which includes Malai Marke, Dhaba, Kokum, and Chote Nawab. The idea, he says, is to celebrate many regions. “One restaurant is doing Punjabi food, one is doing southern Indian,” he says. “I want to introduce this food to American people so they don’t think chicken tikka masala is the only Indian food.”
He’s also launched a catering arm called Jashn for big parties.