CHELSEA — Tandoori chicken, saag paneer and dal makhani won’t be on the menu at a Indian restaurant opening on Ninth Avenue Wednesday.
aRoqa, at 206 Ninth Ave. between West 22nd and 23rd streets, instead offers a “modern” take on Indian food — incorporating “international elements” and “exotic” vegetables like lotus stems and colocasia, chef and owner Gaurav Anand said.
“There are 3,500 restaurants all over the country that serve Indian food, and all of them, they have [those staple dishes]," explained Anand, who also owns Bhatti Indian Grill, Moti Mahal Delux and Awadh.
“My restaurants already serve them the best, so I want customers who already eat at my restaurants to come, and see the magic that we’re doing here with the food,” he added.
aRoqa's “taste plates” menu includes "Kandhari Arbi" — a dish made with fenugreek flatbread, colocasia and pickled onion salsa that resembles a taco; “Parsi Chimbori,” or beer-battered crab with tomato pickle relish; and pork dumplings known as “Vindaloo Momos” with bacon crumbles, green apples and vindaloo sauce that Anand plans to trademark.
The Kandhari Arbi at aRoqa (Credit: Giulia Olsson)
"We are the first ones to invent this dish,” he said. “It’s one of the best dumplings, but the world’s spiciest dumpling, I would say.”
The “shared plates” menu, meanwhile, features dishes like the “Sigree Lobster” with garlic-lemon pepper sauce; “Rechado Macchi,” or sea bass with lemongrass-kaffir curry and beaten rice pilaf; and “aRoqa Duck Leg Confit,” with coconut curry, string hoppers and papadums.
Dishes like corn paddu (a corn rice cake with chutney and masala) and the taco-like Kandhari Arbi will arrive on miniature bicycles and trucks, Anand added.
“In Kerala, [corn paddu] comes on a bike — every day the guy’s on the bike, and he’s serving everybody,” the chef said, adding the tiny trucks were inspired by Anand's love for tacos.
The restaurant will also offer drink pairings concocted by head mixologist Stephen Thomas, made with some of the same unique ingredients used in Anand’s dishes.
The "PowderFinger" cocktail. (Credit: Michael Tulipan)
"This is the only place in the city where you want to eat Indian and you don’t want to feel heavy," he said. "You want to feel light and you want to feel cool."
Anand doesn’t plan to offer delivery or takeout, as the restaurant’s focus is on patrons coming together to share a meal.
“aRoqa is all about love, engagement,” he said. “That’s the whole concept of this place — that food brings people together.”