Rania, Semma, Indienne: 3 Indian Restaurants in the US Awarded Michelin Stars
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Rania, Semma, Indienne: 3 Indian Restaurants in the US Awarded Michelin Stars

Mumbai: Say bon appetit! In a sweep for desi cuisine, three Indian restaurants in the US — Rania in Washington DC, Semma in New York City and Indienne in Chicago — were awarded Michelin stars on Wednesday.

Semma, run by chef Vijay Kumar, was awarded one Michelin star for the second year in a row. Rania, helmed by chef Chetan Shetty, and Indienne, run by chef Sujan Sarkar, were awarded one star each.

New York-based Indian-origin chef Vikas Khanna, who launched the restaurant Junoon, which held a Michelin star for eight years, saluted the three chefs, tagging the stars a milestone and an honour “for India, our hospitality & cuisine”.

“Diwali has arrived a little early in US,” he posted on X. “I’m cheering for the day when every guide will have an Indian restaurant with the [star emoji] around the globe,” he said.

The stars, one of the most prestigious and sought-after tags in the restaurant world, were awarded at a ceremony held in Manhattan.

Semma, Rania and Indienne all toy with Indian flavours and ingredients. At Semma (Tamil, for Awesome), Kumar seeks to replicate the food of his childhood, spent among paddy fields on the outskirts of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Think valiya chemmeen moilee (lobster tail with mustard, turmeric, coconut milk) and nalli elumbu (lamb shank with star anise and black stone flower lichen).

At Indienne, Sarkar serves up progressive tasting menus. Think passion fruit pani puri, or a seafood podi roast (squid in a malai curry, with sanas and podi).

At Rania, Shetty, who spent years at the Indian Accent in New York City, experiments with what Indian food can look and taste like. Think shiso leaf chaat; beef short ribs with saffron nihari and charred maitake mushroom; and North Point oysters in Amritsari hollandaise with moringa podi.

There have always been Michelin-starred Indian restaurants in the US, going all the way back to Devi 20 years ago, says journalist, author and columnist Vir Sanghvi. “Semma, too, got a Michelin star last year. The recognition for Indienne and Rania was long overdue.”

Today, Kumar, Shetty and Sarkar are part of a generation of Indian tastemakers in the US who are shaking up definitions of Indian food, fine-dining, and definitions of what it takes to succeed at the top levels in that country, in the restaurant space.

In 2022, for instance, a casual Indian street-food restaurant in North Carolina called Chai Pani, set up by Indian-American chef Meherwan Irani, was tagged America’s Outstanding Restaurant at the James Beard Foundation Awards. And Chintan Pandya, who runs Unapologetic Foods (the hospitality group behind New York City’s Semma, Dhamaka and Adda Indian Canteen) with restaurateur Roni Mazumdar, bagged the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in New York State.

“They’re all doing different things with Indian cuisine,” says Sanghvi. Sarkar’s style leans towards modern Indian, whereas the fare at Semma or Dhamaka is “your back-to-the-roots Indian food, focusing on rural and rustic flavours”. “For instance, at Semma,” Sanghvi adds, “Kumar makes a point of saying that the South Indian food that people generally eat is that of the upper caste, upper class, whereas the fare he grew up eating is that of people who couldn’t afford expensive ingredients, who often foraged to put meals together.”

Source : Hindustan Times