Once upon a time, New York had three Michelin-starred Indian restaurants. Then all of a sudden it had none. That changed last week when the inspectors awarded a star to Semma, the Greenwich Village South Indian spot — famous for its fragrant gunpowder dosas — helmed by Roni Mazumdar and chef Vijay Kumar.
Semma, which is a colloquial Tamil word for awesome or superb, probably best describes the mood in this New York City restaurant that received its first Michelin star this week. Situated in the West Village, Semma is currently the only Michelin-starred South Indian restaurant in the city, as per Bon Appetit.
The Michelin guide announced the list for 2022 on October 6th. The year-old restaurant is run by hospitality group Unapologetic Foods Roni Mazumdar and chef Chintan Pandya. It is headed by Chef Vijay Kumar, who specializes in regional, rural South Indian cuisine.
Semma celebrates South Indian cuisine with delicacies like kudal varuval (goat intestines), meen pollichathu (fish), nandu masala (crab), nathai pirattal (snail), and of course, Dindigul biryani, dosas, and pesarattu.
These dishes are something that Kumar grew up eating in Natham, Dindigul. It also uses Ponni rice, which is grown in Tamil Nadu.
“We have a lot of rice farms [back home]. We would visit her during the holidays in her village (near Madurai) and would go hunting or foraging for snails in the fields — that was our entertainment. My grandmother used to make such an amazing gravy out of snails. That was a unique dish,” said Kumar to Mint.
Speaking about his restaurant venture abroad, Kumar told the New York Times, “We are completely focusing on true southern Indian food, exactly how we grew up eating it back home.”
They aim to truly represent Indian cuisine.
“Though there have been some good Indian restaurants here, there is nothing that is truly representative of our cuisine’s regionality and depth. We are here to tell the real story of India. A lot of these recipes are being forgotten, even in India,” said Roni to the Hindu.