Kamini Kumar isn’t the type to pat her own back, except for just this one thing: her made-from-scratch Indian cooking at her new restaurant. “I love to please people by cooking,” she said. “And they just love it. This is the same food I cook for my family. It’s just a bigger kitchen.”
Kumar, an experienced caterer, opened the cozy 20-seat My Indi Kitchen a few weeks ago. It’s in eastern Lakeland at 2810 Lakeland Highlands Road, off South Edgewood Drive in a shopping plaza anchored by a Winn Dixie.
She said initially she had misgivings about opening her restaurant during a pandemic.
First, “I was very afraid to open the doors and nobody came in,” she said. That hasn’t been the case. While customers may order entrees, most choose to eat from the buffet, she said.
Her other big worry was keeping her customers, her employees and herself safe during a time of coronavirus.
She and her workers wear masks and urge people walking to the buffet to do the same. The buffet is shielded by plexiglass.
Diners are encouraged to use the hand sanitizer and gloves provided by the restaurant.
The buffet, served at both lunch and dinner, is $14 for vegetarian. A $17 price includes meat choices. Kumar said there are 16 or 17 items every day on the buffet.
“Everything is fresh,” she said. “No cans. No frozen.”
My Indi Kitchen doesn’t yet have a menu and Kumar said she’s working on it.
Some of the Indian treats she offers are:
- Chicken dishes called Tandoori Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala.
- Onion and bell peppers in gravy.
- Eggplant Pakora, which Kumar said are like fritters.
- Butter Chicken, in a tomato and onion sauce.
- Goat Curry, onion-based with spices.
- Gulab Jamun, milk solids shaped into a ball for dessert.
Kumar also serves Mango Lassi, a mango and yogurt drink.
You’ll find a selection of three kinds of rice and naan bread, baked in a clay oven at 800 degrees by Kevin Vazquez.
The key to good bread, he said, is in the consistency of the dough. If the dough is a bit dry and hard, Vazquez said, “don’t bake it.”
Kumar was born in India and landed in Lakeland in 2013.
She was encouraged by her family to learn to cook when she was 12. Every step from childhood to My Indi Kitchen included nudging by others.
Her family said she should cook for a larger group of relatives. Her Lakeland friends encouraged her to cater and her work included, through Publix, United Way fundraisers.
Her catering customers urged her to open a restaurant.
My Indi Kitchen, 2810 Lakeland Highlands Road, is open Mondays through Saturdays 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., with an extra half hour added on Fridays and Saturdays. Online ordering is available through Uber Eats and DoorDash.