October 30, 2023 10:18 am | Updated October 31, 2023 12:13 am IST – Tashkent (Uzbekistan)
In the heart of Tashkent, a city known for its rich history, stands an Indian restaurant celebrating the legacy of legendary Bollywood actor Raj Kapoor and the love of the Uzbeks for him even 35 years after his death.
Styled on the Bollywood theme, the ‘Raaj Kapur’ restaurant which is one of the three major Indian restaurants in Tashkent, is not new but at least 16 years old and is a hit among not only Indian tourists but also locals for its lip-smacking dishes.
Three superstars from the Kapoor family — Randhir Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor — have also dined at the restaurant on different occasions.
“People in Uzbekistan are crazy about Bollywood and generations of people from Uzbekistan and Russia – even the young – are aware of Raj Kapoor and his cinema and regard him as Bollywood’s numero uno. The restaurant attracts more crowd for its name and less for Indian food, which most visitors discover after enjoying a meal,” Sameer Khan, Resident manager, Raaj Kapur restaurant told PTI.
‘A definite stopover’
Housed in the Le Grande Hotel in Tashkent, the restaurant is a definite stopover for tourist groups from India and is popular for its Bollywood nights where Uzbeks also groove on top chartbusters from the 90s.
While Khan, who is originally from Mumbai, manages the property, the idea of the restaurant was first conceptualised by Jay Al Atas, an Indonesian who fell in love with Indian food during a visit to the country and was also impressed with the craze for Raj Kapoor in Russia and Uzbekistan.
“A lot of Indian tourist groups come here on a regular basis while Uzbeks enjoy the food on occasions and also love clicking pictures here. Whenever a Bollywood celebrity from India comes here, there is a bustling crowd,” he added.
The restaurant is also the official caterer for the majority of Indian events — be it the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit or ones like a recent Bollywood night which saw performances by Daler Mehandi and Ravi Kishan.
Five chefs from different parts of India are behind the variety-loaded menu at the restaurant.
“We offer all kinds of cuisine that are available in India. Our bestselling dishes are butter chicken, biryani, cheese naan and dosa,” said chef Kalamuddin Sheikh who hails from Orissa.
A wall in the restaurant boasts of the renowned people who have visited the restaurant be it politicians like Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh or Bollywood celebrities like Mithun Chakraborty, Shibani Kashyap, Daler Mehandi, Gulshan Grover, among others.
“We have placed signed sketches of the celebrities from India who have visited us. The restaurant is a big hit here,” Sohail Khan, Quality Manager at the restaurant told PTI.