Can you feel nostalgia for a food you may never have tasted? The chef Maneet Chauhan hopes so. Childhood memories are the guiding force behind Chaatable, the restaurant Chauhan and her husband and business partner, Vivek Deora, are opening later this month in Nashville’s Sylvan Heights neighborhood. The menu showcases Indian street foods and snacks (or “chaats,” as they are known India) that the couple grew up eating. “The first thing people are hit with in visiting India is the sensory overload,” Chauhan says. “We’re trying to recreate that in the middle of a dining room in Nashville.”
Chaatable will be the couple’s fourth Nashville restaurant, joining Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Tansuo, and The Mockingbird. At Masala House, Chauhan blends Southern and Indian cuisines playfully—hot-chicken pakoras, for example. At Chaatable, she’s aiming to introduce diners to more traditional Indian foods. “We’ll have regional dishes you haven’t seen,” she says. “There is a Parsi dish like short rib salli boti curry (a dish with ginger and matchstick potatoes) and macher jhol, a dish we’re presenting in an elevated form—whole fish deep fried with mustard sauce.”
Nashville isn’t the only Southern city with a growing appreciation for Indian food thanks to a surviving number of prominent chefs from around the region. In January, the Southern Foodways Alliance hosted its first “Brown in the South” dinner series in Atlanta to help spread the word, and the flavors. The collaborative meals brought together chefs of Indian descent who make the South their homes, like Asha Gomez of The Third Space in Atlanta, Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani in Asheville, and Vishwesh Bhatt of Snackbar in Oxford, Mississippi. Chauhan hosted the group’s second supper in Nashville this summer, and was eyeing real estate soon after.
“We strongly believe that Nashville is a music city not only because of the performers, but because of the audience,” Chauhan says. “That works in terms of food also—Nashville is becoming a food city because there’s an audience for it.”
Chaatable is scheduled to open before the end of November; sample a preview with Chauhan’s recipe for Shammii Kebabs here. The kebabs—flattened-and-fried patties of minced meat and lentils, not skewered and grilled chunks—are popular throughout India and Pakistan. Think of them as a cross between hamburger steaks and croquettes.