A new restaurant specializing in Indian-American food is ramping up service in Eastern Market. Midnight Temple, an Indian fusion gastropub, began serving carryout and patio-only street food this summer on Riopelle Street.
Twenty six-year-old Akash Sudhakara and chef Bharath Reddy are behind the project, which has been in the works for two years. Reddy was born in India and moved to the U.S. in his 20s where he worked at well-respected Indian restaurants in Michigan and established Authentikka in Canton. The pair are also working with Sudhakara’s friend and former Wayne State University student, Casey Labiano, who recently returned to Michigan after attending culinary school in the Philippines. Together, the trio is working to fuse popular Filipino dishes with Indian flavors and techniques.
Sudhakara, whose from Grosse Ile, tells Eater that he hopes to introduce Detroiters to more of the Indian food he grew up eating at home, but in a contemporary restaurant setting. Prior to developing Midnight Temple, Sudhakara says he traveled the country to experience the range of Indian food available. “I really wanted to bring that back here,” he says.
The menu is reflective of pan-Indian dishes rather than ones from a specific region of the country. “I wanted everyone to try a little bit of the north, south, and especially where my parents are from Bangalore.” When it opens for indoor service, the menu will feature a variety of shareable dishes using Michigan ingredients served family-style on thali, round platters with compartments for different portions of the meal.
Diners can expect items like venison curry with naan, chicken tikka adobo, chicken tikka poutine, hakka noodles, butter chicken, and gobi Manchurian. Longtime Detroit-area bartender Arjun Verma is developing a list of cocktails incorporating Indian ingredients such as a chai and rye and a frozen rum mango lassi. During lunch service, the restaurant hopes to introduce a fast-casual menu with options like butter chicken bowls and “rollups” with sides of samosas or banana chips.
The restaurant itself will feature a modern interior with exposed brick and a large triangular bar dividing the lounge filled with vintage Indian couches from the dining room.
All of these plans are, of course, in flux at the moment, as the novel coronavirus has put many restaurants into a tailspin. Sudhakara signed a lease on a large restaurant space above Detroit City Distillery last year with plans to open by mid-July 2020. However, the pandemic resulted in permitting delays and pushed back construction. Sudhakara that to a certain extent he’s relieved by the delay. “Good thing I didn’t open up [sooner],” he says. “That would have been terrible with overhead costs and staff.” Instead, the extra time has allowed Midnight Temple’s partners the space to pivot and prepare for a potentially vastly different world of dining than what existed before COVID-19.
The restaurant has removed some of its furnishings to make more space for social distancing indoors — if and when the restaurant does open for dine-in service. Midnight Temple has also transitioned towards serving food on weekends and in a limited capacity during the week side-by-side with Detroit City Distillery. The two business have taken over Riopelle Street for the summer, offering exclusively outdoor dining and drinking. Midnight Temple also accepts online orders for some curbside carryout meal packages and makes deliveries on Wednesdays to Grosse Ile. “For the pop-up, what I’m doing on the street is just traditional Indian street food, because it’s the easiest to make on the road,” Sudhakara says. The current menu includes options like chana chana (chickpea curry), samosas, and syrup-soaked for dessert. Friends and family are pitching in to help with the food prep and service.
Currently, the owners are anticipating construction on the restaurant to wrap up this fall in time for a possible winter opening. “That’s the hardest part for me right now is when am I going to open at full capacity? Is it even smart to open a new restaurant that no one’s heard about at 50 percent capacity?” he says. “Just keeping everything outside and until we’re okay to have 100 percent capacity — I think that’s that’s gonna be the day we’re going to open up inside.”