They say that you can’t have it all, but former management consultant turned restauranteur, Rohini Dey dispels this belief. A true go getter, not only did she receive her Phd in Economics, work at the World Bank and co author a book on infrastructure privatization, Rohini was also a consultant at McKinsey. She left all of this to pursue her passion of food and launched two Latin Indian restaurants in Chicago and New York called Vermilion. Her inspiration to leave a successful career behind was her fervent belief that Indian food in Chicago, indeed in most of the United States, was poorly executed and confined to stereotypes. As an entrepreneur, Dey has combined her business savvy with her passion for food.
The cuisine is influenced by Latin and Indian cultures. Rohini says, “There are three distinct underpinnings of my concept—I wanted to create an intellectually provocative cuisine that is clear of both the French overhang and Indian dining stereotypes. My goal is to offer a cuisine that is bold, assertive and memorable, and a fantastic dining experience that is neither pretentious nor an ode to the kitchen – a dining experience that you can’t wait to repeat or share.”
The Indian-Latin concept of Vermilion is also based on the historical cross-flows and culinary influences of the Persians, Moors, Spanish and Portuguese, as well as the tropical and geographical overlap of ingredients – such as coconut, tamarind, mango, beans, rice, guava and plantain, all utilized extensively in both cuisines.
“New York seemed like a natural next step for Vermilion once Chicago found a sound footing,” Rohini said. “It’s an amazing, exciting city with highly sophisticated and adventurous palates and a huge density of diners. So here we are – ready and raring to go – and very cognizant of both the high rewards and risks!”
The Power of Women
But beyond the cuisine and design, what makes Vermilion unique is that it is wholly owned and operated by women. The core team behind At Vermilion – Owner/Founder Rohini, Executive Chef Maneet Chauhan and Chef de Cuisine Ipshita Pall — share a common bond: all three are driven women who grew up in India, a rare trio in the dining industry. In this fourth career as an entrepreneur, Rohini brings some of her prior life – her Ph.D. in economics, experience in development economics for the World Bank and years as a Management Consultant with McKinsey & Co. – to the table.
Executive Chef Maneet received her training at Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, India’s top culinary and hotel management school and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. She cooked her way through many of India’s finest culinary establishments, including The Taj Group, Oberoi Hotels and Le Meridian. Maneet was brought on by Rohini to the Vermilion team at inception and has brought her creativity, passion and drive to the restaurant.
Chef de Cuisine Ipshita was a former software engineer who changed careers after attending the Cooking & Hospitality Institute of Chicago. She spent a year honing her skills at Vermilion in Chicago before being brought to New York to join the helm of Vermilion’s kitchen in New York.
Rohini led the design of At Vermilion in collaboration with leading AIA award winning Chicago architects Searl, Lamaster and Howe. The space deliberately conveys Rohini’s personal preference and vision of a contemporary minimalist look, replete with masculine materials and hues, offset by a singular, even sensual, feminine element – the oversized black and white photographs by India’s leading fashion photographer, Farrokh Chothia. At Vermilion features a double-height water curtain, 22-foot metal mesh chandelier, metal cable and backlit bar, and a sleek lit white canopy on the facade. Drama interplays in this bi-level space through the emphasis of the expansive height, the oversized fixtures, and the juxtaposition of the serene floating ponds on both levels. The lower level is a lounge with some communal dining; upstairs hosts the dining room, a floating mezzanine and private dining areas.
The Cuisine. The Cocktails.
The menu of Vermilion features an array of Indian-Latin dishes including small plates such as Duck Vindaloo Arepa, Boar Jibarito, Octopus Escabeche, Coconut-Chili Mussels as well as signature entrees such as Tandoori Skirt Steak, Chimichurri Kadai New York Strip, Crab Konkani Huitlacoche, Garam Masala Crusted Pork Belly and Brazilian Caldeirada Seafood Stew. An eclectic small selection of authentic Indian dishes make an appearance on the menu with dishes such as Mangalorean Lamb Shank Gassi, Sri Lankan 16-Spice Whole Fish, Lobster Portuguese, Dhaba (Indian truckstop fare) and Indian breads and kababs.
The cocktails of Vermilion, developed by the women of Vermilion, are a blend of herbs and spices, and try to steer as far away as possible from the “mangotini” genre. Some cocktails surprise—the Pani Puri Chaat Margarita and the “more spice” choices such as the Fresh Lime Pear and Green Chili; some soothe—the Cucumber Mint Martini and Herbed White Sangria; and some—like the Blueberry Cardamom Fizz—call for a celebration.
Vermilion is the powder that Indian women wear on their forehead for ceremonies.
Rohini oversaw the design of this 2 story striking minimalist restaurant in Midtown Manhattan bringing in elements of her own home into the expansive space, and in collaboration with leading AIA award winning Chicago architects Searl, Lamaster and Howe. The space deliberately conveys Rohini’s personal preference and vision of a contemporary minimalist look, replete with masculine materials and hues, offset by a singular, even sensual, feminine element – the oversized black and white photographs by India’s leading fashion photographer, Farrokh Chothia. At Vermilion features a double-height water curtain, 22-foot metal mesh chandelier, metal cable and backlit bar, and a sleek lit white canopy on the facade. Drama interplays in this bi-level space through the emphasis of the expansive height, the oversized fixtures, and the juxtaposition of the serene floating ponds on both levels.
Vermilion—the most vibrant of reds, connotes the essence and ebullience of the Indian and Latin American peoples and also literally translates into sindoor, a core symbol of Indian femininity and a celebration of the beauty of women. With the launch of Vermilion, these elements are now embodied in this restaurant….bringing a concept that is true to who these women are.
480 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10017
Above picture Ipshita Pall, Maneet Chauhan, Rohini Dey