When UB alum Aman Singh and his brother Ajay Singh opened the doors to Naan-Tastic this past weekend, they were hoping to start a revolution in Buffalo.
A food revolution.
Naan-Tastic has all the spices and flavors of traditional Indian cuisine that the Singh brothers grew up with in their parents’ restaurant in Rochester. But they gave it a new generational twist.
“All the other Indian restaurants out there are buffet style, so you don’t have any choice,” Ajay Singh said. “So we decided to serve it counter style.”
The Singh brothers present Indian cuisine in an accessible way for the mainstream desire for fast-but-healthy dining. They decided to put all the ingredients on display at the counter, where patrons can pick what they want in their bowl, roll or “Indian taco.” Customers can also choose a base, protein and a variety of toppings and sauces.
Aman Singh said it is “pretty similar to Chipotle.”
The new location on Niagara Falls Boulevard is the Singh’s second restaurant, with the first one being in Rochester. Ajay Singh said they would like to see more locations open in the future with the goal being a chain.
Animesh Soni, a junior computer science major and international student, attended Naan-Tastic’s grand-opening last weekend.
“Although they Americanized the way they serve the food, the taste is still authentic,” Soni said. “They also have fresh herbs and spices and a lot of different items to choose from.”
The Singh family immigrated to the United States in 1997 when the brothers were in grammar school. They first lived in Staten Island before relocating to Rochester, where the parents opened their restaurant, Taste of Thali.
“When we first were living in Staten Island, we were the only two Indian [kids] there,” Ajay Singh said. “That’s why we picked up English pretty quickly.”
Aman and Ajay said they were the only kids at school eating Indian food.
Cooking their parents’ recipes taught the brothers how to make the food they sell today.
“We ended up working a lot of hours at the restaurant,” Ajay Singh said. “If a chef called in sick, we had to step in and know how to cook.”
The brothers said they would make Indian dishes for their friends in college. Aman Singh, after graduating with a business degree from UB, went on to work for Dell and Apple, while Ajay Singh pursued a career in occupational therapy. They have since left their respective careers to start their dream business together.
They hope their new restaurant will make Indian food “less intimidating” to those unfamiliar with it.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about Indian food,” Aman Singh said. “Everybody thinks it’s spicy, like it’s all curry spice, but it’s not.”
There are plenty of spices involved and the sauces range from sweet to mild to medium, he said.
Ajay Singh said being a vegetarian was another motivation to open Naan-Tastic.
“I was always struggling to find something vegetarian that was fast,” Ajay said.
The restaurant has options for specific diet, including vegetarian, vegan and ketogenic.
They want the restaurant to appeal to customers from any background, but Aman Singh said the food is quite popular with those from India.
“I think they also feel proud in a way that we are bringing Indian food and culture and representing India in a fast and casual way,” Aman Singh said.
The Singh brothers said they think Indian students at UB will feel at home in their restaurant. They said the presentation is their own, but the spices and flavors come from their parents’ authentic recipes.
“We get it all the time from [Indian students] at RIT in Rochester and now at UB, that the food tastes just like home,” Aman Singh said. “It’s just the environment is a little different.”
Isabella Nurt is a junior film production major. She is keen to get off campus and cover underground topics in the greater Buffalo area.