Everyone knows the old adage about too many cooks in a kitchen, but no one ever mentions too many investors in a restaurant. Unfortunately, discrepancies among local investors and the operational team at American Gymkhana, the fine dining Indian restaurant on Sand Lake Road, are bringing about its untimely demise.
In a statement to be released later today from RB Hospitality Group, which has been operating the restaurant, “American Gymkhana will no longer be open for business after April 2015 in its current location. The decision to withdraw our concept and restaurant group from this project was made after considerate deliberation regarding our brand standards.”
The statement acknowledges that the modern Indian restaurant and cocktail lounge has “flourished and has been well received by the Central Florida community.” Conversations with people close to the operation reveal that some of the local investors wanted to make changes to the concept that the management team found unacceptable. Rather than acquiesce, the management team made the decision to sever ties with the investment group. The American Gymkhana name was conceived by Rajesh Bhardwaj, principal of RB Hospitality Group, and he will retain ownership of it. It is possible that an Indian restaurant will continue to operate in that space beyond April, but that has not been confirmed, and it would have to take on another name. Attempts to reach the investors have not been successful as yet.
Some of the investors are the ones that originally had opened Raga, in 2012. That Indian restaurant was well liked but did not prove to be a financial success. So one of the original investors approached Bhardwaj, who owns Junoon, a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in Manhattan. Bhardwaj agreed to take over Raga and rebrand it as American Gymkhana. It opened in November to critical acclaim.
Bhardwaj had brought Aarthi Sampath from his Junoon kitchen to serve as head chef at Gymkhana. Junoon’s beverage director, Hemant Pathak, was also brought in to create a cocktail list for the Orlando restaurant.
Bhardwaj is in Dubai where he is opening another Junoon and could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for American Gymkhana said that RB Hospitality Group was pleased with the reception the restaurant got from the Central Florida dining public and is exploring the possibility of moving the restaurant to another location.
The statement concludes, “…we thank all guests, organizations, journalists, and specifically the residents of Central Florida for allowing for us serve the community and be part of a growing food culture.”