In the midst of all the novelty, there is always solace in things that have come first. Kashmir Restaurant in Manila introduced the culinary adventures of Indian cooking over 40 years ago. There is a flourishing Indian community in the Philippines, which has been growing since the early Spanish colonial period. But even with the arrival of such a diverse culture, Filipinos were not privy to dishes from India. Meals were considered to be maanghang (too spicy) and were very far removed in taste from traditional Filipino or Southeast Asian cooking. But the original founders of Kashmir Restaurant, three sisters, Sita Advani, Indra Mirchandani and Kamla Singh continued their vision to create a dining destination for Filipinos and global visitors to experience the delicious tastes of India.
Kashmir Restaurant is definitely a pioneer as it stands to be possibly the longest-running Indian restaurant in the country. The story started in the 1970s when the three sisters started a small pension or guesthouse in Poblacion, Makati. Their home-cooked meals of Indian food were such a hit that the sisters made the decision to go into the restaurant business full time. They opened their first restaurant on Makati Avenue in Makati City, followed by a second location on Padre Faura Street in the Manila district of Ermita and a third branch at Robinson’s Galleria in Quezon City; but the latter eventually closed when the mall was renovated. Today, Kashmir Restaurant, an established landmark and now owned and managed by Indra Mirchandani and Kamla Singh, have branches in the heart of Makati on the famous Pasay Road, an accessible Kashmir Deli in San Antonio Plaza, Forbes Park, and the Ermita location still very much serving loyal clientele.
“The Filipino palate has evolved greatly during the years,” says Mirchandani on the experience of managing the restaurant for the long haul. “We have really found that in the past, Indian food was only known as spicy curries and kebabs, but the customer has really gotten acquainted with the diverse flavors of India.”
Kamla Singh adds, “People have become more adventurous and they want to try new things. Also, our restaurant, while its core is Indian food, also offers Malaysian and Middle Eastern dishes, giving visitors many tasty dishes to choose from.”
Kashmir Restaurant offers the ultimate experience in exquisite Indian dining. “Our restaurant is fine dining and we really want to create an intimate experience for our customers,” Singh expresses. All Kashmir Restaurant establishments are decorated with Indian murals and vibrantly colored walls. Relaxing Hindi music plays in the background mimicking sights and sounds of the Sub-continent. The food is served in traditional silver tiffins, which are metal containers that are native to India.
At the Kashmir Restaurant in Manila, there are plenty dishes aimed to please. The palak paneer (a simmered spinach soufflé with cottage cheese) is a delight for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Be sure to have it with the chappati (a whole wheat leavened bread) or naan (an oven-baked flat bread). The ever so popular chicken tikka masala (boneless chicken cubes in a rich curry sauce) is requested frequently by restaurant patrons. For adventurous foodies, there are the mutton specialties such as the rogan josh kashmiri (tender mutton pieces cooked in a rich gravy of varied spices and herbs) and the handi gosht (mutton, mildly spiced, cooked with onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes in a traditional Indian vessel handi, a copper kettle, over a slow fire).
“We really want visitors to delight their senses,” explains Mirchandani. “It is a culinary experience and not just merely eating to satisfy one’s hunger.” Both Singh and Mirchandani visit the restaurants nearly every day, ensuring that customer service, food quality and kitchen efficiency are topnotch. “Even after all these years, we still get excited about the restaurants and how our customers feel about our offerings,” notes Singh.
Seeing the popularity of Indian food in greater Manila, the owners opened the Kashmir Deli in 2013, which is located at the convenient San Antonio Plaza Arcade in Forbes Park, Makati City. The deli is perfect for those who need a quick bite or who are in search of take-out, ready to heat meals in the comfort of their home. The samosas serve as great snacks while a number of different shawarma flavors and curries can satisfy the craving for Kashmir food.
Kashmir Restaurant’s longstanding reputation within the Indian-Filipino diaspora is unparalleled. Despite its recognition, the present owners, Indra Mirchandani and Kamla Singh, still live up to a high quality standard for every customer interaction.
“When something becomes a part of who you are, the goal is to improve on every level, each and every day. And we remain thrilled about the changes in the food and restaurant industry in the Philippines. This keeps us going. It keeps things exciting,” declares Mirchandani. “I agree!” exclaims Singh.
Photography and videography: Arthur F. Almeida, Kim Klarisse M. Almeida. *Select photos Courtesy of Kashmir Manila restaurant
Photo and video editing: Ivan Kevin R. Castro
816 Pasay Road
523 Padre Faura Street
San Antonio Plaza, Forbes Park, Makati
Serina Aidasani divides her time between New York and Chicago. She works in marketing communications and public relations.
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