Biryani or bust

Bawarchi Indian food empire stakes its claim in Texas, starting with Dallas-Fort Worth

Bawarchi Indian food empire stakes its claim in Texas, starting with Dallas-Fort Worth

Chicken tikka masala at Bawarchi Signature in Dallas
Bawarchi's menu includes Indian classics such as chicken tikka masala. Photo courtesy of Bawarchi Signature
Hyderabadi dum biryani at Bawarchi Signature in Dallas
But Bawarchi's signature dish is Hyderabadi biryani, rice simmered with spices and offered vegetarian-style or with chicken. Photo courtesy of Bawarchi Signature
Bawarchi Signature Indian restaurant
Bawarchi's buffet retains an elegance left behind by the previous tenant, Clay Pit.
Chicken tikka masala at Bawarchi Signature in Dallas
Hyderabadi dum biryani at Bawarchi Signature in Dallas
Bawarchi Signature Indian restaurant

After 10 years serving Indian fusion food, Clay Pit in Addison closed last November – sad, but with an upbeat twist: It was replaced by Bawarchi Signature, another Indian restaurant, but this one specializes in Hyderabadi biryani.

In its few short months, Bawarchi has already become a popular destination for the local Indian population. It not only inherited Clay Pit's well-appointed dining room, but it also got the liquor license. That means you can get cocktails, wine and beer with your Indian food.

Bawarchi's location has a legacy. Clay Pit opened in 2002 as an offshoot of the Clay Pit in Austin, with a chic atmosphere that set it apart from the other modestly appointed Indian restaurants around Dallas-Fort Worth.

 The signature dish is biryani, a rice dish simmered with spices. Bawarchi also does Indian staples like tandoori chicken, kebabs and chicken tikka masala.

Clay Pit also launched the career of chef Vijay Sadhu, whose fusion dishes caught the eye of local critics, including the Dallas Morning News' Bill Addison. (Sadhu left to join Stephan Pyles at Samar before opening Pepper Smash in Plano in 2012.) But by 2011, the management had changed, and Clay Pit's reputation had gone downhill.

Bawarchi has its own interesting back story. It's part of a network of Bawarchi-named restaurants that have been opening around Dallas, including Bawarchi Biryani Point in Carrollton and Irving, says co-owner Siva Yarlagadda. He owns it with Ramanaidu Suryadevaraya and Kishore Kancharla, who co-founded Bawarchi in the U.S., plus Anil Lella and Vijay Shekar Anne.

"It is me and four other partners. We are friends," Yarlagadda says. "Back in south India, we have a restaurant called Bawarchi, which has south Indian-style Hyderabadi cuisine, one of the best you can find in that area. From there, we got the franchise and decided to open in Texas."

They began in Plano with Bawarchi Point, doing fast-food-style Indian on Ohio Drive.

"We have three concepts," Yarlagadda says. "There's Biryani Point, which is like a fast-food place; Signature, our fine-dining restaurant; and Express, which is to-go."

The signature dish is biryani, a rice dish simmered with spices, which comes in a vegetarian version or else accompanied with chicken; some traditional versions incorporate lamb. Bawarchi also does Indian staples like tandoori chicken, kebabs and chicken tikka masala.

"The food is similar at all of them, but we adjust the spice level according to the neighborhood," Yarlagadda says. "In Addison, we have a mixed clientele, so we go a little easy on the spices there. Plano is densely populated with Indians, and so is Carrollton. Most of our customers are Indian, so the spice level is high."

Like most Indian restaurants around the area, Bawarchi Signature has been consigned to offer a buffet, and that's been a big draw. It's $9.95 and features a minimum of 30 items, including curries and at least five vegetarian entrees.

The Bawarchi expansion continues. There is already a Biryani Point in San Antonio, and, in February, they will open branches in Frisco and on Westheimer Road in Houston.

Taking over Texas, one bowl of biryani at a time?

"Let's see how it goes," Yarlagadda says.