WESTFORD -- A rangoli is a folk art from India in which vibrant patterns are created on a floor using materials such as colored rice, flour and sand during times of celebration to bring positive energy and to welcome outsiders. The Kumar family of Westford has taken this purpose of a rangoli and put it into creating their dream Indian restaurant, inviting customers to experience their food.
Many people get a little scared when they think of Indian food because most menus are very complex and hard to decipher. People also share the common idea that Indian dishes are very spicy. Gulshan Kumar set out on a mission to change this view on Indian food.
In October 2013, Gulshan and his family opened Rangoli Grill in Cornerstone Square to introduce Indian food to the community for what it really is.
Instead of providing a menu with a bunch of complex dishes, Rangoli Grill provides an ordering method where customers can see the ingredients and pick and choose what they are ordering.
"I think that when the food is accessible and is visually right there in front of them, they are more willing to try something new,"says Rashmi, also a Westford Academy English teacher.
When ordering, a customer starts by picking a white or wheat wrap, a basmati or brown rice bowl, or a salad bowl.
All the meat, as well as the paneer, is cooked in a tandoor, a clay oven used to grill food, and nothing is fried.
After the basis of a meal is complete, the customer can pick healthy toppings. They also have a choice of sauces, known as chutneys at Rangoli. Customers can choose to keep their meals full of flavor but mild, or spice it up with a hotter sauce such as tomato chili-garlic chutney.
The Kumars made sure to have a diverse menu that would provide vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options.
Sides are offered such as the samosa, filled with seasoned potatoes and peas, and the tandoori naan, a baked Indian flatbread.
A very unique thing that Rangoli Grill also offers to customers is a chaat bar. Chaat is a popular Indian snack on the streets of India, especially in New Dehli, where both Gulshan and Rashmi grew up. The chaat is usually crisp bread pieces served under different Indian toppings. The restaurant has a self-serve bar set up where the customers can make their own.
Any of the meals can be served with a mango yogurt drink, iced or hot chai, or popular lychee juice. There is also the option of an Indian sweet of the day for dessert, and soon Rangoli will serve kulfi, a frozen Indian dairy dessert.
With the different, flavorful options, almost all the dishes are colorful, like a rangoli. This pulls in another reference to the name as it offers customers a chance to create their own "rangoli." In fact, the restaurant's motto is "Our food, your art."
"It's like a colorful design on your plate that you created," says Rashmi as she explains the meaning of a rangoli and how it connects to the restaurant. Manu Kumar, son of Gulshan and Rashmi, has helped with recipes at the grill as well as coming up with the name.
The restaurant itself has a welcoming feel with traditional Bollywood music playing while you order your meal. It is decorated with purple and gold designs, picked by the Kumar's daughter, Neha, who has a passion for art and graphic design. Neha also worked with friends to design menus, business cards and the website. Friends of the family have sent in paintings and creations of rangolis which are hung on the walls, creating a strong Indian vibe.
"It has really been a great family effort. It took putting all of our heads together," Rashmi says.
Along with their family, the Kumars have gained new employees since opening. Gulshan states, "We've been very fortunate with a tremendous team working together."
The Kumars say they have had many Indian customers, happy to see their traditional food served in a fast, healthy environment, as well as many people who are trying Indian food for the first time.
Gulshan has enjoyed learning a whole new industry as he spent most of his life in technology and finance, while working for and managing IT companies. It has been a great overall experience for his family.
"Seeing how people have embraced the concept and have really enjoyed the experience of choosing has been a really fulfilling experience. That was my goal, to give people choices they would like," the owner says.
The Indian entrees range from $7 to $9 while the chaat bar is $4 for a small and $8 for a large. The mango lassi, iced and hot chai, and lychee juice all are about $3.
Rangoli Grill is located at 8 Cornerstone Square, Westford. The restaurant is open Sun.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., until 9 p.m. Contact Rangoli Grill at 978-692-8130 or visit rangoligrill.com.