Chirag Patel and Kalyan Tota are eager to share their traditional Indian dishes with the community at their new restaurant, Cilantro Indian Cuisine. The two business partners offer a varied menu of tandoori, biryani, naan and other spicy concoctions in downtown Winter Garden in the former Orange Crate Café location.
The owners hope the inclusion of spices won’t deter diners from trying their restaurant.
“The mentality is that Indian food is spicy,” Patel said. “But any one of these we can make mild. What makes us different is we do mild. Eighty-five percent of our clientele is an American crowd, so it has to be mild. Medium has to be medium.”
The mildest meal on the menu, he said, is the butter chicken.
The Cilantro menu is full of vegetarian entrees, such as Baingan Bharta, Channa Masala and Paneer Makhani; a variety of chicken sizzlers served in an iron skillet with mixed vegetables and cilantro rice; tandoori plates; biryani rice dishes with multiple meat choices; and a variety of chicken, goat, lamb and shrimp meals.
Patel recommends the Chicken Curry, Paneer Makhana, Paneer Tikka Masala, Kadai Paneer and Aloo Gobi. His favorite meal is the curry dish Vindaloo.
FROM SUBS TO CILANTRO
Patel, who was born in India and moved to the Orlando area 25 years ago, has had several business ventures. He opened a Quiznos submarine sandwich franchise and, later, an American restaurant called Zenzi in downtown Orlando.
Following the 2009 recession, Patel desired to do something different and, in 2015, started an Orlando night club, Haven, which offered deejay music and theme nights. He sold it four years later because he was away from home too much and wanted to spend more time with his wife, Pooja Zagda, and their two children, who now are 8 and 13.
A few years ago, Patel was introduced to Spice Culture, an Indian grocery store on South Dillard Street in Winter Garden. The storefront had kitchen space, so Patel and Zagda, along with family members Neerav and Twisha Saghani, started Spice Kitchen, a takeout restaurant, in the middle of the pandemic.
When the grocery store went on the market last year, Patel and Kalyan took over and made plans to move to a different location. For now, the store and restaurant will remain where they are while Patel and Kalyan concentrate on the new business.
The name of the new restaurant comes from the herb that serves as a basic ingredient in many Indian dishes. Patel said he never expected to open Cilantro so close to Spice Culture, but when the space opened in downtown Winter Garden, he knew this is where he was meant to be. He is thrilled at the idea of introducing Indian cuisine into the Plant Street corridor.
Patel hopes patrons will enjoy the ambience and allow time for their food to arrive at their table.
“The difference between other restaurants and us is — I always tell people who come in and order, ‘Our time frame is different because most of the stuff is made scratch,’” he said. “We make it fresh from the order. I know it takes time here, but people appreciate how fresh it is.”