An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jan 29, 2014
09:55 AMThe Connecticut Table
Fresh Light Indian Cuisine at Tikkaway Grill in New Haven
Quick, light, healthy, flavorful. These all apply to meals you can take out in a hurry or eat in at your leisure at the Tikkaway Fresh Indian Grill on Orange Street.
Launched by Gopinath “Gopi” Nair, the Tikkaway Grill is a culmination of ideas Nair had been working on for years to make healthy, light pan-Indian food at an affordable price and made at nearly fast-food speed.
Nair learned his home country’s tastes and cultural profiles the easy way, moving about the various parts of India as a military brat. He loved to spend time in the kitchen watching his mother cook, and that food fascination eventually brought him to the Institute of Hotel Management in Orissa, India, where he studied culinary science and hotel management. Nair went on to open two successful restaurants in India, but then he got the itch to travel and study in the U.S., and off he went for a master’s in business at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. After he graduated, Nair worked in fashion, but as it is so often, once a restaurateur always a restaurateur. He became owner of one of the Coromandel group of restaurants in South Norwalk, and began to weave together his cooking knowledge with his entrepreneurial skills.
In typical business school fashion, he did a demographic analysis of a target clientele, and up popped New Haven. “New Haven had the best energy, the best demographics, and the best like-mindedness in terms of open to diversity,” says Nair. A two-year search brought him to the Orange St. location, and he opened Tikkaway Grill last August.
“Indian is still a niche cuisine,” Nair says. “Eighty percent of Americans still don’t do Indian [food] yet. When I would talk to customers they would say, ‘I don’t like curry, I don’t like spicy’ but they would eat jalapenos. I realized it wasn’t that they did not like it, but they did not know it.” Nair decided to “make it approachable, low-risk, fresh, high quality, affordable,” enticing diners to try Indian food, and to educate their palates at the same time.
(Above, Roti wraps, one with chicken tikka, left, and lamb kebab, right.)