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Bollywood Actor's Newest 'Curry Hill' Restaurant Won't Serve Indian Food

By Amy Zimmer | May 27, 2011 10:06am | Updated on May 27, 2011 6:15pm

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

MURRAY HILL — The area around 28th Street and Lexington Avenue has long been nicknamed "Curry Hill" for its high concentration of Indian restaurants.

Shiva Natarajan, a Bollywood actor who has appeared in six Indian movies and has a couple more in the works, owns two of them. But his third eatery in the area, slated to open on the southeast corner of 28th Street and Lexington in the next few months, won't be serving any Indian food.

"If everyone is doing the same thing, it's not fun," said Natarajan, a charismatic figure who once appeared on the Martha Stewart Show to teach her how to make the traditional Indian bread, naan.

"My challenge was to create something different. People say it's an Indian block. I think it should be more of a restaurant block."

His new restaurant will be called Hannah's, and it will serve fresh American fare using cage-free eggs, hormone-free meat and other natural ingredients, Natarajan promised.

He complained that too many of the area's Indian restaurants serve the same type of dishes, like dosas, from the southern region of the country.

Natajaran's two Indian restaurants serve food from other regions of India, from the Punjabi food of Northern India at his restaurant Dhaba, to the vegetarian dishes from the Gujurat region of Western India at his eatery Bhojan.

These two restaurants are across the street from where Hannah's will be taking over AY Kitchen, a Turkish restaurant slated to close next week.

The new restaurant's menu will feature comfort staples like mac n' cheese brought to the table in a skillet, a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a nice steak. He expects to serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and a special midnight menu with desserts.

"It will be pure American," Natarajan said, "somewhere that everyone can come and eat every day."

He wants it to become a destination like the Gramercy Park restaurant Friend of a Farmer and Sarabeth's Kitchen, which has branched out from its first Upper West Side location. Natarajan also envisions opening two more Hannah's in the city after launching his first.

Natarajan said the name of the restaurant came from his idea of a homey American woman who might churn out the sorts of food he's offering.

"Hannah is my dream girl I have yet to meet, other than my wife," he said with a laugh. "I love that name. It's a cozy name. It's a name I feel gives respect to food, someone who could be a housewife. What would Hannah do?"

Just as if he were writing a screenplay and envisioning an actor in a certain role, he envisions Hannah as a Martha Stewart-like character.

"I didn't want to call it Martha. There are too many Marthas," he said. "Hannah was a nice name. She's someone talented like Martha."

Natarajan has ventured into other cuisines before. He runs several Thai restaurants and one Mexican restaurant in Westchester and Connecticut.

"I love all kind of food," Natarajan said. "I could have done an Indian restaurant here. I'm confident it would have done very well."

Even has his culinary exploits expand, he's hoping to pick up more acting work and get into directing.

"Acting, directing and cooking: to me it's the same thing. It's all creative talent," he said. "That's why you see other actors, like Robert DeNiro getting into restaurants. To me, it's the passion."