Punjabi restaurant opens in downtown Norwich
Norwich — If there are two things in which Swaranjit Singh Khalsa is deeply invested, it's the Sikh community and Norwich. He's a recipient of the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award, owner of the Norwichtown Shell station and member of Sikh Sevak Society International — just to name a few epithets.
"We are getting so much love in Norwich, being in a minority and looking different from other people," he said.
So his longtime desire to open a Punjabi restaurant — Punjab is a state in northern India, and the Sikh heartland — seemed natural.
He started talking to Gurpreet Singh, who he knew from their Gurudwara, a Sikh temple, in Southington. Gurpreet's family has owned Wing Express in Storrs for the past 30 years and Maharaja Indian Restaurant in Mansfield Center for the past five.
After two or three years of looking for a space in Norwich, they finally found 198 Main St., where Gurpreet, who lives in Willington, opened The Royal Punjab on Monday.
Swaranjit noticed that when dining establishments market themselves as Indian restaurants, they typically mean northern Indian, so he liked the idea of having a specific location in the restaurant's name.
Between the orange walls of the 26-seat space hang Punjabi paintings, with upbeat Punjabi music playing.
Swaranjit came from Punjab to the United States in 2007 to get his master's degree in New Jersey, while Gurpreet followed family here in 2008.
The menu features vegetable, chicken and lamb dishes like curry, vindaloo, saag, korma and tikka masala. There are varieties of chaat, an Indian street food, and Indo-Chinese fusion options.
What the restaurant name does not reveal is the second specialty in its tagline, along with "Authentic North Indian Cuisine:" buffalo wings. The menu features wing flavors of lemon pepper, honey BBQ, spicy BBQ, teriyaki, Cajun teriyaki and Indian curry.
Gurpreet said that when Wings Express opened in Storrs, it mostly sold wings, but now it's about 70 percent Indian food and 30 percent wings.
Gurpreet is big on combining different kinds of cuisines, and he's also all about catering to different age groups — The Royal Punjabi also serves fries, chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks — and different members of the community.
Mid-day, patrons shuffle past the $8.50 all-you-can-eat buffet, spooning onto their plates chicken saag, chilli chicken, dal makhana, channa masala and naan bread. For dessert is gulab jamun, dough fried in a sugar syrup.
After every seven buffets, a customer gets the eighth free.
On Wednesday afternoon, Roman Pope came to the buffet with his daughters, ages 10 and 7. He was delighted to see The Royal Punjabi opening, considering he previously lived in Storrs and had been going to Wings Express for years.
The family recently moved to Norwich, making this a more convenient option.
Pope said of the food, "This is, like, by far the best," and his daughters nodded enthusiastically in agreement.
The Royal Punjabi restaurant
Where: 198 Main St., Norwich
Owner: Gurpreet Singh
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Closed Sunday.
More information: 860-934-5469