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Ashok Bajaj of Rasika and Bombay Club Shortlisted for James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur Award

Ashok Bajaj of Rasika and Bombay Club Shortlisted for James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur Award

  • Three Indian-owned eateries in North Carolina, Georgia and New York are included among the best and upcoming restaurants in the U.S.

Washington, D.C.-based Ashok Bajaj, founder of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group that runs several well-known restaurants including Rasika, Bindaas, Bombay Club, among others, is shortlisted for the 2022 James Beard Award in the Outstanding Restaurateur category. The awards, considered to be among the nation’s most prestigious honors, recognize exceptional talent in the culinary and food media industries, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive, the James Beard Foundation said in a Feb. 23 press release announcing the awards. 

Recognized as Washington’s leading host among power diners, the New Delhi-born has owned and operated award-winning restaurants in London and the United States for over 25 years. His restaurants — Rasika and Annabelle — cater to D.C. power players with impeccable plating and service informed by Bajaj’s encyclopedic knowledge of high-profile regulars,” says Eater Washington D.C.

Last year, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bajaj entered the fast-casual market with Bindaas Bowls & Rolls, an offshoot of Indian street food brand Bindaas. Last August, Bajaj re-opened the power lunch and dinner restaurant The Bombay Club, After an extensive month-long renovation. The restaurant was opened in 1988, a half block from the White House as D.C.’s first fine dining Indian restaurant. It has served presidents and celebrities for over three decades.

Chai Pani in Asheville, North Carolina is shortlisted for Outstanding Restaurant, and New York City’s “Dhamaka,” and Nani’s Piri Piri Chicken, also in Asheville, are among best new restaurants. Both Chai Pani and Nani’s Piri Piri Chicken are owned by Meherwan Irani, a chef, restaurateur, and spice dealer. 

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Irani was born in London and raised in India. In 2009, he quit his day job in sales to open Chai Pani in Asheville, after which he launched Spicewalla in 2017 to supply fresh spices, first to chefs and now to home cooks. He then opened a second Chai Pani in Decatur, Georgia, as well as an Indian street grill, Botiwalla, in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market. He also owns Buxton Hall BBQ in Asheville, as well as Nani’s Piri Piri Chicken, in both Asheville and Decatur.

“Dhamaka” is among the newest Indian restaurant to create a splash in the New York City food scene. A second collaboration between chef and partner Chintan Pandya and restaurateur Roni Mazumdar of the critically acclaimed Adda Indian Canteen Dhamaka, the “unapologetically Indian’ restaurant opened a year ago.

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