Fans of the Indian buffet suffered a loss in January with the closure of Udipi Cafe, an Indian vegetarian restaurant at the Richardson Heights Shopping Center in Richardson.
But a new restaurant has emerged to step into its place. Called VegVana, it will be an Indian vegetarian restaurant with a little something extra. Slated to open in mid- to late-February, its buffet will be bigger, more comprehensive; and the kitchen will take a uniquely fresh approach, with everything prepared fresh that day.
Udipi Cafe was part of chain based in Houston, where it has three locations; Richardson was the northernmost outlier. The restaurant drew praise for the variety of its dishes, some not common around Dallas-Fort Worth. Udipi also made CultureMap's list of Best Indian Buffets in Dallas, a pinnacle that's hard to top.
But the owners were feeling overextended, says Karthik Gunasekaran, who is opening VegVana.
"They had been here for 10 years, but ultimately found it hard to manage remotely," Gunasekaran says. "I was a friend of the owner, as well as a customer. I'd been thinking about opening a restaurant for more than a year, so it was a good opportunity to take over the space."
At VegVana, the priority will be fresh, fresh, fresh.
"It's going to be a vegetarian Indian restaurant, but fresh, not greasy," Gunasekaran says. "We're mostly trying to create a concept that is fresh — to not have everything pre-prepared, but to make all the food the same day we serve it, to have as much as possible prepared that day."
He also wants to surpass the other buffets in town, bringing to mind the buffet at Madras Pavilion, a vegetarian Indian restaurant with a bountiful buffet in Richardson that closed.
"Udipi used to have 6-10 items, and they were all good — but we are going to do a grand buffet with 18-30 items," he says. "We'll have special Indian soups and curries, and we'll include a combination of both northern and southern Indian dishes. I'm south Indian, and that's what I eat at home is south Indian food. But if I eat out at a restaurant, I want to try it all."