I grew up in Jalandhar, Punjab, while my wife, Nirupama Laroia, grew up in New Delhi. We met in a medical school in India and lived in England for a time before moving to America and settling in Pittsford in 1993. My urge for having Indian food, paired with good wine and scotch in a good ambiance, made me travel to Toronto, Washington or New York. That got me thinking, ‘Why don’t I have something like that here in Rochester?’
This thought infused with my dream of opening a restaurant and that too our way. However, before opening the restaurant, we decided to raise our two sons who attended Brighton schools.
During the day I used to work as an obstetrician and gynecologist, by meeting patients through my private practice in Penfield. My wife, being a neonatologist, used to serve as Medical Director and Section Chief of the Special Care Nursery at Rochester General Hospital. In addition to it, she was an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Strong Memorial Hospital.
Carrying out our dreams along with our demanding career was a challenge. The spark came when we saw another Indian restaurant, Mysore Woodlands, going to the market. That was our turning point. We had already travelled the world over for 20 years to sample the best in Indian cuisines. So we finally opened Amaya Bar and Grill in September, 2011.
Though we began the restaurant with traditional Indian cuisines, we brought in a renowned expert on Indian cuisine, Chef Tuhin Dutta, to diversify the menu. Right now, our restaurant’s USP is the excellent chefs, managers and other staff who do most of the day-to-day running of Amaya. I normally head to the restaurant most evenings to enjoy a meal, greet customers and plan for the future.
We brought in the sophisticated Indian Fusion menu so that the people coming to Amaya can experience flavours not only from other regions but also indulge in the culinary influences from Western cultures such as Portuguese, British and French
Even though we have expanded our menu to house in more cuisines, many of the house favorites, such as tandoori-cooked meats, still heat up the kitchen. Some of the new menu items in our menu include Poppy Ka Seekh (vegetarian kabob with a poppy seed crust), Kareli Awadh (braised lamb shanks) and Chicken Achaari, prepared with Indian mixed pickle spices. In desserts, we have an Indian ice cream with vermicelli noodles and basil seeds.
We also had to take care of guests who were new to Indian cuisines. So offered them a 4-course tasting menu.
We knew that Amaya had to have the spark to touch most. So we designed the menu in such a way that it became the only Indian restaurant in Rochester to offer a full-service bar, featuring Indian beer on tap, Indian wines, martinis and a large collection of single malt and blended Scotch whiskey.
Wednesday nights had to be made different. So we gave our guests the option of bringing in their own bottle of wine. With no corkage fee, we attracted customers by even including an offer of purchasing bottle at half price that day.
What made us successful and going even at the face of challenges was the systematic attitude and love for food and customers. Having gone through the journey, I can say that we both enjoyed being part of that challenge.