Sometimes a restaurant is born that creates a whole new standard, a restaurant that embraces tradition but appeals to entirely different tastes in a new culture to become a timeless classic.
Tawa is such a restaurant.
Tawa's Chef/Owner Kausik Roy puts it this way;
"Tawa is a very different type of Indian restaurant, one that draws on a deep respect of food tradition and a love for breaking food rules that emerged in me when I was very young.
When I was a small child, I looked at a Okra dish on my father's table in Mumbai and refused to eat it, because it was soggy and slimy and the very worst that the poor vegetable had to offer. A flash of inspiration hit me and I proclaimed then and there, in a very loud voice, that it must be served crispy and spicy.
Some obliging family member humored me, took it into the kitchen and deep-fried it, adding a generous sprinkling of Hari Mirch (green chili). The family loved it and began to cook it for every meal. Karrarri Bhindi was born, I was hailed as a culinary 'genius' at the age of nine and the experience of transforming something ordinary into something irresistible never left me."
After a stint with Mumbai's prestigious Taj Hotel Group as its youngest chef and formal training at Johnson and Wales University in the mid 1990's, that same Okra dish became a mainstay of Chef Roy's kitchens, first in Connecticut's celebrated Coromandel, which he opened in Stamford and New Rochelle to ecstatic reviews and in his own restaurant, Brick Lane Curry on New York's 6th St. (the famous Indian Restaurant street) in the East Village.
"Everyone who is daring enough to cross the gap that separates normal people from Okra," Chef Roy says, "is rewarded by a spicy crunch and the same 'Eureka Moment ' I experienced in Mumbai all those years ago."
By 2005, With many successes behind him, Chef Roy focused on changing how Americans think about Indian Cuisine.
He and his partner J.P. Agarwali, started humbly and opened the original TAWA in a tiny strip mall on Stamford's busy High Ridge Road in 2005. Despite the location, with no parking and almost complete invisiblity, the restaurant became a success.
"The only thing people would find wrong with TAWA," J.P. says, "was that it was too small and the parking was too hard. Our customers felt we deserved better!"
The two began to look for a place to expand, and with the demise of Ocean 211 in Stamford 2008, the ideal location to make their customer's wishes come true was suddenly theirs. The restaurant had been a popular destination on Summer Street, the most important of Stamford's dining streets, surrounded by great restaurants and central to the City's financial and cultural heart.
The Bread Bar and Upstairs
"When we began to visualize a new TAWA, we decided we wanted to create both a casual and a formal dining experience to defy expectations of the cuisine and to expand people's overall understanding and enjoyment of Indian food.
211 Summer is a small, two story building that is perfect because it offers areas for those two experiences, an upstairs location for quiet, formal dining and a street level space that was perfect for lighter, more fun cuisine with a casual European flair."
So it was that TAWA and its two restaurants, The Bread Bar and Upstairs, came to be. After 9 months of renovation, a new kitchen and a nearly complete reconstruction, the "perfect" location is finally finished and open for business.
The Bread Bar is a place to meet and greet, with bar stools and an open kitchen that allows people to watch the creation of their food, mingle and enjoy a light snack, finger food and small plates with drinks or wine by the glass.
Upstairs is just that, an "upstairs" dining experience that is refined, elegant, and mysterious. A space for Chef Roy to continue his quest to change attitudes by creating magical dishes that alter how his customers think about food.
"After ten restaurants," Chef concludes with a smile, "I've grown up a little. I don't care anymore that anyone thinks I'm a genius, now I want them to be surprised and entertained by TAWA's food and how we serve it. I want to make people happy!"