In terms of culture, says Vipul Bhasin, “India is like Europe put together.”
There are 26 official languages and hundreds of dialects in the country, he says, which means that “food changes overnight.”
That’s a metaphor well chosen by the restaurateur, whose contemporary Indian concept, Indiya, will replace Raymond’s Restaurant and Pizzeria at 620 Haddon Ave. this September.
Bhasin, who is also the proprietor of Coriander Indian Bistro in Voorhees, says that India has become a far more cosmopolitan nation since prior generations of emigrants first came to the United States, a diversity reflected in its cuisine.
“The same dish my mom cooks, my neighbor’s mom could cook it completely different and they could call it the same thing,” he said. “It’s like the blind men with the elephant."
Cream, for example, is a heavy, foreign ingredient that dominates Americanized Indian dishes, but it is not found traditionally in native Indian food.
“It’s only when you come here,” he said. “That holds true for Mexican, Italian and Indian restaurants.”
Bhasin said Indiya will cater to restaurant-goers seeking a contemporary Indian meal, and speaks critically of “curry houses” and Indian restaurants that serve “greasy food.”
“We’re trying to do a slightly different concept in terms of food,” he said. “That’s what attracted me to this area. I think the Restaurant Row concept, people should be able to make out good food, no matter what cuisine it comes from.
“That’s what I’m hoping for.
The menu for Indiya will center on light fare that incorporates a global taste while catering to vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free diners, Bhasin says. A few of the customer favorites from Coriander—Goan shrimp curry, roast leg of lamb, lababdar and spinach palak chaat—will likely make the cut.
“We will try our best to educate the local customer,” Bhasin said. “Over the last nine years, a lot of my regulars were people have never eaten Indian food before, or for that matter, didn’t know what Indian food was all about.”
Bhasin said that he doesn’t expect that the 40-seat restaurant is going to make him a millionaire, but hopes to offer an experience that’s distinct and consistent.
“If we can keep it busy and keep it going, that shows that people’s tastes are evolving,” he said. “People vote by their dollars.”