Rohith Muralya – Director Concept Cuisine – Interview
George Bernard Shaw once said, “There’s no sincerer love than the love of food.” There’s something of an expression, creativity, and connection when it comes to food that sets it apart from all other businesses of the world. Concept Cuisine is not a new name in the food industry in Dubai. Their decade’s old venture ‘India Palace’ is story of the love for food and the authenticity that distinguishes it from the rest. A true pioneer in offering authentic Indian fine dining experience in Dubai, India Palace has established its name as one of the best Indian restaurants in Dubai.
From its traditional decor to the delicious menu the restaurant exudes the aura of the quintessential Indian hospitality. Live music, traditional Indian decor accents and a menu befitting the maharajas, India palace nails the real Indian flavors, offering a taste of home away from home. In an attempt to broaden its horizons Concept Cuisine has recently also launched Sthan Restaurant that offers a more diverse menu than the traditional India Palace. We spoke to the man behind these interesting and successful ideas, the Director of Concept Cuisine Rohith Muralya at SOUTHERN FRANCHISE CO, and learned more about his passion, aspirations and future plans.
Tell us about yourself, and how did you end up from the world of numbers to a more indulgent world of food?
Rohith Muralya: From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been eating with my eyes, nose, and mouth. These explorations of food not only taught me about myself and others but were central factors in how and why I chose to go into the restaurant business. My discoveries have also convinced me that there’s always someone out there who has figured out how to make something taste just a little bit better. And I am inspired by both the search and the discovery. The restaurant was conceived and is driven by the passion to add something new and compelling to the Dubai Food scene.
Q: What is India Palace all about and how different is it from you latest venture Sthan?
Rohith Muralya: India Palace is about how we pay homage to one of the most prominent eras in Indian History, the Mughal era which is the time when the spirit of craftsmanship prospered. It was during this time that the Bhukhara or Khansamas were created, these were the chefs of the royal families. At India Palace, we try to recreate this era for our guests, where they can enjoy the signature tastes of recipes handed down from these royal families, in a setting which boasts traditional craftsmanship from India from hand-carved woodwork, to hand-painted silk cloth paintings, to delicately crafted bangles for our guests. In one line, India Palace is all about an authentic heritage dining experience.
Q: Tell us a little bit more about Sthan?
Rohith Muralya: While developing a concept or cuisine for our restaurants, we constantly look for something unique and exciting that will appeal to the Dubai gourmet’s taste buds and Sthan is a result of such an endeavor. Here, the cuisines of indigenous Sindhis, Hindus, Indian Muslim migrants, Arabs, Persians and many small ethnic communities who settled here centuries ago combine in a unique and eclectic way. Our food is a marriage of these varied cultures and the influences of both my heritage and my travels. Further we wanted to create a place where one could find Dilli ki nihari and Punjab ke paye to Chapli kabab from Peshawar.
When I decided to create Sthan, I wrote a list of ten things that one could ordinarily expect of a restaurant in Dubai serving these cuisines— they included a predictable menu; ornate décor with background sitar music; and austere service and hospitality. Then I asked myself what Sthan might add to these expectations — what it could perhaps add to the dialogue Dubai’ers already had with Indian restaurants. Cooking the ‘Traditional way’ using typically local utensils like the Karahi, the Handi, the Tawa and the Sil-batta. The use of dum cooking and bhoonna-ing (slow cooking) fresh ingredients like Elaichi, Garam masala, Cinnamon, Cumin etc. add a distinct flavor to our dishes. The restaurant was designed to showcase these various cooking techniques to our guests.
Q: What sets the India Palace and Sthan apart from the rest of the restaurants in UAE?
Rohith Muralya: Well we firmly believe in letting the quality of the food speak for itself. What does set us apart is we are one of the few restaurants that do not use food coloring or MSG in our kitchens as we believe in letting freshest ingredients develop flavors over a slow cooking traditional process unlike most of our competitors.
Q: Do you have loyalty program for both of your restaurants?
Rohith Muralya: As far is loyalty is concerned we like to keep it as accessible as possible to the residents of the UAE, so we have kept our pricing strategy at bare minimum to keep it affordable to the masses, so even people who want to try our food for the first time does not have to burn a hole in their pockets to do so. In fact, we have a secret menu/ dishes which only our most loyal patrons know of.
Q: What does it mean to receive three consecutive awards and how do you plan to continue your winning streak?
Rohith Muralya: I’m thankful and blessed to be supported by a team of like-minded colleagues who believe in the importance of exceeding our guest expectations. The awards are just a testament to their hard work and dedication towards uplifting the brand. We consistently try to improve our services and our products for our customers every year and hope to deliver even better quality and value to our patrons and with this ethos in place at the root level we are sure we will be recognized for the same.
Q: What is food to you and how do you think it impacts on our lives?
Rohith Muralya: For me food is as much an art as an adventure. It is a means to nourish one’s soul. It is a means to get to know one another. If you know what a person eats, you can make out what kind of people they are. Food is an adventure in the sense that there is so much to explore in terms of cuisines, ingredients, preparation etc.
Q: What are your future plans for India Palace and Sthan?
Rohith Muralya: For India Palace, we plan to open a new outlet in Al Ain in the next 3 months. The project is very close to my heart and I am really excited about the launch. For Sthan, we have just started it and are very excited about the new things we plan to launch in the near future. The customer feedback has been terrific with a lot of requests coming in, and we are enthusiastically working on ideas. Stay tuned on our social media pages to be the first guest to find out.
Q: Any last words for our readers and essentially all the foodies out there?
Rohith Muralya: Eat with all your senses, see all the colors, breathe in the flavor, feel the texture, make it a sensory experience. Be present in the moment and aware of the food going in.