Chef Prasad Chirnomula opens second INDIA restaurant in Connecticut

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Indian American chef’s sixth restaurant in the state.

chef-prasad-chirnomula

Noted Indian American chef and restaurateur Prasad Chirnomula has opened his sixth restaurant in Connecticut: INDIA, in West Hartford.

Chirnomula of Five Star Restaurant Group is already the owner of Thali (New Haven and Ridgefield), Thali Too (New Haven), Oaxaca (New Haven), and INDIA New Canaan, but he can hardly contain his excitement about the newest restaurant at 54 Memorial Rd. in Blue Back Square, reported We-Ha.com.

The Hartford Courant reported that Chirnomula’s Thali restaurants have received critical acclaim for a ‘unique fine-dining take on traditional Indian cuisine.’ His Oaxaca restaurant serves fine Mexican cuisine.

A gleaming open kitchen with a butcher block counter and the enticing aroma of spices immediately welcome guests to INDIA Restaurant & Bar, which brings a fresh and modern approach to Indian cuisine in West Hartford.

He’s eagerly anticipating the synergy he will have with other great restaurants like Cook & the Bear which will be right next door, and the opening of the Delamar Hotel right down the street, the report said.

“This will be a hot corner,” Chirnomula said, We-Ha.com reported.

“This town is fascinating to me. People want food here and it has a vibe like New York City or Boston. It’s a good foodie town,” Chirnomula said last week as he made last minute preparations for a private preview party in advance of the Friday night official opening of INDIA Restaurant & Bar.

Chirnomula wishes he had opened INDIA in West Hartford 10 years ago – back when Thali received a three-star rating from the New York Times and he fielded many calls about coming to Hartford County and the soon-to-open Blue Back Square. He’s excited about now making his mark on Central Connecticut.

INDIA is not like other Indian restaurants, Chirnomula said. Although he will serve some of the classic favorites from Northern India, the menu emphasizes the distinct and unique flavors of all four regions of the country. The food is creative and beautifully plated. Everything is fresh and made from scratch, with locally-sourced ingredients when available, and no artificial colorings or preservatives, We-Ha.com said.

“The menu is fun,” Chirnomula said.

The left side of the menu – featuring an assortment of small plates – is where the most unique flavor combinations can be found. The central feature in the kitchen is the Tandoor oven, Chirnomula said. It’s clay-lined and reaches temperatures of 700 degrees, and is where much of the food is cooked. He marinates chicken, lamb, and prawns and demonstrates how he skewers the pieces and rests the skewers in the bottom of the oven. “The hot clay does the cooking,” he said, and a whole chicken cooks in just 10-12 minutes.

“It’s grilled, and it’s pretty healthy,” he said. Foods are marinated in yogurt and other natural ingredients. The spices do the tenderizing. Any fat drips off into the oven.

INDIA Restaurant & Bar seats 51, with some of those seats in a more private area toward the back. The bright red booths are a pop of color that accent the black and white print painted on canvas that covers the upper part of the walls. It was custom-designed by a friend, and adds a French flair to the space, Chirnomula said. A painted “rug” adorns the floor of the dining room.

The clean-lined butcher block counter divides the dining area from the kitchen, but it’s very much an open concept with the food prep and cooking all in full view. Chirnomula said he hopes to use the space for cooking classes at some point in the future because it’s the perfect layout.

Chirnomula, his wife Reena, and two daughters live in Redding (he also has two grown children), but he is staying in West Hartford for the next few months and plans to personally run the kitchen for the next six weeks, overseeing staff that he brought from INDIA New Canaan who will remain in West Hartford on a permanent basis. Then he will be back and forth, but will never be too far away to bring new items to INDIA’s menu. Longtime West Hartford resident and restaurant veteran Brad Diffley has been hired as manager.

Chirnomula is a native of India, who was always passionate about food and studied to become a chef despite his family’s wishes that he become a doctor. After working at the Ritz Hotel in Hyderabad, he moved to the United States in 1986, and worked his way up through the industry from busboy at a Long Island restaurant to eventually cooking at a restaurant in Manhattan before opening his first New Canaan location.

In addition to running the restaurants, Chirnomula leads tasting tours of India, hosts private tasting dinners, teaches cooking classes and offers his services at multiple charity events for such groups as the American Liver Foundation, Varli, James Beard House, the American Red Cross, Share Our Strength, the Connecticut Food Bank, and the Food Bank for New York City. He has been a celebrity guest chef at Foxwoods Food & Wine Festival to benefit Johnson & Wales University, and was the winner of the 2011 and 2013 Elm City Iron Chef competition. He appeared on the Food Network in 2012.