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May 15, 2017

Warrenton to get Indian “fine dining” restaurant

Photo/Don Del Rosso
With two other partners, Nepal Thapa and Arun Bhattarai will open Taj Palace late this month, after completion of remodeling.
Photo/Taj Palace
The restaurant and bar will accommodate 84 people, with outdoor seating for 16, according to the owners.
The food that we’re going to bring out on the table, the experience we’re bringing in terms of ambience, in terms of customer service — that makes us truly fine dining.
— Arun Bhattarai, Taj Palace owner
Taj Palace
• What: Indian restaurant, opening in late May.

• Where: 251 Lee Highway, Warrenton Village Center.

• Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday-Saturday.

• Owners: Arun Bhattarai, Nepal Thapa, Narain Sharma and Matrika Bimali

• Phone: 540-349-8833.

• Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

• Facebook page: Click here

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Fauquier soon will get its first Indian restaurant.

By month’s end, Taj Palace will open in the former Mojitos & Tapas Restaurant and Bar space at Warrenton Village Center along West Lee Highway.

“It will be fine dining, with linens,” said Arun Bhattarai, one of the business’s four owners. “The food that we’re going to bring out on the table, the experience we’re bringing in terms of ambience, in terms of customer service — that makes us truly fine dining.”

The menu will feature a range of curry dishes — tomato- and cream-based stews, including lamb, goat, chicken and fish. Tandoori, or clay-oven cooked, dishes will include kabobs and baked chicken.

“We use a lot of spices, like turmeric, ginger, garlic . . . that not only add flavors but also wholesome goodness to your meal,” Mr. Bhattarai explained.

For religious and cultural reasons, it will not have beef and pork, according to the owners.

Main courses generally will cost $18 to $22, Mr. Bhattarai said.

The owners considered opening Taj Palace — their first restaurant — in Fairfax, Loudoun or Manassas.

But, for a few reasons, Warrenton seemed like the obvious choice, Mr. Bhattarai said.

“Here we see more opportunity than risk, since there is a 10-mile radius with no Indian restaurant,” partner Nepal Thapa said. “There’s no (Indian) fine dining in the Warrenton area. We’re going to have the best food, and we’re going to have good customer service.”

The Indian restaurants in Culpeper and Gainesville take a different approach, which the owners describe as “upscale, casual dining.”

“The way we see the service to be set up here, we consider a level up from the experience there,” Mr. Bhattarai explained.

Warrenton’s small-town scale also appealed to the partners, he added.

“It has a community vibe,” said Mr. Bhattarai, 34. “We want to be part of the community, not just a business — we come in here, make money and just close our doors and go for the day. We want to participate. We want to be socially responsible. As a member of this society, we’ll try to get involved as much as possible.”

An internet search led them to the former 2,000-square-foot Mojitos & Tapas space.

After 10 years in business, Mojitos & Tapas reopened under new ownership in April 2016 but closed about a month ago.

The Taj Palace owners picked up the remaining four years of the previous tenant’s five-year lease. They pay $4,300 per month to rent the space and a $1,000-per-month maintenance fee, Mr. Bhattarai said.

Remodeling, furnishings and other costs will total about $50,000, according to Mr. Thapa.

The restaurant and bar can accommodate 84 people, with outdoor seating for 16, according to the owners.

The restaurant initially will employ about 10 full- and part-time people.

“I think we’re well positioned in terms of manpower and the mix of manpower,” Mr. Bhattarai said.

Business partner and chef Narain Sharma has about 20 years’ experience at some of the best Indian restaurants in Washington and Manhattan, he said.

Partner Matrika Bimali also has extensive restaurant experience, Mr. Bhattarai said.

He and Mr. Thapa, who work as financial analysts for an Arlington-based government contractor, will handle the marketing and financial aspects of the business.

For a few years, they have talked about starting a restaurant of their own, Mr. Bhattarai said.

“We both like food,” he said. “We’ve been kind of getting together, discussing ideas.”

“We’ve been trying to find something we can do,” Mr. Thapa, 40, agreed.

They hope Taj Palace will lead to bigger and better things, including a career change.
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Silii · May 17, 2017 at 8:22 am
Glad they're here. Warrenton needs more fine dining and diversity. Seeing that they are paying $5300/month rent and maintenance, is it any wonder there are so many empty storefronts in that shopping center. And, that's before their other operating expenses. All the best to them. Now we don't have to get out on the highway to get good Indian cuisine.
Bonnie C. · May 16, 2017 at 1:40 pm
For what it's worth, Culpeper boasts not one, but TWO, Indian restaurants now - "Taste of India" & "Natraj", both of which are pretty darn good - that coming from someone who not only cooks Indian cuisine at home, but has had the pleasure of dining at some of the wonderful Indian restaurants in Manhattan.

For over a decade now I've been whining about not having an Indian restaurant closer than far Northern Virginia, & now I'll have THREE to enjoy. Doing a major happy dance!!! smile
LindaW · May 15, 2017 at 10:23 pm
We are thrilled to have yet another restaurant option in Warrenton. For the record, I did verify and according to Mapquest, Taste of India is 11.0 miles from this location.
Rover 530 · May 15, 2017 at 7:56 pm
Article quotes some of the owners saying there is no Indian restaurant within 10 miles. "Taste of India" is about 6-7 miles away on Rt. 29. The food there is excellent. Lack of verification.

However, I'm looking forward to the opening of this new restaurant. I like Indian food. Not having beef or pork is not a deal killer. Indian chefs do wonders with chicken, lamb and goat as well as whipping up tasty vegetarian meals. I will definitely give this establishment a try. Glad the space has a new occupant rather than having another empty storefront in Warrenton. We have too many of those.

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