Food is one elixir which binds different cultures together. Americans like Indian food while Indians gorge on Chinese. Italian is the perennial favourite world over while Lebanese is the new darling. Citibank Restaurant Week India cashes on this very desire. We talk to Mr Azeem Zainulbhai, one of the founders, to find out more
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: September 21, 2012
Food is one elixir which binds different cultures together. Americans like Indian food while Indians gorge on Chinese. Italian is the perennial favourite world over while Lebanese is the new darling. Citibank Restaurant Week India cashes on this very desire. We talk to Mr Azeem Zainulbhai, one of the founders, to find out more.
India’s rich culture not only includes a fondness for jewels and couture and reverence for Gods, but also an innate love for food and cuisines. It comes as no surprise then that Citibank Restaurant Week India (RWI) has been growing year on year!
Bringing luxury fine dining to an affordable level, RWI has partnered with the best of food destinations to lure gourmets and variety-lovers. Dig into Ellipsis, Hakkasan, India Jones, Kangan, Koh by Ian Kittichai and Yauatcha among others in Mumbai. Delhi participates with Kainoosh, Prego, Rara Avis, Taipan, Varq and more. Bangalore, on the other hand, gives an avenue to Blue Ginger, Dakshin, Likethatonly, Shiro and more delights.
During RWI, participating restaurants will offer a three-course fixed menu (with an option of vegetarian or non-vegetarian), in Mumbai and Delhi at INR 1,000 for lunch and 1,200 for dinner, and at INR 750 in Bangalore.
The young trio of owners of RWI – Azeem Zainulbhai, Mangal Dalal, and Nachiket Shetye – are exuberant about the concept beyond just making business sense out of it. Giving in to more curiosity about this event, we have a short tête-à-tête with Mr Zainulbhai, to find out how the concept came about, what makes it so popular and how is it bigger and better this year.
Soumya Jain: How did the idea of having a Restaurant Week in India come about?
Azeem Zainulbhai: The three founders of Restaurant Week India (Mangal, Nachiket and I) were sitting around one night discussing how much we missed Restaurant Week events that we had attended in other international cities (think NYC). We searched for a similar concept in India and couldn't find one so we decided to do it ourselves. We have now been doing it for two and a half years and have created the same kind of vibrancy and excitement around the concept as in global cities. People really look forward to Restaurant Week here in India and that's what we want!
SJ: What is the purpose of hosting such an event in India?
AZ: There are a couple of reasons we LOVE our event (but really, could we not?!). First, it creates excitement around phenomenal cuisines across diverse venues that you just can't build in any other way. People tend to dine out with us at least twice during restaurant week, if not more.
Second, we expose people to high-end cuisines that they may not have ventured out to try before. It gives them an opportunity, and a reason, to go “off course”.
Third, we (a team of dedicated foodies) decide what restaurants are up to par. We take this very seriously. We also try to focus our customers on the best options in the menu - less choice, better food, more fun!
SJ: Does making such fine dining restaurants available at affordable prices not affect its luxe image in the minds of their usual, rich patrons?
AZ: Definitely not. If you look at the dining patterns of our patrons, you will see that dining at these restaurants is not necessarily a “reach”. A lot of times people use restaurant week as their once a quarter “excuse” to dine at these fine establishments. All the more often, people use it as a way to test restaurants that are within budget, but would never have experimented with.
SJ: How is this edition bigger than the previous one?
AZ: We have expanded the number of restaurants across the three cities to 70! This is by far the biggest (and best) we have ever had. Mangal and Nachiket have done extensive research (and tastings, yay!) to make this happen.
SJ: What were your observations from the previous restaurant weeks and what changes have you incorporated accordingly?
AZ: Our customers are our kings (or queens). We have revised the look and feel of our website to streamline the booking process to make it much easier for our patrons. Also, we have a mobile friendly site that allows you to book on the fly. Our restaurants are happy because we have included more information about each venue so that the customer can learn more, and be more engaged, when they arrive.
SJ: India has a vibrant food culture. The country is open to experimenting, but sometimes very strict about their taste preferences too. On what basis did you choose these restaurants and how difficult was it to draw up this illustrious list?
AZ: Well, we can't give away the magic sauce now can we? Rest assured though, that our judgment is based on three principles – the food, the presentation, and the service.
Reservations can be made online exclusively through the Restaurant Week India website (www.restaurantweekindia.com). Citibank cardholders will enjoy zero reservation fees. General reservations will be charged a fee of INR 100 applicable to Delhi and Mumbai only. Reservations have commenced.