Port Washington’s Diwan gets new look after visit from Gordon Ramsay

Port Washington’s Diwan gets new look after visit from Gordon Ramsay
Port Washington's Diwan was featured on Gordon Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares" where the famed chef worked his magic to revitalize the business. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

A Port Washington Indian restaurant has received a new look and a new life after a visit from famed chef Gordon Ramsay, who has lent his kitchen expertise to reinvigorate the local restaurant that was featured on an episode of the hit television show “Kitchen Nightmares.”

The restaurant that Ramsay called a pioneer of Indian cuisine, Diwan, located at 37 Shore Road, has been operated in Port Washington for about 35 years by husband-and-wife team Bobby and Margaret Chhikara.

Bobby Chhikara said in the episode that the restaurant had had a prominent place in the community, with customers flocking to fill the seats within two weeks of the restaurant’s opening in the 1980s.

“In our heyday, Diwan was very vibrant,” Margaret Chhikara said. “It was the place to be seen at and the line would go out into the parking lot.”

But with the growth of Indian cuisine offered locally, Bobby Chhikara said it had led to a sharp drop in their customer base.

Ramsay said the local competition caused a “hemorrhaging” of money, with the owners saying the drain had forced them to utilize their retirement savings to keep the restaurant afloat.

Bobby Chhikara said in the episode that he estimated he had invested about $100,000 a year in the restaurant since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fast forward to Gordon Ramsey’s arrival on the scene as he attempted to rescue yet another restaurant in crisis.

When he first visited Diwan, Ramsay said his initial dining experience featured slow service, botched orders and poor reviews of the food.

Ramsay called the restaurant’s food “dated,” “uninspiring” and “disappointing,” with many dishes tasting bland, oily and not freshly made. He also criticized the restaurant’s menu for its high prices and the food not meeting equivalent standards.

“Maybe four decades ago Bobby’s intention was fine-dining Indian, but it’s like food that’s been stuck in a time warp,” Ramsay said. “What a shame.”

While Bobby Chhikara blamed a change in customers for the decline in their business, Ramsay said it had to do with the restaurant not meeting the diners’ standards due to a  deterioration in quality food and service.

Ramsay also criticized Bobbu Chhikara for how active he was in the kitchen, not allowing other staff members to assist in the food production. Ramsay called the kitchen “chaotic.”

As part of the show, Ramsay’s turnaround plan for Diwan highlighted renovations. Changes to the restaurant included equipment updates, a new menu and a replacement of the recent cultural fusion decorations to focus on “authentic Indian vibrancy,” Ramsay said.

The new, smaller menu switched to a focus on the “modern, regional Indian cuisine,” Ramsay said.

Customers have responded positively to the new menu, with multiple positive reviews complimenting the restaurant’s traditional curries and new dishes.

The praise for the new menu, which featured fewer processed ingredients and paid homage to traditional Indian cooking, was also embraced by the owners who sat and enjoyed the first dinner service after renovations in the episode.

“The curries, the sauces, the flavors, everything is talking to me,” Diwan’s front-of-house Ellsberg Fernandes said. “It tells you a history of India, it tells you a culture of India, it tells you the people of India.”

The renovations to the restaurant were also met with excitement by the owners, which focused on the restaurant’s Indian culture with vibrantly colored decorations mixed with a classic dining experience.

“I did not imagine to have such a warm, inviting, Indian feel,” Margaret Chhikara said in the episode.

The introduction of the new Diwan was welcomed by customers, as featured in the episode, with many loving the new dishes.

Ramsay complimented owner Bobby Chhikara for his drive and dedication to his restaurant, encouraging him to keep moving forward while making time for himself as he faces retirement from his long days in the kitchen.

“It’s very rare to meet such a solid, amazing man that’s still got the strength of a 25-year chef today, but hand it over now,” Ramsay said. “You’ve got a beautiful restaurant, you’ve got a great chef, an amazing family. Enjoy this part… Slow down.”

Diwan is open to the public, serving its revamped Indian cuisine seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., extending service an hour longer until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

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