Fungi Hospitality Group (FHG) was founded by Salil Mehta, the executive chef of Laut in Union Square which was the first Malaysian restaurant in New York to receive a coveted Michelin-star. FHG has since expanded to unveil popular bars and restaurants that include the Singaporean craft cocktail bar, Singapura; the intimate Jelas which focuses on clarified cocktails; and Singapura Gramercy featuring street food fare inspired by the island-nation’s legendary hawker centres and food courts.
Fungi has subsequently introduced award-winning Indian cuisine with the opening of Kebab aur Sharab in 2022, delivering vibrant seasonal dishes that showcase the country’s dynamic food culture. In 2023, Mehta and the Fungi team introduced The Elephant Room at Singapura Gramercy, a collaboration with one of Southeast Asia’s best bars, The Elephant Room Singapore.
FHG continues to innovate in the restaurant scene in New York with their latest opening, Kanyakumari, a labor of love for Mehta to showcase the cuisine of Southern India and of the Tamil community.
Salil Mehta opens Kanyakumari
After opening Kebab aur Sharab on the Upper West Side, a restaurant specializing in the food of Northern India, Salil Mehta, the founder of Fungi Hospitality, and the group’s executive chef and culinary director, Dipesh Shinde, are now going to the southern tip of the subcontinent with the food of Tamil Nadu. Expect kochi vegetable stew, several fish curries, lacy nir dosa crepes, crab masala fry, Hira Anna fried chicken with green mango chutney, and baby goat biryani.
Photo: Hugo Yu
THE UNDERGROUND GOURMET
In a Sea of ‘Coastal Italian,’ Kanyakumari Specializes in Coastal Indian
The new restaurant opens near Union Square this week.
At the southernmost tip of India, where the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and Bay of Bengal meet, is a town called Kanyakumari, which, as of this week, also shares its name with New York’s first restaurant specializing in dishes from the Indian coast. Kanyakumari, the restaurant, is on 17th Street in a space that until a few weeks ago was home to Kebaya, a Peranakan restaurant from owner Salil Mehta. Mehta, a native of landlocked New Delhi, is the owner of Kanyakumari, too, and he’s put the menu in the hands of chef Dipesh Shinde. Together, the two are using the new restaurant to explore the food of their home country’s coast. “Southern India is a spice-forward region with asafoetida, curry leaves, mustard seeds, dried chile — all of these amazing ingredients come together,” Mehta says. “It makes you salivate, it makes you want to eat more.”
Photo: Courtesy of Kanyakumari
DISHES FROM INDIA'S SOUTHERNMOST COASTLINE
From veteran restaurateur Salil Mehta and Kebab Aur Sharab’s Dipesh Shinde
Dishes from India’s southernmost coastline get the spotlight at this spot from veteran restaurateur Salil Mehta (Laut, Singapura, and Wau) and Kebab Aur Sharab’s Dipesh Shinde. That means delicately fried curd rice croquettes and mussels, and airy hoppers, best eaten with generous helpings of Sri Lankan curried crab sukka.
Photo: Courtesy of Kanyakumari
SALIL MEHTA, THE PROLIFIC RESTAURATEUR, NOW HAS KANYAKUMARI
Kanyakumari, named after the city, focuses on Southern Indian cooking.
Salil Mehta, the prolific restaurateur, behind spots like Kebab aur Sherab and Laut Singapora, now has Kanyakumari. It replaces his Peranakan spot, Kebaya, which only opened in the storefront last February. Kanyakumari, named after the city, focuses on Southern Indian cooking. (Mehta is originally from New Delhi.) The menu has curd rice balls, crab sukka with coconut rice, and fish curry with pickled beetroot. 20 E. 17th Street, near Union Square West.
Chef Dipesh Shinde
On a gloomy Sunday morning, with the scent of petrichor in the air, the first rain of the season hits Mandad, a coastal village in Maharashtra. A group of friends rush to catch the first gift from the ocean. This bounty is taken straight to the kitchen, seasoned with local spices, and transformed into a memorable meal. Food is indeed linked to memories, and when prepared for others, it's a transfer of these memories. The recollections of the individual preparing the food become the catalyst for creating new memories for those savoring it.
This idea of food and memory is central to Chef Dipesh Shinde's new venture, Kanyakumari. For Shinde, serving food is more than just presenting a dish. It's a tangible representation of his cherished memories, from his childhood in a small coastal village in Maharashtra to countless Sundays spent fishing with friends. His dishes, rich in flavors of the monsoon seasons on the coast and fresh fish from the high tides, are his way of transporting you to the vibrant coastal towns of India. Shinde began his culinary journey at the age of 17. The kitchen became his learning ground, a place for experimentation and innovation. As he recalls, "Yes, it may sound cliché, but it's my grandmother who taught me that food isn't linear and can encapsulate a range of emotions." She was pivotal in developing his palate, while his father educated him on the technical aspects of cooking. Shinde sees cooking as an art form balanced with precision. After working with world-class chefs and leading kitchens at renowned restaurants such as Punjab Delhi, Farzi Cafe, Kebab aur Sharab, he was inspired to create something truly personal - a meal that resonates long after the last bite.
Kanyakumari epitomizes Shinde's journey, from his childhood love for seafood to the knowledge gained from his travels through villages, exploring the intricate overlap of culture and food. Different states may share a similar coastline, but their cultures and flavors are distinctly shaped by various factors. For instance, the Malabar region's culinary traditions are influenced by the Dutch, Arabs, and Portuguese, characterized by seafood, coconut, and abundant spices. Further north in the Konkan coast, the flavors are subtler, and the colors more vibrant. Shinde vividly describes a typical meal - a perfectly fried fish in a rich brown crust, garnished with vibrant green coriander, served with fluffy white rice, and finished with soothing pink solkadhi. His love for travel extends beyond mere wanderlust, with his journeys providing stories of food and the memories they evoke. Back in India, he visited local markets, sampling spices with stories on the side. At Kanyakumari, he wants you to experience his memories - the spices are imported from Kerala and ground in a traditional mortar and pestle.
20 East 17th Street, New York, NY 10003
(Between Union Square West & 5th Avenue)
Closed on Mondays
5:00 PM - 10:30 PM
5:00 PM - 11:00 PM
5:00 PM - 11:00 PM
5:00 PM - 9:30 PM
+1 212 641 0401