Dining Out 2 minutes 08 February 2019

Eating Off Duty with Chintan Pandya

We explore where and what celebrated chefs eat outside their kitchens.

Eating Off Duty

Chef Chintan Pandya is the executive chef of Adda Indian Canteen in Long Island City and Rahi in the West Village. Born in Mumbai, Chintan brings the versatile recipes and tradition of regional Indian cuisine into his dishes, opening the eyes of New Yorkers to what Indian food is. The menus feature Indian dishes that are popularly served on dining tables across the subcontinent and nostalgic recipes that Chintan loved while growing up.

Chintan was a student at one of the most prestigious culinary schools in India before moving on to continue his training at the Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development. Later, Chintan joined Yantra in Singapore for four years as executive chef. He moved to New York in July of 2016 where he led the kitchen at Michelin-starred Junoon as executive chef until May of the following year. After that is when he moved on to Rahi. Chintan was recently named one of the 2019 New York City Rising Stars Award Winners by StarChefs.

What is the last thing you ate?
A masala omelette with cheese. Masala means a mixture of spices. My omelette consisted of eggs cooked with chopped onion, tomato, cilantro, green chiles, powdered red chile and turmeric. Everything is beaten along with the eggs and cooked in a pan and then I top it off with Amul cheese. I normally eat it with two pieces of toast. As a kid growing up, a masala omelette was my dream meal since we never cooked eggs or meat at home. This style is similar to how it’s made in my hometown of Mumbai, but omelettes are common across India.

It's your day off. What do you order for breakfast and where? (Outside of your own restaurants.)
The ironic part is that on my day off, I do not go out to restaurants, unless it’s a special occasion. Normally I am working on the weekends. But on my day off (usually Mondays), I cook breakfast for myself and my wife. I like to make masala chai and breakfast foods such as upma (porridge), masala oats or akuri (spicy scrambled eggs) with toast and fresh fruit. On special occasions for brunch, I break my diet and eat waffles and pancakes at Sarabeth’s on Greenwich Street or Buvette.

Controversial question: Do you believe in brunch?
I did not grow up with the concept of brunch. I grew up with simple meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I rarely go out for brunch unless my wife drags me out. My breakfast consists of oats, fresh fruit and a hot cup of chai.

What is your 2:00 a.m. food order or favorite spot?
Chicken liver toast from The Spotted Pig. I really love the taste and consistency. I feel like foods such as pizza, Chinese and burgers are the kind of food that you ate late at night during your younger days.

What is your local coffee shop? What do you order when you are there?
Latte from Bluestone Lane Collective at 55 Greenwich Avenue in the West Village.

What is your favorite restaurant outside of New York City?
Razza Pizza Artigianale in Jersey City. I love the "Fico" pizza with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, fig jam, prosciutto Americano and arugula. The crust of the pizza and the ingredients used by them makes this place special and stand out. I feel the taste of prosciutto with fig and ricotta is just out of this world.

What is the "laziest" meal you put together for yourself this past week?
Sunny-side up omelette.

What is your favorite snack food and why?
Khakhra, a snack from the Gujarat region. (Gujarat is a state in the western part of India, and the majority of the population from the state is vegetarians.) Khakhra is a thin, crisp bread. It is normally eaten during breakfast or as a snack. They are healthy and normally handmade. It could be made with lots of flavors. Common ones include cumin or fenugreek. I normally like to eat it on its own, but it can also be served with pickles or chutney.

What is your guilty pleasure and why?
A chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. Actually, a lot of restaurants in India serve brownies with vanilla ice cream topped with hot chocolate sauce and served on a sizzle platter. That’s where I fell in love with it. Over the years, I kept tasting it everywhere and enjoyed it more. The best brownies I’ve had are from a bakery in Mumbai called Theobroma.

Photo by Noah Fecks.

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