Shri Kant always knew that when the time came he’d take over operations of the downtown Bangor restaurant Taste of India, his family’s longtime business.
“I always knew that was something I’d want to do,” Kant, who graduated from Bangor High School in 2009 and from Husson University in 2013, said. “I grew up in this restaurant. It’s my family business.”
Taste of India closed for two months over the winter and reopened in late March. During that time it underwent extensive renovations to the menu and to the look of the 25-year-old restaurant. Kant, 26, co-owns the restaurant with his mother, Navita Kant, who has been its longtime proprietor and can still be seen most days seating customers during lunch and dinner. His brother, Rishi, is general manager.
The biggest changes to the restaurant are the overall upgrades to the space — new floors, freshly painted walls, new bathrooms and wall art — and the addition of a full-service bar. Taste of India now serves an array of beer, wine and cocktails, including Indian-themed takes on classic drinks such as a Tom Collins or a Manhattan, flavored with traditional Indian spices such as cardamom and garam masala.
“We have to up our game and modernize things, so I think we’ve done that,” Shri Kant said. “It’s definitely a much busier restaurant scene downtown now than it was a long time ago.”
On Friday and Saturdays, the restaurant offers $10 buffet service from 9 p.m. to midnight, alongside regular $12 buffet lunch hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. The buffet remains largely the same as it did before, offering classic dishes such as Chicken Tikka Masala and Palak Paneer and sides dishes such as naan and pakoras.
New to the menu are dishes developed by Shri Kant’s collaborating chef, Daron Goldstein, who also recently helped revamp the menu at Oriental Jade in Bangor. Highlights include General Tso’s Cauliflower, an Indian-Chinese fusion dish featuring Indian-spiced General Tso’s sauce on beer-battered, deep-fried cauliflower, Braised Whole Lamb Shanks with Indian spices, and Fried Potato Croquettes made with pineapple and spices.
Shri Kant said he has seen an uptick in his late night business, with folks starting to come in to take advantage of the bar and the late-night buffet. He’s also touting the expanded vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Although Taste of India has long been a favorite of meat-abstainers — Indian food is traditionally rife with vegetarian options — Shri Kant wants to make his restaurant a destination for vegetarians throughout eastern Maine.
He also wants to open more Taste of India restaurants in other spots across the state.
“We want to open on Mount Desert Island in the next two years and hopefully Camden or Rockland after that,” Shri Kant said. “There are a lot of people out there that love Indian food but have nowhere to get it. We want to bring it to them.”
Taste of India is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 9 p.m. Sundays.