Boston, MA - When Vinod and Shikha Kapoor opened Kebab-N-Kurry with borrowed money in the Back Bay in 1980, Indian restaurants in Boston could be counted on one hand. After winning a spate of Boston magazine’s Best of Boston award during the mid 80s, they expanded operations to include Cambridge’s popular and well-acclaimed Bombay Club—at one point operating over a dozen restaurants.
Today, there are over 85 Indian establishments located throughout the Commonwealth, with many of their owners having received their first stint in one of the kitchens owned by the Kapoors.
The Bombay Club of Harvard Square is no more. After changing locations to the South End in 2009, it was reduced to a quick service take out stall in stall in Faneuil Hall before finally closing in 2011. The chief concern of the Kapoors these days is their sole operation, the Needham based Masala Art which opened in 2003. But their impact on local culinary landscape has been so great that the Boston Herald once wrote that “when a book on the history of Boston dining is written, the name of the Kapoors will be prominently mentioned. The couple have been instrumental in the popularization of Indian food in the Hub.”
“We have catering agreements with most hotels in the area: Hiltons, Hyatts, Sheratons and Marriotts,” said Vinod Kapoor, referring to Masala Art. “We also work with our American restaurant partners in order to provide mixed cuisine as now there are so many mixed marriages. We do Italian or any Western food with Indian flavor, and of course authentic Indian cuisine. We take recipes from families and create desired menu for the special occasion to make sure their families, friends and friends are satisfied with the food.”
“This is the best Indian restaurant in the New England area. Sixty-five restaurant owners have worked with us over the past 39 years and then started their own restaurants, so we are an institution,”
“We bring unique and select chefs from Indian on special visas and train them for local taste but because they are also trained and creative, we also learn a lot from them. Combination of Shikha’s ideas and their credentials have been a success to the extent that we have created hundreds of jobs locally. By bringing one chef, we can create up to 30 local jobs.”
Of course, forging a restaurant dynasty doesn’t come without sacrifices. The shuttering of all but one of his restaurants resulted in Kapoor filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011.
“It’s a matter of courage. To keep dragging our feet was not a good idea,” said Kapoor.
Curry Leaf. Bombay Club. Masala Art. Chances are if you’ve eaten Indian food in the Boston area in the past twenty years, you’ve eaten at one of the Kapoor’s restaurants. And chances are you’ve never known just how innovative they’ve been; not merely in local restaurant operation, but cuisine as well.
“We both travel and try other cuisines and blend it with our spices and design it in a way that not it only looks good to your eyes but also tastes fantastic to every palate,” said Kapoor. “I knew that Shikha's cooking was outstanding - simple, delicious, and perfectly seasoned… Our efforts have always been to bring new innovations, new presentations and new flavors to our customers.”
Masala Art is located at 990 Great Plain Ave in Needham and is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. For more information, visit masala-art.com