Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chai Pani, Asheville's gateway to Indian street food

The Concept

The following is from the Chai Pani website and accurately describes the experience and concept:
Chai Pani literally means “tea and water”. It's slang in India for going out for a cup of tea, a tasty bite, a snack, or “a little something”.Well here in Downtown Asheville it's slang for innovative, fun, affordable & delicious Indian cuisine. We'd go so far as to say it's “mindblasting”.Some of the most tasty, fun and affordable food of any country is its street food and Chai Pani features chaat - crunchy, spicy, sweet, tangy, brightly flavored Indian street snacks.And since there is nothing more comforting and delicious in any culture than a home cooked meal, Chai Pani also brings you thalis - traditional family meals highlighting India's amazing culinary diversity.

I have more time these days to visit some of the great eating places of Asheville that I did not have the time to stop at previously.  I’m loving the encounters with what many already know to be good places to dine around Asheville!

Chai Pani doesn’t just get local press either.  The New York Times, GQMagazine, New York Magazine and even Fox have given wonderful reviews to this little downtown gem.

The Owners
Meherwan & Molly Irani (husband and wife team) have created Chai Pani.  Meherwan is the executive chef while Molly takes the front of the house under her wing.  Meherwan, who is from Ahmadnagar, India learned from his mother’s kitchen how to create and infuse the flavor profiles together.  When he came to the United States in 1990 he earned an MBA and went into sales & marketing in the San Francisco area.  The love of food and cooking never left but rather was enhanced by the great West Coast restaurants. 

Meherwan says, “I'm basically a self taught home cook & earned my chef's coat on the job. I jokingly tell people that I studied at CIA – the Culinary Institute of Amrit (my mom)!
It seems that the typical Indian restaurant is in a rut – the ubiquitous lunch buffet, white table cloths & ornate plates, slightly austere service, and a predominantly North Indian menu. I wanted to bring the rest of India to the table – the colorful, vibrant & exquisite flavor profiles, the innovative regional diversity, the fun, excitement & bright flavors of street food and the refinement & comfort of home cooking.”

Molly’s parents owned a popular, award winning restaurant in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and her mom is an accomplished pastry chef and restaurateur.  From childhood Molly has been in and around food, kitchens, cooking and restaurants and she brings a deep & intuitive understanding of service, hospitality & customer care to the culture of Chai Pani.

The Food Philosophy
Buy Fresh produce daily from locals and from local farms when possible.

Use all natural and sustainable protein and dairy.
Cook in pure trans-fat free canola oil or ghee (clarified butter).
High quality imported specialty ingredients from India.
Roast and grind spice blends in house.
House made chutneys and sauces.
No artificial flavors or ingredients.

Sloppy Jai
The Experience
Walk in and find a table either inside or at one of the outdoor tables.  When you know what you want walk to the counter and place your order.  Help yourself to napkin, flatware and water.  The rest is easy, wait for your food to arrive and eat!

The atmosphere gives you a sense of the culture in a laid back Asheville sort of way.  Don’t let that fool you though, the food is delicious and if you followed the food philosophy above you know that Meherwan used his skills to build from a good foundation of ingredients. 

Contact Info
Chai Pani
(828) 254.4003
22 Battery Park Ave
Asheville, NC 28801

Chai Pani on Urbanspoon

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