For chef Adnan "Noshi" Rafi, cooking has been a labor of love since his days working under his father at Mian Rafi's in Olean.
Now with his own restaurant in North Olean called Mirchi an eatery specializing in Indian food and culture. Mr. Rafi looks to continue the personal touch.
"There's a lot involved, a lot of passion," he told the Times Herald. "It's not something that you just open up a can and throw it together. You've got to love it in order to send the food out."
Mirchi held it's soft opening for personal invitees and a grand opening in mid-December. Since then, patrons have enjoyed the ethnic, spicy offerings fresh and hot from Mirchi's clay oven although for the less daring, familiar items like burgers are on the lunch menu.
The establishment's name?
"Mirchi means 'chili pepper,'" Mr. Rafi said. "We use the chili pepper in pretty much every seasoning and every dish we have. That's the spicy."
From chicken to fish to lamb to beef, the menu lists its offerings as cultural delicacies. Even the bread a flatbread called naan, which is stuck to the inside of the clay oven to bake is highly popular, Mr. Rafi said. The naan flavors include cilantro, sesame, onion, garlic, potato and stuffed beef. The restaurant also makes its own special cheese on site.
After a lunch rush last week, the chef demonstrated making a gyro platter, placing a skewer of lamb and seasoned chicken in the circular oven. Hindi music with essences of Bollywood played in the background.
"That's a part of the culture. It's a part of the experience," said Mr. Rafi, who noted he moved from Pakistan to the United States with his family in 1996 and graduated from Olean High School in 2001. "We're trying to offer that along with our good food."
"People like it. They seem to be enjoying the food and now they're becoming return customers, a lot of new faces and old friends."
With this first sole ownership chapter in his professional story, Mr. Rafi said his wife, Shazia, has been an ideal partner.
"She helps me a lot. She works in here full-time, and she's a full-time mom, too," he added. "She's always right next to me with everything, hard times and good."
Their 4-year-old daughter, Zynah, is sometimes seen playing in the dining room.
For the Rafi family, cooking has long been in the blood.
In their younger years, he and his two brothers Ashi and Hus of the Brothers Bistro fame on North Union Street worked for their father at Mian Rafi's near Jamestown Community College's Cattaraugus Campus.
"It feels good. We are doing what we're good at," said Mr. Rafi, the middle of the three brothers. "We've all been working in restaurants. I like it, and it relaxes me.
"I grew up in it, working for my father while I was going to school, learning everything and working at different places. It was just something that I wanted to do, make my own restaurant."
Mr. Rafi said he and his wife are happy to bring yet another option to Olean's cultural culinary offerings.
- Article courtesy Of The Olean Times Herald