Chef and restaurateur Rajiv Chopra has opened four casual, counter-order locations of Punjabi by Nature, showcasing Northern Indian cuisine in North Virginia. Now he’s going upscale and highlighting regional cuisines at Bombay Velvet, a luxe Indian restaurant now open in Reston.
Chopra refers to the menu as a “gastronomic adventure to India.” The chef took research trips to six regions and cities in his home country, studying recipes in upscale hotels and learning how to hand-grind spices in small villages. Dishes from the north, south, east, and west live alongside each other on the menu, often accompanied by footnotes recounting a dish’s origin. The chef incorporates at least eight types of chilies found across the subcontinent. Chopra hopes the distinct spices and ingredients of each region will allow diners to “feel the flavor of that location.”
Starting in the south, the kitchen looks to Hyderabad. Seared scallops are paired with peanut salan, a spicy curry sauce traditionally enjoyed by the region’s ruling dynasties. Seafood dishes pay tribute to the coastal regions like lobster curry with a malai sauce simmered overnight, taking inspiration from the abundance of fisheries in the Bay of Bengal. The cocktail menu echoes the attention to regional flavors, like a beach-y Kerala-inspired concoction of rum, coconut water, cumin, and pineapple.
Traveling northward, the restaurant pays homage to the influence of Mughal rule on Northern Indian cuisine. The Mughals ruled for two centuries, bringing with them rich curries and hearty dishes like rice biriyani. Chopra pairs a dish he says was eaten by the Mughal kings, chargrilled chicken barra kebab, with mint chutney and a beetroot pickle salad.
The influence of Portugal, Armenia, and Britain on Indian cuisine are also prevalent on the menu. Chopra revamps the Scotch egg of British gastropubs, combining the traditional hard boiled egg with minced lamb, and saffron pistachio sauce. The menu boasts seven types of naan, from a simple butter version to iterations like truffle or black-and-white garlic.
In case you’re wondering about Bombay Velvet’s name, the 100-seat space is filled with hints: velvet sofas, velvet curtains, and velvet chairs. “Everywhere you will feel the velvet touch,” Chopra says. Looking upwards, the tin ceilings are meant to nod to 1930s American homes and 1970s Bombay, illuminated by a ten foot chandelier. In addition to the main dining room, guests can grab a table at one of the three outdoor patios or at the onyx bar.
Chopra already has plans to expand Bombay Velvet into the District in 2020. He has yet to sign a lease but has eyes on a number of locations.
Bombay Velvet. 12100 Sunset Hills Rd., Reston; Open Sunday through Thursday 10:30 to 11; Friday and Saturday to 12.