Restaurateur Shafi Gaffar announces the grand opening of Makhani Modern Indian at 7 N. 3rd Street in Old City this Friday, January 25, 2019. Makhani will become Old City and Historic Philadelphia's only restaurant specializing in elevated Modern Indian cuisine. In the kitchen, Executive Chef Sanjoy Banik will focus on North Indian dishes that are made fresh-to-order and all from scratch. Look for high quality foods that many Indian restaurants don’t work with, such as lobster, scallops, lamb shanks, Chilean sea bass, and the freshest of farm to table ingredients. Rich and intricate sauces are simmered and cooked for up to ten hours at a time. In the dining room, look for 34 seats for dining, or space for up to 50 for special events. For the grand opening, all guests in the dining room will enjoy a free samosa and a complimentary wine tasting to celebrate the special occasion. Opening hours are 11:30 daily, with a 10:00pm close on Sundays through Thursdays, and 11:00pm close on Fridays and Saturdays. For lunch look for lunch specials featuring rice, naan, house veggies, plus entree for $7.99 to $11.99. For reservations or delivery, call 267-534-5097 or visit eatmakhani.com.
"Makhani Modern Indian is proud to open in the heart of Old City, one of Philadelphia's most popular and diverse dining neighborhoods," said Gaffar. "Old City has such a rich history with top quality international cuisine. We are thrilled to add Modern Indian fare to that ever-expanding mix. Chef Sanjoy Banik's mastery of traditional spices and flavors make each dish an opportunity to experience classics and delicacies in new and exciting ways. Every plate becomes a culinary journey. We can't wait to officially open our doors and showcase our chef's many culinary talents with the neighborhood, the city and the region."
Located in the former home of Bistro 7 and Dos Rosas Taqueria, the building features 3,600 square feet of space split over two floors. The first floor dining room will open this week and seat 34 for dinner seating, or host 50 for standing special events. The second floor will debut later this year and offer dedicated space for private parties and corporate events, plus offer additional dining room seating. Down the road, look for cafe seating and sidewalk views when the nice weather springs up in Old City.
Makhani (Ma-Kha-Ni, which means "with butter") will specialize in North Indian curries that usually have thick, moderately spiced and creamy gravies. The use of dried fruits and nuts is fairly common even in everyday foods. Dairy products like milk, cream, home-made cottage cheese, ghee (clarified butter) and yogurt play an important role in the cooking of both savory and sweet dishes. Chef makes these available at all times of the year for Philadelphia's beloved exotic food lovers.
Everything in the kitchen, from the breads, to the sauces, to the desserts, are made in-house and from scratch using high quality, fresh ingredients from Chef and his culinary team.
Makhani will also specialize in food freshly prepared and made-to-order right in view of the dining room. Indian food is very time consuming to make from scratch - sauces can be 8-10 hours to do it right, and it takes a lot longer to serve food to the table. Some restaurants then make sauces and store them for days or weeks through freezing. It is also common for some restaurants to freeze their proteins. At Makhani, look for sauces to be made fresh daily, with meats fresh and cooked on skewers. Gaffar added, "You can taste the difference in our preparation."
Inside the kitchen, Chef will cook authentic Indian dishes in a specially designed Tandoori clay oven brought over direct from India. On the menu, look for an extensive list of notable vegan options - as 50% of the menu is vegan.
The extensive menu is designed by Executive Chef Sanjoy Banik and his team. Chef attended the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition, in Kolkata, India back in the 1980s. He served as sous chef at Hotel Purbani in Dakha, Bangladesh. Banik has been in the United States since 1994. He first worked in New York City at Hotel Kimberly as sous chef. He then moved to PA in 2001 to serve as Executive Chef to Desi Village Restaurant (which belonged to Gaffar's family). Banik then served as Executive Chef in the family's new at the time restaurant, Khajuraho in Ardmore, PA. He later served as Executive Chef for Laxmi's Indian Grille and Tandoor Restaurants. Gaffar first met Chef when he was a teen and Chef worked in his family's kitchen. Later, they worked together at Tandoor, and now Chef will help Gaffar open Makhani.
"Chef Banik has worked alongside many notable non-Indian chefs, and carries a strong understanding of food culture beyond his food of expertise," said Gaffar. "He has been the go-to chef for many Asian dignitaries and celebrities visiting the United States, and has even served American leaders such as Bill and Chelsea Clinton. I am so proud to work alongside him at Makhani. I couldn't think of a better person to help execute my vision in the kitchen, and I can't wait for Philadelphia to try the signature dishes he has created specially for us."
