At new Virginia Beach restaurant, Diwali celebration lights up customers’ faces

Vegetable samosas are a popular Indian dish, often served as an appetizer. (Courtesy of Nanking of Virginia)
Vegetable samosas are a popular Indian dish, often served as an appetizer. (Courtesy of Nanking of Virginia)

VIRGINIA BEACH — When Nanking first opened its doors on Mother’s Day, the restaurant did not anticipate a full house, but that’s exactly what happened, according to owner, Yogi Anand.

“We had so many customers that first day, the wait time was two hours,” he said.

The 200-seat restaurant, located in a small strip mall at 501 North Birdneck Road, features authentic Indian, Chinese, and Thai cuisines. With its unique menu and authenticity, Nanking has already established a loyal following of regular customers.

For some of these regulars, a visit to Nanking was the first experience with three different but complementary cuisines in a single restaurant. Many other regulars recognize and appreciate the restaurant’s cultural authenticity. Either way, the freshness of the food and friendly, attentive staff keeps customers coming back.

Today through Saturday, returning and new customers will enjoy special treats offered as part of a cultural celebration. Nanking is offering traditional desserts, in celebration of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.

Raj Bhandari, who manages the restaurant, explains, “Diwali is our Festival of Lights. It is a celebration honoring Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, as well as other Hindu gods. People decorate their homes with lights, to signify good conquering evil.”

Special desserts available for Diwali celebration. (Courtesy of Nanking of Virginia)
Special desserts available for Diwali celebration. (Courtesy of Nanking of Virginia)

Holiday offerings including jalebi, a crunchy, pretzel-shaped treat drenched in honey seasoned with cardamom. Others are made with besan, a chickpea-based flour. All are sweet, visually appealing, and very popular.

Chef Jiban Chakrabarty says these desserts are vegan as well.

“We serve foods that appeal to many dietary preferences, including vegan, vegetarian, and non-vegetarian. No matter what you prefer, the food here is fresh, and fresh is healthy,” Chakrabarty says.

Bhandari attributes Nanking’s popularity to the authenticity and freshness of the meals.

“All the food we serve is organic, even the meats,” he explains. “Many of the organic vegetables come from the owner’s farm in Newport News.”

Navin Agarwal, of Chesapeake, has eaten at Nanking at least twice weekly since May.

“I travel 25 miles each way, by Lyft or Uber, so you know it’s good,” he says.

Agarwal’s favorite menu item is pani puri, which, according to Anand, is sold by vendors as “street food” in India. This dish is part of the weekend brunch menu. It consists of a delicate and paper-thin shell of deep-fried dough. The hollow shell is served with as many as 25 fillings to choose from, including chutneys, nuts, seeds, seasoned bits of potatoes, and more. The dish is topped with any of five choices of flavorful sauces, including mint and tamarind.

“I have been to most of the Indian restaurants around the area, and this is the best,” says Agarwal. “The others don’t serve pani puri,” he adds.

A buffet brunch is served daily Tuesday through Sunday, featuring 15 entrees on weekdays and up to 20 choices on weekends, in addition to soup, salad and dessert items. Anand says the brunch menu typically includes two to three Chinese and Thai items and the remainder are Indian foods.

Typical brunch items include naan bread, chicken tikka masala, tandoori grilled chicken, saag paneer (freshly made cheese cubes in a savory spinach sauce, basmati rice, papadum (spicy black pepper crackers), and black dal (lentils). (Courtesy of Nanking of Virginia)
Typical brunch items include naan bread, chicken tikka masala, tandoori grilled chicken, saag paneer (freshly made cheese cubes in a savory spinach sauce, basmati rice, papadum (spicy black pepper crackers), and black dal (lentils). (Courtesy of Nanking of Virginia)

Dinner is also available Tuesday through Sunday. Nanking has a full bar, including Thai and Indian beer, Indian wines, and cocktails. Sikangi, a mojito with an Indian flair, is a favorite of Asian and non-Asian customers.  Anand explains, “We add fresh ginger, mango powder, and ground roasted cumin seed to lend the Indian flavor.”

Nanking’s motto, “Live Heathy, Eat Fresh” is reflected in the careful preparation of foods served.  Anand says, “Next to serving great food, our goal to be a source of cultural input to the local community. We want people to share and enjoy our culture and hospitality, to feel like they are at our home, not just a restaurant.”

For more information, visit http://nankingofvirginia.com/

A Chinese-influenced shrimp dish. (Courtesy of Nanking of Virginia)
A Chinese-influenced shrimp dish. (Courtesy of Nanking of Virginia)

Always be informed. Get the latest news and information delivered to your inbox

Print Friendly, PDF & Email