2000 was the first year of the new millenium. It’s the year Australia hosted the Summer Olympics and the year reality-television show Survivor debuted on NBC. It’s also the year chef Navjot Arora uprooted his life in India to chase his culinary dreams in the United States.
Before his life in New York City, Arora was a chef at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, where a single room could cost upwards of $10,000/night. It is a highly regarded position that offered stability to Arora and his family. Arora calls the decision to leave “a big leap of faith.” And it paid off.
Arora is now the co-owner and head chef of three New York restaurants: Chutney Masala, Sambal, and Old Monk. Old Monk opened in July and focuses on taking the traditional flavors of Indian cuisine and presenting them in a contemporary way. “My aim is to please the hardcore Indian foodie as well as someone who has never tried Indian food before,” said Arora. The menu features lamb chops with a ginger rum marinade grilled in a tandoor. There’s also an appetizer of goat cheese naan topped with pumpkin and melon seed, served with a pickled yogurt dip. Arora’s cooking philosophy is all about packing a flavorful punch, without all the frills.
“Keeping it simple is the key,” says Arora. “You will not find me with tweezers or fancy gizmos.” That simplicity is what opens up Arora’s cooking to a wider audience, which is necessary in a competitive and oversaturated market like Manhattan—which, while only 22.8 square miles, has over 10,000 eating establishments on the island. That means there is a place to grab food on almost every street corner. However, Arora still believes there is a niche for good Indian food. “Indian cuisine is inspired by one billion foodies. No two dishes are the same from one kitchen to another. We take pride in what we are doing and we want to share that with you.” If you visit New York and want to experience traditional Indian food in a new way, Navjot Arora has a few options for you.
Learn more about Old Monk here.