Amit Kumar Upadhyay, left, and Dhiraj Sing, right, franchisees of the new Farzi Café in Bellevue, Wash., with Zorawar Kalra, center, the restaurateur behind India’s Massive Restaurants group. (Farzi Café Photo)

Two veterans of the Seattle area’s tech industry have opened an Indian restaurant with Michelin-recognized roots in downtown Bellevue, Wash.

As investors and franchisees of Farzi Café, this is not the first foray into the restaurant world for technologists Amit Kumar Upadhyay and Dhiraj Sing. But, it is the first time that science and technology have played such a big part in how their investments play out on the plate.

Upadhyay and Sing have a history of going into projects together. Prior to Farzi, they joined forces in another Bellevue eatery called Thaal Indian Restaurant, known for its traditional thali servings.

It was in New Delhi, India, that Upadhyay first experienced Farzi Café, the flagship café that owner and restaurateur Zorawar Kalra opened 14 years ago. Since then, Kalra (often called the “Prince of Indian Cuisine”) has gone on to open 20 restaurants under his Massive Restaurants enterprise.

The opening of Farzi Café at Bellevue Square is its first entry into the United States — with plans to expand across the country.

The majority of Farzi Cafés are owned by Massive Restaurants, while 30% operate as franchises. Kalra believes the franchises benefit from local partnerships that share a deep understanding of the brand’s vision and philosophy.

A busy bar inside the new Farzi Café in Bellevue. (Photo by Jenise Silva)

There are several factors Kalra considers when looking for franchise partners, with financial considerations constituting just one aspect. He wants to know that his partners possess an understanding of hospitality.

Given that this is the restaurant business, he also looks for those who understand the time it takes to develop and to stick with a project over time. But most of all, it boils down to passion.

“Our objective is to collaborate with individuals who approach the restaurant business with earnest commitment,” Kalra said. “Most significantly, we seek franchisees who can cultivate a profound ardor for the food industry and its intricacies.”

Kiwi Puchka at Farzi Café. (Photo by Jenise Silva)

Given the city’s deep ties to the tech industry, the selection of a franchise partner in Bellevue who understands and is integrated within the tech hub was pivotal for Kalra.

Both Upadhyay and Sing certainly have strong ties within the tech industry in the region. Upadhyay moved to the area in 2005 to lead a major initiative for T-Mobile. Sing, a principal software engineering manager at Microsoft, put down roots in nearby Sammamish, Wash.

Upadhyay was taken by Kalra’s approach towards Indian food and the desire to position Indian cuisine at the forefront of the American dining scene. He points to the “approach and presentation of Indian food to the global palate,” with the foray into molecular gastronomy being a draw.

“Yes, [molecular gastronomy] was a major attraction for me,” Upadahyay said. “In Seattle, food has not been presented in that way.”

Farzi Café leans into the science and technology behind molecular gastronomy.

  • If you peer into the kitchen, it’s not uncommon to see cooks spherifiying (a method to change liquid into a squishy sphere) kiwi for Kiwi Puchka – a deceptively savory bite with cumin granny smith and tamarind gel.
  • There is also plenty of fermentation, and the use of “magic elements” like phosphorus paper (which is a showstopper when used tableside to present the Fired Jackfruit Pollichathu) to enhance the overall dining experience.
  • Behind the bar, there is the whir of centrifuges at work where cocktails are transformed into “striking concoctions.”

Cocktails that traditionally have a mix of fresh juice, say orange juice, are spun until they turn transparent, making for a clear cocktail while keeping its distinctive flavor intact.

A Farzi cocktail, fresh from the centrifuge. (Photo by Jenise Silva)

In addition to the centrifuge, sous vide techniques and a sonicator also play a starring role in some of the cocktails. According to Engjell Shala, who oversees Farzi’s global beverage program, “we extract flavors in ways not common to many bars and restaurants.” 

With state-of-the-art point-of-sale systems, advanced kitchen management systems, customer relationship management software for personalized experiences, and data analytics for informed decision-making, Farzi Café leverages technology end-to-end to enhance guest experiences, and drive efficiency.

With Upadhyay and Sing on board, Farzi Café has had a strong start in the U.S. Ultimately, the goal is to have an Indian restaurant affiliated with Farzi Café in the top three dining destinations of every major city across the U.S. 

With the Bellevue opening, Kalra has found a successful model for bringing in the right people for the job.

“I am delighted that this [partnership] materialized, resulting in the establishment of a formidable and professional association,” Kalra said. “Our partnership has quickly evolved into a robust and enduring professional relationship that we are eager to nurture and advance for the foreseeable future.”

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline

Job Listings on GeekWork

Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.