Charanjeet Ghotra is at it again. The co-owner of several revered Indian restaurants in Virginia has opened yet another.
A native of Punjab, India, Ghotra came to the United States in 1996, at the age of 20, as he puts it: “with the American dream in my mind.” Family friends first put him to work at a Long Island restaurant, and then sent him to Virginia Beach to help with another they owned, Nawab. There, he met his future business partner, Jaswander Singh. Now they have four restaurants.
It took a few years of learning the ropes before the duo opened their first one in 2002, Milan Indian Cuisine in Lynchburg. The following year they opened another Milan, in Charlottesville. And in 2009, they added Anokha, in Richmond. Each earned a loyal following. And, then this week came their fourth restaurant, Kanak Indian Kitchen, in 5th Street Station.
The idea behind Kanak is simple: bring their beloved Indian food to another part of the town. Milan fans on the south side of Charlottesville can now enjoy better access to favorites like chicken tikka masala, vin d’ alho, saag, and korma. But, beyond these standards, Kanak (Sanskrit for “gold” or “wheat”) also introduces new dishes not found at Milan.
A menu of small plates for sharing, for example, includes dishes like Rechado Prawns – prawns with chili, coconut, sugar cane vinegar, tamarind, and garlic. Or, one of Ghotra’s favorites, Stuffed Aloo Tiki – potato patties with a toasted spice mix, yogurt, and chutney.
For entrees, Ghotra likes the catfish (yes, catfish!) – Punjabi Masala Catfish – spiked with garam masala, ajwain, lime juice, and tadka – Indian spices tempered in ghee. Chukundari Kofta, meanwhile, removes meat from the traditional kofta meatball, and replaces it with a bright red minced beets, cashew, and potato, encased in semolina, bathed in creamy spinach yogurt sauce.
Kanak is in 5th Street Station at 385 Merchant Walk Square Suite 400. Lunch is Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30 am to 3 pm. Dinner is Tuesday through Sunday, 5 pm – 10 pm.