Restaurants / Openings

The Secrets of Houston’s Most Ambitious New Restaurant — and the 100 Day Journey That Shaped It

Inside New Galleria Hotspot Musaafer

BY // 05.05.18

Adventuresome foodies are in for a new way of experiencing Indian cuisine thanks to an ambitious new Galleria restaurant. Musaafer looks to change the way Houstonians think of Indian food.

PaperCity first broke the news of this new restaurant back on March 1 when it was set to be called Spice Route. Now, more details have come out.

At the heart of the menu expect recipes, spices and techniques collected from a 100 day journey that the restaurant’s chefs made across India’s 29 states and adapted for modern palates.

Musaafer owners Shammi and Mithu Malik, who run the Dubai-based Spice Route Company, have taken up residence in Houston to oversee every aspect of their first United States endeavor from the menu to the restaurant design, which is expected to be a show stopper. Think sophisticated Indian decor with a contemporary slant.

The 10,600-square-foot restaurant will be located on the second floor of the new Galleria VI Wing and will boast an outdoor terrace, bar, lounge and private elevator.

Diversity and innovation are the central philosophy of Musaafer, a term for “traveler” in ancient Hindi and Persian. That approach means stripping away common conceptions of what Indian cuisine has to offer, while maintaining traditional comforts.

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Musaafer’s diverse menu will include seasonal offerings in an expansive list of la carte options, carefully curated tasting menus and an extensive tapas program. And it will be a departure from traditional Indian restaurant fare.

“The first thing you usually see is Chicken Tikka Masala,” Mithu tells PaperCity. “That’s not what we’re going to be.” Shammi calls those Indian restaurant conventional dishes “literally the tip of the iceberg. Indian cuisine — it’s a treasure trove.”

With cuisines across India offering an unbelievable range of flavors and taste profiles, each different from one end of the country to the other, there is much more to offer than the traditional Indian menu, Shammi notes.

“The idea was that we really wanted to stick to the authenticity of the flavors,” he says. “What could be better than actually going on a journey, so we could go to every state?”

An 100 Day Journey

The two chefs hired to run the kitchen, Mayank Istwal and Shivek Suri, made that 100 day journey during which they discovered little-known recipes from tucked away villages and observed how locals caught their crabs and fish, even how they climbed to get their coconuts. All in an effort , Shammi says, to get “the true recipe of each region.”

Diners can expect centuries old traditions, influences of colonial and cultural flavors and dishes that transport to a sense of place and the use of  new techniques as a way to present dishes that are original to Musaafer.

As a result of their quests, the chefs collected more than 300 recipes, which will be blended  with contemporary techniques — and even local ingredients for some dishes — to create something new. “We’re trying to keep the taste as authentic as possible while incorporating new techniques,” Shammi says.

“We want you to come two, three, four times a month and never have the same eating experience, because there are so many eating options.”

That goes for the cocktail program too, which promises India-inspired drinks of the “farm to glass” variety. That doesn’t mean a few Indian spices tossed into the liquor of your choice. It means liquors infused over a series of three to four months with specially-selected spices.

“It’ll be whiskey infused with certain, specific Indian spices and flavors. So that all you’re having is whiskey on the rocks, but there’s nowhere else you can get it,” Mithu says. That will be true of the entire menu, she promises, which also features nuanced flavors from Italy, Latin America, France and other parts of Asia.

As for the restaurant design, Chromed Design Studio of India is creating a look that embraces both traditional and contemporary India. Don’t expect the cliche or folkloric version of India here rather a fashionable interpretation of India design and architecture. The Maliks hope to present curated spaces that take diners on a journey with interiors that are as much a delight to the senses as the food.

This remodeled section of The Galleria is fast becoming a foodie’s paradise with Mediterranean restaurant favorite Fig & Olive already open and Nobu and Blanco Tacos & Tequila also opening soon.

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