It took everyone a lot of nerve to open a restaurant during the pandemic when so many other eateries struggled to survive.
Harsh (“Ron”) Sharma, the friendly and outgoing CEO of the Bombay Kitchen + Bar group, even opened two in Vancouver when the city was in the throes of COVID-19.
The first, called Bombay Masala (4473 West 10th Avenue), began serving customers in the chic and clean dining room in Point Gray Village on July 1, 2000.
His company’s second funky Bombay Kitchen + Bar was launched in early 2021 on the site of the former Vij (1480 West 11th Avenue) in the South Granville neighborhood. (The first Bombay Kitchen + Bar opened on Commercial Drive in 2018.)
When the Straight away Sharma by phone, he attributed the success of his business to good karma.
“We’ve done charity,” Sharma said. “We gave free food to people who tested positive for COVID. We fed the first responders very well.”
After opening both of his newer locations, he said they had a thriving takeout business. That set the stage for these restaurants to thrive as more customers felt comfortable dining inside.
Bombay Kitchen + Bar enjoyed spectacular success at the 25th annual Golden Plates awards, chosen in an online vote by readers of the Georgia Straight†
The South Granville location was voted Best New Restaurant. The chain’s eateries also won best on Commercial Drive and in South Granville.
Sharma praised his staff for ‘just nailing it’ night after night.
“We offer a full package,” he said.
That includes an extensive selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes. Additionally, Sharma family recipes are used in the Kuku Paka (coconut chicken), Prawn Zanzibar, spicy Lamb Kalya, and several vindaloo dishes, among other selections.
The South Granville and Commercial Drive locations will remain open until 2 a.m., Thursday through Saturday, where guests can enjoy drinks made with Indian spices.
This partly explains why Parul Duggal of Bombay Kitchen + Bar was voted best bartender in the Golden Plates. It’s a point of pride for Sharma in a city with so many experienced mixologists.
The chain also took a number of second and third places, including a tie for second in best Indian behind the perennial winner in this category, Vij’s.
The atmosphere in the dimly lit Bombay Kitchen + Bar is ultra-modern, but the food is very traditional, unlike some of the unusual offerings at Vij’s. Sharma also noted that his customers like the prices, where all entrees are priced under $20.
“The Stanley Theater is nearby,” he said. “Everyone in the area is welcome.”
Sharma has been in the restaurant industry since the mid-1990s, opening the company’s first restaurant, Bombay Masala, on Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver in 1999. It has since moved to the Park & Tilford shopping centre.
Since then, the number of Indian eateries has increased astronomically. Broadcaster Shushma Datt recently did a tally and found that there are 518 Indian eateries in Metro Vancouver. Indian food is clearly a hit with the masses – which is why the CEO of the Bombay Kitchen + Bar group is considering expanding his chain.
“We are looking for locations,” Sharma revealed. “We are working to get into New West and Abbotsford.”