Italian bocconcini squares made from bits of cheese, pesto sauce, balsamic dressing, olives, cherry tomatoes and basil. Ezra Black/The Free Press

Tandoor and Grill, an Indian restaurant with a twist

Indo-Oriental-Western food is hard to find in Fernie, except at the Tandoor and Grill Restaurant.

Located in the Stanford Hotel, the upscale eatery has developed a reputation for fine East Indian cuisine. Last year, it was added to the Food Network’s list of 10 popular Indian restaurants in Canada.

But now the Tandoor is broadening its culinary horizons.

With chefs that were born in Nepal, educated in India and who honed their skills in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, the restaurant is rolling out a menu that travels around world, while keeping a foot firmly planted in India.

The eatery offers more varieties of naan than you can shake a stick at, the Tandoor offers skewers of spicy curried prawns and the house-made sauces featured in classics like lamb rogan josh are highly addictive and nap inducing.

But then the wait staff might bring out deep fried Thai fish cakes made of salmon, sweet potato, ginger, garlic and coriander.

They might follow that up with classic Italian bocconcini squares made from bits of cheese, pesto sauce, balsamic dressing, olives, cherry tomatoes and basil.

You might even find a Japanese inspired dish such as baked salmon wrapped in nuri, a seaweed used to wrap sushi, glazed with ponzu sauce and served with wasabi mashed potatoes and pickled ginger on the side.

Head chef Kassab Sapkota said the decision to move to a more fusion-style menu was because customers “are expecting,” a more diverse menu.

He certainly has the pedigree to make good on the change. Born in Nepal, Kassab apprenticed in India before moving to Qatar where he helped open four restaurants.

He has been working at the Tandoor and Grill Restaurant since it opened about ten years ago.

“I come from a cooking family, you could say,” he said. “My brother is also cooking in Toronto, where he is a chef.”

“The customers giving me compliments,” said Kassab. “That’s my favourite part. That’s the thing.”

Though not related to Kassab, sous-chef Hemand Sapkota has a remarkably similar backstory. He was also born in Nepal and educated in India. Born to a military family, he moved around a lot as a child.

He was inspired to become a chef by his mother, whose chicken curry cannot be beaten, he said.

“I’ve tried many times but I will never get my mom’s (recipe),” he said.

He also received valuable work experience in the Persian Gulf at five-star hotels in Dubai before coming to Fernie in January.

“I really love this place,” he said. “The environment here, the staff, we are like a family.”

Corien Sieders, the Stanford’s director, said the restaurant has also recently moved to a new space within the hotel to take advantage of an outside deck and high ceilings.

Recently decorated, long and elegant curtains fall from the ceiling creating small intimate booth spaces.

“I think our location is just stunning,” she said. “We’re on the river near the mountains.”

The Tandoor and Grill Restaurant is open Wednesday to Monday from five to 10 p.m. They will be rolling out their new menu on July 18.