It’s days like this I wish we could publish in scratch-and-sniff.
Downtown Modesto’s first Indian restaurant in some 17 years opened late last week, and already the aromas coming out of the kitchen are attracting customers and fans. The new Monsoon Restaurant & Banquet on 10th Street is now open daily for lunch and dinner.
After an extensive six-month renovation, the main dining room is ready and owner Gurinder S. Khaira and his wife, Jagdeep, are eager to serve. The veteran chef and restauranteur has been cooking for 20 years and ran restaurants in the Bay Area, Europe, India and most recently Lathrop, all of which he since has sold. Monsoon is his first Modesto venture, and his family has moved to the city to support the new endeavor.
Monsoon offers an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet weekdays. For $12 you can choose from about a dozen appetizers, sides and entrees with a drink included in the price. Popular dishes like butter chicken and curry chicken will be on the buffet daily, while the rest of the offerings will rotate based on the season. Dinner and weekend lunches feature the full menu. And all meals come with a generous basket of naan, traditional Indian flatbread.
Khaira said what sets his food apart is his mix of authentic spices and recipes coupled with some non-traditional offerings. The menu and buffet feature several vegetarian and vegan offerings, including the ubiquitous naan which is made without milk, unlike many methods. But he is also making pork and some beef dishes, which are typically not seen in Indian cuisine because of the cow’s sacred status in the Hindu religion. So you can order a New York strip steak or beef kebab alongside your chicken malai tikka (marinated chicken cooked in a tandoori oven) and aloo gobhi (potatoes and cauliflower). Dinner entrees range from $10 to $18 each, with most around $12.
“We want everything fresh. Nothing is frozen and nothing from cans,” Khaira said.
The next-door banquet hall, with its 20-foot ceilings and space for 300, is still under construction. Khaira said it should take another month to have it completed, but he already has some events booked. Meanwhile, the main dining room seats about 50. The Khairas are still finalizing some of the decor for both sides of the restaurant.
So why has it taken nearly 20 years for another Indian restaurant to come to downtown? Khaira said it’s about perception more than lack of demand. The India Oven folded in the early 2000s and other Indian restaurants which opened afterward all closed as well. In fact, the city was without a sit-down Indian eatery for years until the Biryani Express opened in north Modesto last November.
“People were scared because a lot of Indian restaurants came and left,” Khaira said. “But now that we’re open, I think you’ll see more pop up because people realize it can do well after all.”
Monsoon Restaurant & Banquet, at 950 10th St., is open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and 5 to 8:30 p.m. for dinner daily. The lunch buffet runs until 2 p.m. Monday to Friday. For more information, call 209-248-5711 or visit www.facebook.com/monsoonmodesto.
Elsewhere around the Business Beat:
Readers have been reaching out, curious about what’s happening on the corner of McHenry and Pelandale/Claratina avenues in north Modesto.
Work is under way on two new auto dealerships. On the eastern side of McHenry and Claratina, a new Mazda dealership from Central Valley Automotive is in the works. Meanwhile, on the western side of the street at McHenry and Pelandale, an Audi dealership is under construction.
Also, just up the road on McHenry Avenue, a new Valley BMW dealership is slated to open this Friday, April 6. The 30,000-square-foot building north of Bangs Avenue, right next door to Valley Lexus, will house a showroom, offices and service department. The Modesto-based Fitzpatrick Dealership Group owns both dealerships.