World Bank Beauty Rohini Dey’s Masterful Integration of India, Brazil and Beyond
Citadel of Fusion Achieves Peak of Savory Nourishment
Destination For Spicy Meat Mavens, Though May Need PatienceYou can be sure that unusually interesting taste sensations will arrive on your plate from the kitchen of At Vermilion, whose tall ceilings and open interior space can be seen lighting up the corner of Lexington at 46 Street.
The combination of Indian and Latin American influences is the imaginative idea of a restaurateur from an unlikely background. Rohini Dey is a tall and slender, soft faced Indian beauty who likes to dress in Oscar length gowns when she visits from Chicago to oversee this, her second restaurant. In another life, she was a McKinsey consultant who moved to the World Bank and married an economist. Then, in a sharp break from her comfortable office bound existence, she found her bliss.
Dey left the abstract paperwork and regular paycheck of high level economics far behind to take on one of the most demanding entrepreneurial roles in the US. Nowadays she is running At Vermilion, her high level restaurant in the Big Apple, as well as the original Vermilion she founded earlier in Chicago.With passion as fuel
Running a restaurant is a highly demanding feat well known for its flow chart tangles and insoluble personnel problems, magnified in New York City by incessant bureaucratic demands, zooming rents, and extreme competition, with 23,705 permits for bars, cafes and restaurants in July, a jump from 18,606 back in 2008.
But this is what Rohini without hesitation calls her “passion”, one she has pursued for ten years. She opened her first Vermilion in Chicago, and then launched its New York sister in 2008, just in time for the economic collapse.
Armed with a bunch of plaudits from major media she kept At Vermilion going through the downturn and recently decided to add impetus with a relaunch. On Wednesday the press were invited to come and taste the result.
Having a strong liking for the spicy side of food we made sure to attend, with the results as far as we are concerned quite remarkable.
It is hard to think of any among the 16,000 full service eateries in New York that we would return to with more eagerness to sample more of the menu items that we missed, a list we tried for two hours to make as short as possible.
Meat eaters paradise
As a guilty carnivore our choices were heavy on the meat eating side which is especially well served with imaginative spice and sauce combinations, an approach which benefits from the fact that with meat you can go all out with such additions without fear of overdoing it. We tasted enough to be sure that on the fish side the same excitement will be found.
One Rohini inspiration is to serve up morsels such as ribs or strip steaks or soups on cast iron platters bedded with wooden palettes, which add a welcome iron and wooden touch of earthiness to frame the dark results of barbecued or grilled meat.
We’re talking of not only the taste of the saucy spices added but the way in which they enhance the power packed protein hit of the meat. The savory flavors add a dimension of suffused heart warming nourishment which ordinary Indian tandoori baked chicken, for example, just doesn’t possess.
The dishes offer a double punch of flavor enhancement and boosted nourishment which add up to meat eaters nirvana. Of course, then there is the problem of choosing wine – solved quite easily by selecting one of the two red wines offered by the glass.
See her on Restaurant Confidential soon
As it happened there was also a “Consumed:The Real Restaurant Business” crew from CNBC shooting an upcoming episode featuring Rohini and her performance art. They recognize that this worldly Indian beauty is juggling as many roles as a writer and producer for the stage.
For Dey writes her own script and gathers a cast and crew to stage a production she designs in its entirety – the physical space and decor, the cooks and other cast, the raw materials, and in consultation with the accomplished chefs, the finished menu. The result of her stagecraft deserves to be an explosive hit, according to our taste.
Bottom line we’d say that At Vermilion should be a first choice for all adventurous foodies in search of a savory spice haven – should we say heaven? – amid comfortable and spacious modern decor. If they read Yelp, however, they should bear in mind that Rohini has rebooted the service side after a long list of indignant reviews there over the past few years, and that it should be vastly improved under the hand of her current manager, the impressive Varcian Virgo, whose Jamaican heritage may have made him amiable in humor but whose disciplined bearing suggests he has everything entirely under control (not to mention that the wild swings from good to bad at Yelp suggest that some reviews are the work of rivals)..
If the wholesale staff upgrade proves out, and service for the anonymous guests matches the quality, interest and prices of the food and wine, the reincarnation of At Vermilion deserves to be as full of enthusiasts for its taste sensations as its menu is packed with variations on the Indo-Latin theme.
UPDATE: Hands on owner Rohini Dey and her At Vermilion will be featured in the CNBC series “Consumed: The Real Restaurant Business”. The episode will be aired on Wed June 24th (see CNBC website for more info: http://www.cnbc.com/id/102615697)