Samudhra Restaurant/Lounge To Offer Upscale Indian Cuisine

Samudhra owner Mangesh Chinthamaneni, center, and managers Anand Chintha, left, and Jyoti Pant, right, are set to open the restaurant later this month.

A township couple’s dream of bringing upscale Indian cuisine to Franklin is close to reality.

Mangesh and Sangeetha Chinthamaneni plan on opening their restaurant, Samudhra, later this month. The opening will mark the end of a process that began in May of 2018.

The menu will reflect dishes from all around India, Mangesh Chinthamaneni said, but will focus on the southern region, which is where he is from.

“I was born and raised in Hyderabad,” he said. Hyderabad is the capitol of Telangana, in southern India.

Samudhra will also feature a lounge which will offer music Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as for Saturday and Sunday brunch.

Impossible to be ignored is the lounge’s 183-inch projection screen.

Mangesh, a self-described foodie, said he decided to open the restaurant to satisfy a need he felt.

“I always wanted to see a nice Indian upscale restaurant, there is not one in New Jersey,” he said. “You always have to go to Manhattan. I wanted somebody to do it so I could go and enjoy it, but it didn’t happen, so I thought maybe I should open one.”

He picked a spot on Route 27, the Franklin Towne Center plaza in Franklin Park, mainly for its location in the township and proximity to neighboring towns, he said.

“The idea is to give that upscale experience for everybody who could enjoy the ambience, the service and the authentic flavors of Indian food,” he said. “That was the whole idea of starting the restaurant.”

The 6,000-square-foot restaurant offers about 96 dining seats and another 80 or so seats in the lounge, he said.

Samudhra will offer some signature dishes, as well as some signature cocktails in the lounge, he said.

On the menu is an Hyderabad staple, Chicken Biryani. The dish – also offered with goat – is made with marinated chicken, steamed with long-grain Basmati rice and spices.

“Our emphasis will be on the authenticity of the recipes,” he said. “My philosophy is a dish that needs to be made spicy, how can you make it milder? And a dish that needs to be made mild cannot be made spicy. So my thing is we will mark on the menu if it is a spicy dish but we want the customer to enjoy the flavor.”

Samudhra will also offer a selection of vegetarian dishes, such as Baigra Baingan, which is tiny eggplants stuffed with a filling, shallow fried, and then cooked in a sauce.

In addition to traditional cocktails, the lounge will feature a selection created by Samudhra’s bar manager, Emily Parisen. One such is a Turmeric Martini and a “different kind of Bloody Mary, with Indian spices,” Chinthamaneni said.

All of the spices used in Samudhra’s dishes will be imported from India, Chinthamaneni said. He said he will use organic ingredients when possible – such as eggs and milk – and all of the meat will be Hallal.

Chinthamaneni didn’t just have a hand in picking the menu, he also designed the interior.

Although he is trained in IT, “I always wanted to be in construction,” he said. “So I watched a lot of HGTV, to get inspired by how they renovate something from ruins to beautiful.”

Chinthamaneni found a Seattle-based company to manufacture modular wall panels to his design, and the tables and chairs are also custom-made, he said.

Samudhra means “ocean,” but the restaurant is definitely not geared to seafood. So why that name? Two reasons, Chinthamaneni said.

“I wanted something powerful, something very strong,” he said. “What else is more powerful than an ocean?”

There’s also a sentimental reason, he said.

“I have this ‘S’ sentiment,” he said. His previous business’s name, his wife, his children all have names that start with ‘S.’

Chinthamaneni said the restaurant and lounge would employ about 27 people, many of whom are from Franklin.

Samudhra’s hours are tentatively 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week. The main kitchen will close around 10 or 10:30 p.m., but there will be bar food available in the lounge until closing, he said.

“We don’t want them to be hungry or look for food when they leave here,” he said.

Samudhra is located at 3391 Route 27 in Franklin Park.

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