Raga, the fine dining Indian restaurant on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row, is set to undergo a transformation that will include an operational agreement for the owner of a popular Manhattan Indian restaurant called Junoon to take over. The official ownership of the Orlando restaurant will not change, but quite a bit more will.
That includes the name, which will be American Gymkhana. Gymkhanas were high society sporting clubs — think polo ponies and cricket bats — in Colonial India where members of the British raj would mingle with Indian social elites. According to Rajesh Bhardwaj, founder and CEO of Junoon, these social clubs had an influence on Indian cuisine — and vice versa. (There is a very popluar restaurant in Britain called Gymkhana London, which is not related.)
The menu will be designed by Vikas Khanna, whose cuisine earned Junoon a Michelin star and whose abs landed him on the cover of Men’s Health magazine (see above). His latest cookbook is a finalist for a James Beard Award. Khanna will not be the chef in residence; Bhardwaj says he expects to make an announcement about the chef position in a couple of weeks.
Bhardwaj says that most of the interior changes will be cosmetic, with new furnishings and wall coverings. There will be no structural changes to the dining room or veranda, and the kitchen will remain largely untouched.
Raga will close in the next two or three weeks. Bhardwaj hopes to open American Gymkhana in September.
Watch this space.