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Increased local development brings fresh new tastes

June 30, 2017

One of the subjects I encounter most often in my daily deluge of incoming email is the desire for more ethnic eats here on our Culinary Coast. After all, the metropolitan areas many of us left behind offered lots of exotic choices. But in our still-rather-rural neck of the woods ... not so much.

We can complain about development all we want, but the resulting increase in year-round residents has caught the attention of ethnic entrepreneurs. And some are gambling that there are finally enough full-timers to regularly fill their seats. A recent addition to our lineup at the beach is Indigo Indian restaurant in the ocean block of Rehoboth Avenue. (The first Indian restaurant in Rehoboth opened and closed many years ago where Gidget’s Gadgets is now.) Out on The Highway near the Wawa by Route 24 is Minh’s Bistro and authentic Vietnamese food.

I’ve been to the newly opened Indigo several times already, and try as I might, I just can’t find anything wrong with that pungent little oasis of quiet, just steps from the Boardwalk. Suraj Kumar came to Washington, D.C. from Punjab, India, operating restaurants in New York, Austin, Denver and eventually his own spot in Annapolis. Mr. Kumar, his wife Sudesh and their son Raghu pulled up stakes to bring their tandoori oven, friendly smiles and exotic tastes to the beach. Mr. Kumar tells me that curry is not a single spice, but a mixture of several spices, including cardamom, turmeric, coriander, dry mustard and cumin. In fact, the Indian word karee refers to a “mixture” or “blend.” By the way, in a couple of weeks Raghu will unveil his lunchtime Indian buffet! No more driving to Dover for samosas and tikka masala. Buffet items will rotate daily. 

By the time you read this, Vietnamese entrepreneur (and talented actor/singer in his own right) Thinh Famh will have either opened, or will be very close to opening Minh’s Bistro, Rehoboth’s very first Vietnamese restaurant. Named after Thinh’s youngest brother, Minh’s Bistro will serve all the favorites many of us loved in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, including the ubiquitous pho, grilled grape leaves, summer rolls (Thinh calls them spring rolls) and more. I love the light, bright taste of Vietnamese food. By the way, get to know Mr. Kumar, his son Raghu, Thinh Famh and his mom-in-law Bonnie Moss on my radio show airing at 3 p.m., Saturday, July 1, at Delaware 105.9FM. 

Former Saketumi maître d’ Jeong Hoon Kim has partnered with Saketumi boss Tammy Wang to bring Japan’s now-famous noodle to the beach at Miyagi Ramen Bar. “These are not the ramen noodles you buy in the store and throw into boiling water,” Kim warns. “We will serve the real thing.” Prices will range from $8ish to about $15ish. “I want Miyagi Ramen Bar to be the essential neighborhood eatery,” says Kim. That eatery is slated to open in just a few weeks. 

Of course, no discussion of ethnic foods would be complete without an appreciative nod to the pioneers who braved the vagaries of resort restauranting to bring their family’s traditions to the beach. Shawn Xiong and his wife Danielle operated a restaurant in Wilmington for 11 years before opening Confucius on Memorial Day 2004. Everything is fresh and made to order. Same thing with Semra’s Mediterranean Grill. Semra and John Tekmen moved into the old Country Squire/Seaside Thai place a few years ago and have been dishing up authentic Turkish cuisine ever since - complete with belly dancing in the off-season. Interestingly, the former occupant of Semra’s space was the first Thai restaurant in the downtown area. After that restaurant closed, the owner’s sister, Lily Thamibutra, ventured out to create Lily Thai in a tiny storefront on N. First Street next to the original Nicola’s. Lily is not shy about using spices and delivers on her promise of bright and interesting Thai food. 

Of course we still have our sushi, Mexican and Italian staples that we’ve come to know and love. I salute the brave entrepreneurs who accept the risks of resort restauranting in order to treat us to new and exotic tastes.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at byesbek@capegazette.com.

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.

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