Indian restaurant spices up downtown
The menu at the new Indian restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids calls for 125 spices.
Punjab Grill features Indian and Pakistani cuisine, as well as vegan and vegetarian dishes, a buffet and carry out, at 40 Pearl St. NW.
The family owned restaurant opened last month and is run by the Singh family, a name that has long been acquainted with Indian food in Grand Rapids.
Patriarch Gursharn Singh, who was a chef at local Indian haunts like the Palace of India and Bombay Cuisine, is Punjab’s executive chef, while his son, Simran Singh, is the general manager.
Simran Singh, who double majored in finance and paralegal studies at Davenport University, said he’s grateful for his father’s passion and talent in the art of creating authentic Indian food.
The younger Singh has managed other Indian restaurants and plans to use his experience to eventually turn Punjab into a franchise, opening other locations “in areas where not a lot of people are accustomed to specialty foods, but they could survive if they were there.”
“We focus more on Mughlai and pure Punjabi food, which is north Indian food,” Singh said. “What makes this style different is there’s going to be a lot more flavors invested in the cuisine. Most Indian restaurants will use two, three base sauces and about 20, 25 different spices. We use eight different base sauces and a total of 125 different spices here.”
Singh put about six figures into renovating the space to make it a “classy” and Indian-styled restaurant.
He kept the space’s old bar and plans to turn it into an top-shelf watering hole when Punjab gets its liquor license, which is expected to come in about six months.
“Our emphasis will be on fine spirits, so everything mid to top shelf, a higher emphasis on wines, scotches, bourbons, cognac,” Singh said. “We’re not going to be the kind of bar you expect to get margaritas at. Anything that involves ice and a blender, not here.”
Hungry for diversity
Being the only Indian dining option in downtown Grand Rapids has served Punjab well so far, Singh said.
The restaurant has had a steady stream of locals hungry for culinary diversity downtown.
Singh said he didn’t run a marketing campaign to introduce the restaurant to the community, but the let word-of-mouth do the job. The only advertising they did was passing out menus during the opening.
Opening during ArtPrize helped, too.
“I wanted to see what the reaction would be,” Singh said. “There was scaffolding outside the building, so people were already curious, and it was during ArtPrize, so the buzz was already going to be there.”