Two Women, Two Cuisines, Two Cities – One Vision

| September 19, 2012

Vermilion, the most vibrant of reds, connotes the essence and spirit of the Indian and Latin people and also literally translates into sindoor, a core symbol of Indian femininity and a celebration of the beauty of women. These elements are embodied in every aspect of Vermilion Restaurant. Located at 480 Lexington Avenue in a sprawling two-story space, Vermilion is putting the shine on the cutting edge. Offering a masterfully created menu that fuses two of the world’s most exciting cuisines, Indian and Latin, Vermilion will have your head spinning and your palate begging for more.

The powerhouse team of Owner/Founder Rohini Dey and Executive Chef Maneet Chauhan deliver an untamed and vibrant cuisine in a sophisticated, sensual setting. This, their second restaurant together, is a screamingly fresh, innovative and welcome addition to the New York City dining scene. With a Master’s degree in economics and a Doctorate in Management Science, Dey is a force to be reckoned with and a woman with vision. She has combined her business savvy with her passion for food and has been   responsible   for   each   phase   of   Vermilion’s   establishment  and  growth. Dey oversees all aspects of operations and stays deeply involved, to the point that she makes weekly visits to New York from her Chicago home and the site of the original Vermilion Restaurant.

Upon entering this gorgeous space, drama is front and center. Rohini was at the helm of the design team, collaborating with leading AIA award winning Chicago architects Searl, Lamaster and Howe. The space is the embodiment of a contemporary, minimalist vision, replete with masculine materials and hues, offset by a singular, feminine element–oversized black and white photographs by India‚Äôs leading fashion photographer, Farrokh Chothia. With features that include a double-height water curtain, a 22-foot metal mesh chandelier and a sleek lit white canopy on the fa√ßade, drama interplays in this bi-level space through the emphasis of the expansive height, the oversized fixtures and the juxtaposition of the serene floating ponds which grace both levels.

The antithesis of the stereotypical Indian restaurant, the menu at Vermilion is an adventure in the melding of contemporary Indian and Latin cuisines, in a refined and imaginative way. Featuring a wine list that focuses on South American and Spanish boutique selections, over half of the wines are offered by the glass encouraging diners to experiment and abandon conventional pairing wisdom. The addition of a cocktail menu that would bring envy from the most masterful mixologist proved to be too tempting and we just had to imbibe. Steering far away from the ‚ÄúMangotini‚ÄĚ genre, these works of art developed by the women of Vermilion are a brilliant blend of herbs and spices that surprise and delight. The Fresh Lime, Pear and Green Chile cocktail and Pani Puri Chaat Margarita got us started on our zesty adventure. These were so delightful that we had to return to the menu and sample a couple more. The second round included the Cucumber Mint Martini and Watermelon Cilantro Twist.

With our palates being properly tantalized, it was time to start exploring the menu. We chose a tasting platter for the appetizer portion of the meal. The Blue Corn Crusted Scallops (kali mirch calabasa goat cheese puree), Juhu Ki Pani Puri (flour shells, spiced potato and chili mint water), Artichoke Pakoras (Spain’s thistle in Indian fritters with an eggplant coconut chili sauce) and Duck Vindaloo Arepa (brushed with pomegranate molasses and curry leaf mango) all set the stage for what was going to be a dining experience that will be remembered for quite some time.

It was at this time that we started perusing the wine list. With a couple of thoughtful suggestions that were delivered in the form of a Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc, we moved on to the entrée selections which started out with the Chili-Glazed Blackened Tamarind Ribs (Indian-Latin tamarendo/imli glaze, amchur tortilla crisps and corn ginger salsa) and the Tandoori Skirt Steak (seared churrasco in a classic Indian marinade, served on a bed of chorizo and Swiss chard with plantain chips). While the ribs were memorable, they were no match for the skirt steak which had us reeling. With baited breath we moved on to the Caldeirada De Peixe (Brazilian seasonal seafood stew with an Indian kick and tomato rice). A sumptuous and extraordinary comfort food, this one took us to a very warm place and prepared us for the decadence of the Gobi Portuguese (cauliflower stewed in a Goan gravy with red chile and curry leaves served with coconut rice) and the Crispy Corn Flakes Coated Mexican Fish (mustard seasoned halibut, salsa quebrada with roasted corn gravy and sabudana tikki). It seemed only appropriate to sample at least one of the more traditional Indian dishes and with that in mind we dove into the Daal Makhani (slow cooked creamy black lentils). This is Chef Chauhan’s grandmother’s recipe and in no uncertain terms, we agreed that we could spend an entire day (assuming we had enough naan for dipping) consuming this absolutely delicious, yet simple dish!

To settle down and prepare for the sweet side of life, we once again readied our glasses and enjoyed the Blueberry Cardamom Fizz (prosecco topped with blueberry-cardamom sorbet). The mood was now set for the gorgeous work of art that was presented in the form of a dessert tasting platter. The Vermilion Hedonism (dark chocolate molten cake served with chili ‚Äď masala dipped orange segments and blueberry sorbet), Mango Olive Shrikhand Port Tapioca (mango fruit sheets stuffed with port poached olives and fennel mango chutney) and Shahi Tukra (a regional Indian passion with rich nut cake and an even richer rabri sauce, with saffron and cardamom) were all simply to die for and it was time‚Ķ the white flag was raised.

With accolades that include ‚ÄúBest New Restaurants‚ÄĚ honors from Bon Appetit, Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, Wine Enthusiast and USA Today, it is strikingly clear that this dynamic duo have a success on their hands.¬† At Vermilion, the formidable presence of Rohini Dey has created a space where Chef Chauhan has an appropriately grand stage to expertly display her cooking skills and masterful presentations. The delicate interplay between sauces and primary ingredients takes a true expert‚Äôs hand to deliver. It is no wonder that Chef Chauhan was the first Indian woman to compete on the ever popular television show, Iron Chef.