“One of the non-negotiables for us was having something where people could truly build their own experience. It created a sense of democracy where everyone could participate in that food creation process. And we really value using high-quality ingredients and really interesting spices and flavor profiles.

“We’re super cognizant of the fact that this is a new cuisine for folks. We’re not trying to overwhelm people with too many options. So there becomes this really critical element around curation. The other thing we realized over time is that the word Indian is a bit of a misnomer. It’s a huge country. The idea was to stay true to culinary techniques that are used. So you see a lot of freshly ground spices and herbs. You see a lot of slow cooking, especially when it comes to protein—taking the time to let things simmer and develop a robust flavor.

“The bowl is by far our most popular option. Some 50–60 percent of our guests are getting bowls, if not more. It allows you to customize, because there is room to add stuff. Logistically, you’ve got a place to put those ingredients, so it allows people a place to explore and play, which facilitates that customization. It’s less about the bowl and more about the customization.

“Tofu obviously is not a traditional ingredient in Indian cuisine, but I think it fits in really well. It’s marinated tofu; it’s got this incredible flavor in the tofu itself, which is always a challenge with tofu: How do you make it taste like something? For us, marination is really important. But then we have this medley of roasted vegetables because we want it to be substantial. It’s a very colorful dish, but also one that has interesting texture and fills you up and tastes amazing.”

–Hasnain Zaidi

Founder, Tava Kitchen

The Players:

• Marinated tofu

• Yellow coconut curry

• Cherry tomatoes

• Sautéed mushrooms

• Edamame

• Carrots

• Brussels sprouts

• Choice of base

• Choice of garnishes

• Choice of chutneys

Fast Casual, Menu Innovations, Story, Tava Indian Kitchen