Booths are framed in sheer fabric at Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. The restaurant is the expansion of NewBo City Market stand, Melting Bite. It offers a new and expanded menu of Indian fusion and street food. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Lanterns hang above the tables at Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Photos and chimes hang on the walls at Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids’ newest Indian restaurant brings not only a new taste of the owner’s home, but a vision of it in a way many international cuisine restaurants haven’t attempted.
Diners entering Delhicacy’s space at 921 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE in Cedar Rapids will find an immersive experience unlike most Indian restaurants from the moment they sit down.
“People here are living the personality (of a restaurant) rather than coming to a restaurant,” said Sheh Chopra, owner. “Normally when you read about decorating restaurants, people say don’t experiment with seating. I’m the kind of person who wanted to try something new.”
Though Chopra had a relatively large space to work with, it has taken her months to construct different seating styles that make the space feel more intimate. With booth tables, sheer fabric in rustic colors envelopes diners.
Where: 921 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Suite 150, Cedar Rapids
Hours: 5 to 9:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday; closed Monday
Phone: (319) 320-7345
Details: Open for dinner, offering dine-in or carryout; Delivery may be offered in the future
But if you want to take it a step further, crawl into the village style seating, where you will sit cross-legged with a low table surrounded by Indian-inspired tapestries, lanterns, tablecloths and pillows behind your back.
Signs on each booth show the names of various Indian cities, reflecting a menu diversified with food from each major city like New Delhi, Jaipur, Chennai and Mumbai.
Like the seating experience, the food curated by Chopra is less typical for an Indian restaurant in America. With street food and traditional food combined, the owner and chef brings Indian Street Fusion with a new level of authenticity overlooked by other restaurants.
“If you want to go to the more authentic side of India, it’s not the traditional side,” she said. “The first big thing in India is street food. When people eat out, they eat street food.”
Fusion food, she said, incorporates the multicultural elements present in Indian cities. Canadian-inspired poutine with curry sauce, Chicken Tikka Masala curry, tacos and wraps have been instant hits since she first started serving her food at Melting Bite in NewBo City Market. Melting Bite closed in April to make way for her food’s reincarnation through Delhicacy’s, which opened on Aug. 9.
For a traditional experience, try the Thali Platter, an 11 in one dish that includes multiple curries, chaat, naan, rice, papadum, salad, raita, dessert and a rose sharbat drink. The platter can be shared or eaten by one, depending on how hungry you are.
“It’s a good way to discover the homestyle food Indians eat every day,” she said.
Delhicacy also offers a more traditional side with dishes like chicken curry and chicken seekh kebab.
Chopra, 33, brings knowledge a world away from Khari Baoli, the street in New Delhi where she used to shop from Asia’s largest wholesale spice market. Here, she grinds her own spices.
But balancing the savory side, desserts are not an afterthought at Delhicacy — after all, this whole venture started with making desserts. Melting Bite started as a pop-up stand at NewBo City Market for what was then a cake business, where Chopra made Indian-style cakes with flavors like fresh mango, pineapple and Kahlua chocolate frosting ganache.
At Delhicacy, she recommends the Rabri Kheer, a milk fudge dessert of rice pudding made from her mother’s recipe. Made with milk, jaggery (a type of sugar used primarily in India) and rice, Chopra has not deviated from her mother’s original recipe. After your first taste, she warns you’ll be hooked on the flavor.
Signature cocktails also reflect a taste of India, rather than taking typical cocktails and giving them a themed named. The Bnarsi Paan Craft is made with betel leaf and gulkand (a rose paste), often used as a palate cleanser in India. Another drink, Love Marriage, offers a sweet and creamy concoction of mango puree, pineapple juice, heavy cream and spiced rum, garnished with rose syrup.
Finding a passion
Though Chopra has been experimenting in the kitchen since she was 8 and is used to cooking at home for groups of 30 to 35 people, it took years for the software engineer with an MBA to realize that her creative outlet was a passion she needed to pursue full time.
As catering orders picked up, her NewBo space became a constraint on her business growth. With her husband’s encouragement, she moved into the prime location in northeast Cedar Rapids, a space formerly occupied by Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, to pursue what she now realizes is her calling.
“I would say I took too long to come into realizing that this is what I wanted to do,” the owner said. She first started Melting Bite three years ago.
The grueling pace of running a new food business in NewBo — a one-woman show with Chopra working all positions — helped prepare her for a full-service space, she said.
Soon, she plans to add globally-inspired cuisine specials on Sunday, like Chinese noodles made in an Indian style. Currently serving dinner only, Delhicacy plans to start offering lunch Oct. 1.
Comments: (319) 398-8340; [email protected]
A bicycle carrying milk jugs decorates a booth at Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Signs meant to emulate a street market display the names of major cities in India at Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Poutine chaat fuses the popular Quebecoise snack with Indian flavors like butter masala gravy, mint chutney, ketchup and sour cream at Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A booth is decorated with fabric and traditional paint patterns at Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Sneh Chopra, owner of Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. Chopra previously owned the Melting Bite at NewBo City Market. She closed that stand to open Delhicacy, which offers a new and expanded menu of Indian fusion and street food. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A booth is hung with fabric and lanterns at Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Rabri Kheer, or rice pudding topped with rose petals, almonds and pistachios, borrows flavors from a popular northern Indian dessert using the owner’s mother’s rice pudding recipe as a base at Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A vase depicting a Hindu god is seen at Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A photo of the Delhi Memorial, which remembers the fallen World War I soldiers of the British Indian Army, is seen at Delhicacy in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Street signs point the way to Delhicacy, 921 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)