VISION AND OWNER
Shafi Gaffar, 29, was born in Bangladesh and moved Philadelphia before he was five years old. He currently lives in Northern Liberties with his wife. During his childhood and teen years, he grew up working in several restaurants that his family owned since early 2000s.
After studying business and finance management at Temple University, he left the family business and worked at NY Ice Cream Inc, which owned and operated over 7 different food franchises at the time in New York and Philadelphia. As VP of Operations, he was overseeing 8+ million in annual sales at the age of 22. He eventually left the company to get back into the restaurant business and bought the Tandoor India brand from a family friend in 2013. Based in University City, 24 year-old Gaffar revamped and restructured Tandoor, completely rebranding it and preparing it for expansion. He reconnected with Banik and brought him on as Executive Chef, overseeing the expansion into additional markets such as Collegeville, Fishtown, and then South Philadelphia.
After several years of successful operation under Tandoor with his partners, Gaffar decided to create a new brand and bring Indian food into the modern age with Makhani Modern Indian. For this he envisioned a much higher quality of food and items that most Indian restaurants don’t work with, such as lobster, scallops, lamb shanks, Chilean sea bass, and the freshest of farm to table ingredients.
"I want to offer new modern and hip twists to favorite old school Indian dishes," said Gaffar. "I want to scale Makahni into more than just a regular neighborhood corner curry house. I think people see Indian food as just curry or spicy. Indian food is beyond spicy and curry. Indian food can offer the most exotic mixture of aromatic flavors into any veggies, meat or seafood lovers. Rich and complex flavors - and layer of flavors."
For inspiration, Gaffar pulls from his childhood for one of Makhani's signature dishes - the Indian Mango Chicken. " My family owns a mango garden/farm in Bangladesh so as a kid visiting Bangladesh my parents always took me to pick mangoes and eat them right off the trees," said Gaffar. "The chef has equal love for mangoes which prompted as to crest a fresh mango chicken dish!"
Makhani features elevated modern North Indian cuisine in an intimate, cozy and modern setting. Gaffar and his team renovated the first floor from top to bottom with new ceilings, lights, floors, fixtures, furniture and upgrades in the kitchen. Look for eloquently patterned walls, hanging crystal chandelier, glimmering gold and ruby artwork on the inside front wall, jewel tones playing off of pale blue patterned wall paper on the South wall and the crown jewel on the north wall - an eight by twenty foot custom peacock mural by Evan Lovette and ArtByAlysia. The peacock in India symbolizes purity, honesty and being helpful.
Gaffar has always had a love for Old City. One day when shopping across the street, he noticed the space was available. He had been on the hunt in Old City for a future space. He loved the culinary scene - but also wanted to be part of the Old City boom currently under way. The space was a perfect fit - with two levels and room for expansion, plus there was no Modern Indian offered anywhere in the neighborhood. Gaffar also selected Old City due to its support and nurturing of the restaurant and retail community. He said, "Old City District works with some of the most notable restaurants in the city. Events and programs like Old City Eats, Historic Holidays and Old City Fest are shining examples of how the District showcases local businesses. With so many notable openings in the last few years, construction for apartments and condos reaching a new high, and support from the District, I wanted Makhani to be a part of all this amazing energy."
Delivery is currently available through the eatmakhani.com website - and the restaurant has a full team of delivery drivers for fast, hot and efficient service throughout Center City, Old City, Northern Liberties, South Philadelphia and beyond. Makhani is also available for delivery on all major delivery outlets, including Uber Eats, Grub Hub, Caviar and Door Dash. Stay tuned for delivery offers and special programs through the winter and spring.
For the opening launch, Makhani will be open 11:30am to 10:00pm daily Sundays through Thursdays, and 11:30am to 11:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch will run from 11:30am to 3:00pm, and dinner from 4:00pm to 10:00pm. Orders stop fifteen minutes before the kitchen closes.
Down the road, look for Makhani to debut the second floor space for private and corporate parties, special events, and expanded dining room seating. Makhani will also debut outside seating in nice weather. From the kitchen, look for a special Indian brunch not currently offered anywhere else in Philadelphia. Also, look for an extensive specials menu to debut monthly where Chef can really executive his creative chops. Owner Shafi Gaffar is also exploring other options for future restaurants and new concepts.
Makhani Modern Indian
7 N. 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106