A Culinary Journey From India to Charles County

Posted by: Economic Development Team on Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Charles County is growing and diversifying, and more of our citizens have developed a palate for ethnic foods, often from living or working in the nation’s capital, a hotbed for international food and flavors.

Raj Malhotra and wife, Punita, serve those locals looking for something different at Bollywood Masala in La Plata. They offer authentic, tasty North Indian cuisine in a warm and friendly setting with a diverse menu, warm ambiance, and friendly hosts.

Raj says, “There is so much potential because Charles County is a suburb of DC, and slowly what has happened, the people who work in DC have bought houses here, and a lot of people like to try ethnic food now. It wasn’t the case 10 years ago.”

When Raj moved to the United States from India in 2007, he found very few restaurants serving authentic Indian food. He laments, “Most Indian food served in the U.S. is Americanized. When people are coming to try Indian food, they’re coming with the mindset to try something different. So, why Americanize it?”

Raj learned commercial cooking while working in his dad’s restaurant in India and brought those skills and passion for fresh, quality food when he came to the U.S. He opened his own restaurant in King George’s County, Virginia in 2011 and soon found that the majority of his customers were coming from Charles County, so he shut it down and started his restaurant in La Plata in 2015.

Raj makes his own spice blends and sauces and cooks everything the way he experienced it growing up. “Everything is made in house, and that’s the way Indian food should be,” he says. “I cook it just the way I grew up eating. I don’t cut back on spices, and a lot of people have been very open to the food.”

Indian food is not hot, but it’s spicy. That means they use a lot of spices, and most of the spices are good for you.  Many of them have health benefits and are anti-inflammatories and/or antioxidants. Raj says, “I use a lot of fresh ginger, a lot of fresh garlic. Even the paste I use to marinate my kabobs and everything, we make in house.” All the dishes are unique and have different spices and flavors.

If you’re new to Indian cuisine, the best place to try it is the lunch buffet, open every day but Sunday. Their attentive and knowledgeable staff will also help you select something off the lunch menu. Their full bar includes many house-infused specialty cocktails along with the classics, as well as several craft beers on tap and a full complement of wines, including special Indian wines.

A new menu is coming out in a couple weeks, with more authentic North Indian dishes with lamb and chicken. An expanded bar menu will include several new drinks and new wines that are exclusive to the restaurant.

The menu isn’t the only thing expanding—the business continues to grow. Raj says, ”One good thing about Charles County is, even though it’s grown, it’s still a very close-knit county. So, word gets out really fast. We don’t advertise much. 90%, I’d say, is word of mouth.” He does still find people who come in and didn’t know they exist, and that gives him hope that there is still room to grow.

Raj also credits his restaurant’s location in La Plata with getting the business started quicker. “It’s easier to do business here because everything is close by, like county offices,” he says. “Getting my business licenses and everything was not that hard. Because Charles County is still not as big as, say, Fairfax County, things get done much faster. Permitting took 15 to 20 days. If something was not right, they’d come back the next day, and I know that doesn’t happen in other counties.” His family also lives in the county, and the restaurant employs workers who appreciate working close to where they live.

Stop by Bollywood Masala for lunch or dinner, or even a special drink, in the Rosewick Crossing shopping center on the north side of La Plata. Their times and menu are on their website: www.BollywoodMasalaRestaurant.com.  To learn about how the Economic Development Department can support your business, visit our Business Support page or contact us at info@meetcharlescounty.com.



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