Wok In The Clouds creates an Indochinese kitchen set to light up the palette
Indian-inspired Asian fusion restaurant Wok in the Clouds puts Indochinese cuisine at the forefront. The restaurant, conceptualized by Fine Indian Dining Group, is located in Kips Bay in Manhattan and offers dishes to share, with appetizers such as Tibetan MOMO, steamed chicken balls, onion and ginger as well as the Gobi Manchurian Dry with vegetables with cauliflower paste and a spicy mix of herbs. Main courses include Bangkok Basil Ginger Prawns, with Thai spices, basil and onion, and Sichuan Lamb, thin slices of lamb slathered in a spicy Sichuan sauce.
“There is a Thai influence, an Asian influence, but [it’s] mostly focused on Hakka noodles, focused on fried rice, different types,” says menu owner Ankush Punhani. “We have a variety of different Hakka noodles: we have A-sha Hakka noodles. We have your nature then the different proteins, same with fried rice and chili chickens. So there is a lot of variety, a lot of different spices.
Here, Punhani shares with Forbes the inspiration behind Wok in the Clouds, making Indochinese cuisine more accessible to people and more.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Lisa Kocay: Can you tell us about the inspiration for opening Wok in the Clouds?
Ankush Punhani: “This was our seventh business and on Lexington Avenue we currently had three restaurants that we manage. And one of the cuisines that we missed in our portfolio was Indochinese fusion cuisine. Although we had glimpses of it in some of our menus, some dishes, we didn’t have any restaurant focused on that cuisine, and we felt that was important because, as a business focused on Indian cuisine and fine Indian cuisine, Chinese cuisine is a big part of Indian cuisine. Especially if you go to a lot of Indian restaurants these days they will have an Indochinese section so that was part of the reason we wanted to have something in that area. And when the opportunity arose, when a location opened up, we thought it would be perfect. We already have three on this block. It gave us the opportunity to diversify the portfolio, to give more options to our clientele.
Kocay: Do you think there are a lot of Indochinese restaurants in New York or do you think there aren’t?
Puhani: “I have the impression that the market is very ripe for Indochinese cuisine. Like I said earlier, a lot of people have Asian Indo-Chinese fusion as a section of the menu, but not something that’s completely Indo-Chinese-friendly. I think some of the things we try to do here is that while we have authentic dishes, we also try to give it that fusion touch. For example, we have Vietnamese, which we’ve given an Indian twist with Indian spices, Indian herbs and a kind of Indian inspiration throughout the menu. Personally, I think there is a lack of Indo-Chinese Asian fusion restaurants in New York or even New Jersey.
Kocay: Do you think that by having this type of restaurant, you make it more accessible to people?
Puhani: “Definitely. I think there is a demand for it. Indian food and Chinese food are two of the most popular dishes when it comes to takeout food. They are very popular when it comes to food to eat I think having the menu organized the way it is, having this nice balance of dishes and having this Indian inspiration…the menu is easy, it’s simple, people can relate to it and they can enjoy different flavors and spices.
Kocay: Can you tell us about the inspiration for the decor of the restaurant?
Puhani: “So the set was basically an original idea of my family. So it’s my wife, my father, my mother and myself. We wanted to do something that had an Asian flair but obviously the name is Wok in the Clouds so we wanted to have that cloud effect. We did this with our ceiling, so we got it printed and turned it on. You basically enjoy Chinese food in our Asian fusion kitchen in the clouds. We didn’t want to be too flashy. We wanted to keep it simple, highlight the culture and give it a touch of modernity.
Kocay: Is there anything exciting about Wok in the Clouds?
Puhani: “We plan to add chef’s specialties in the coming months. Our chefs have done a lot of research on the dishes, which are very popular with us in India, Kolkata, many areas where the Indo-Chinese Asian fusion movement is very strong. We are looking to bring new dishes to introduce every month, new drinks to correlate with these dishes and also celebrate different Indian and Asian festivals with different dishes. So we have a lot of plans in place and we will start implementing them. For example, Holi, the festival, we involved colors. We had brought out Holi drinks which were good palettes mixed with food and cooking. We want to try to offer our customers something new every time they go, so they have the opportunity to try something new. And then based on that, the response we get on different dishes, we want to be able to update our menus based on customer demand and feedback.
Wok in the clouds
127 E 28th St, New York, NY 10016