If you loved Ashwani Chirimunj’s homestyle Indian cooking at his Norwood, New Jersey, restaurant called Mark’s Ooh La La Yum, you’ll adore his cooking at his new, expanded location in Tappan. If you never dined at Mark’s, no worries. We’ll tell you what to expect.
It’s the same menu of entrees — no buffet here — dishes Chirimunj grew up eating in Jalandhar, Punjab, meals cooked by his mother, Sushi Rani.
“These are all my mother’s recipes,” he says. “It’s more homey, like guests sitting in my kitchen. That’s what it feels like.”
However, when Chirimunj re-opened his restaurant in Tappan Feb. 10, he changed the name to Swad by Mark’s Ooh La La Yum, because “swad” means “ooh la la yum” in Indian, so it better reflects his northwestern Indian culture. “Mark” combines the first letters of his family’s names.
Chirimunj’s new restaurant is in a 1,200-square-foot space, a half size bigger than the previous 800 square feet he had. There are four curry-colored booths and three tables, along with a counter. It’s BYOB, but he does serve mango lassi, smoothies, chai and coffee.
The most personal, signature dish to order is Maa Makhani. The dish is full of black and kidney beans slow-simmered for eight hours with Punjabi spices and refried to order with onions, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, mint, garlic and ginger. Diners can order it mild or spicy.
“That’s a really good dish,” Chirimunj said. “I’ve been carrying that since the beginning. My mother used to cook it overnight.”
He has two tandoor ovens on site to cook naan and tandoori chicken. Other favorites include chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo, goat curry and shrimp phaal. Chirimunj’s childhood diet was also influenced by Mughlai cuisine, the foundation of Pakistan eating. His menu includes Mughlai dishes such as malai kofta, soft potato and cheese dumplings cooked in an almond butter cream sauce.
If you go: Swad by Mark’s Ooh La La Yum, 80 Route 303, Tappan, 845-680-6116, swadny.com.
— By Amy Sowder