An Indian restaurant connected to Michelin Stars

By Frank Whitman

It’s not often that you encounter a local Indian restaurant with a connection to Michelin Stars.  Those crowning jewels of international dining are few and far between. 

I’d been hearing a lot about Athithi.  Everyone I talked to was crazy about the food at this store-front Indian restaurant in Wilton. Executive Chef Hemant Mathur, who earned his stars at New York restaurants Devi and Tulsi, designed the Athithi menu to include some of his signature tandoor-oven dishes. Chef Chandru Krishnasamy, a veteran of some of the finest hotels in India, is more than up to the task of maintaining the standard every day.  It’s his fresh, spicy food that’s getting the raves. 

Marsha and I are not fluent in Indian cuisine.  As the Athithi menu explains: there are 28 states in India each with their own food traditions and cuisine.  It’s too big a job to know them all, but we’re learning the basics. Our server, Pria, was more than happy to explain and suggest, taking time with us even as the dining room filled. 

The Samosa tasting ($12) was a good place to start. Each flavor of the pastry packets had its own shape – a secret code to identify which is which. Half-moons with beautifully crimped edges were filled with well-spiced ground lamb.  Folded packets were rich with cheese.  Tall cones held a vegetable blend studded with whole peas.  Sweet tamarind and spiked mint sauces shared a single serving dish.

Tender chicken thighs Lasooni ($13) cooked with garlic, cilantro and green chili were pulled off their kebab and presented with pineapple chutney.  They were just a starter, but I could have made a meal of them. 

For our main courses, we both wimped out on the spice and regretted it. Pria tried to guide us but could see our concern about too much heat.  Next time we’ll know better. 

I guess it was the “fiery Goan sauce” description in the Chicken Vindaloo ($20), a staple of Indian restaurants, that put us off.  Still, the chunks of chicken in tomato sauce were well-flavored with garlic and cumin. 

After we were served, Prince, the affable manager, stopped at our table to explain that Marsha’s Kerala Shrimp Moilee ($24) is a traditional preparation of coconut flavored with onion and turmeric from a coastal region. Usually served with a local fish, here it works well with shrimp.  

Blistered naan bread ($4), warm from the tandoor was irresistible and just the thing to mop up excess sauce. 

Thanks to our curiosity, Prince sent out two off-the-menu tastings of Mango Panna Cotta.  The bright, refreshing flavor was matched by a silky texture.

I couldn’t help overhearing the folks at the next table. The regulars explained to their first-time guests, “We’ve been here four times and loved everything.”  They were enthusiastic fans. 

JoAnn LoGiurato, a French & Italian Wine Scholar and wine maven at Stew Leonard’s Wines, dropped in with her husband.  “We love it here,” she shared. “The ingredients are always fresh and everything is delicious.”  Like us, they opted for a large bottle of Taj Mahal lager from India to wash down the assertive flavors. 

The tranquil dining room is simply and tastefully decorated with thick dark-wood tables, a shimmering silver-blue wall on the left and a small bar at the back.  The light fixtures are inverted baskets. Colorful, beautifully embroidered pillows are scattered on the banquettes. 

While we ate, there was a steady flow picking up to-go orders. Parking is easy in the Michaels shopping center. Just a year old, Athithi has found a loyal clientele.

Indian restaurants run the gamut from bare-bones take-out to family restaurants and beyond.  A few establishments aim higher for creative cuisine and a first-class dining experience. I’m happy to welcome Athithi to that group.