NOVEMBER 2020 • LONGISLANDPRESS.COM 57
ICONIC INDIAN CUISINE
BY ALAN KRAWITZ
Akbar, a majestic-looking Indian
restaurant in Garden City, is very much
a family affair that traces its inspiration
back to the 16th century in northern
India, where royal Indian Mogul
Akbar dined in grand surroundings.
The restaurant's owner, Meena Chopra,
recalls that it was her father, A.N.
Malhotra, who opened the first Akbar
in New York City in 1976. He followed
with other locations abroad including
in Japan, Trinidad, and London.
"Watching my father build his career in
the restaurant industry, I was always
intrigued by the thought of running
my own one day," says Chopra, who was
born in India and came to New York in
Recalling the family's history, Chopra
says that after her father had returned
to India, both she and her brother,
Pradeep Malhotra, wanted to continue
the legacy their father had worked hard
to build in the city.
"I opened up an Akbar on Long Island
and my brother opened one in Edison,
New Jersey," she says, adding that
she has always enjoyed the customer
service aspect of the business. "I am
so fortunate that we have built such a
strong customer base, some of whom
have become so close, they are like
Akbar first opened on LI in 1984, located
on Ring Road near the Roosevelt
Field Mall, before moving to the venue's
present Garden City location in 2001, at
the site of a spacious, former healthcare
Fast forward to 2020 and Chopra
explains that, like countless other
restaurants across the region, her
business has been hit "very hard" by
the COVID-19 crisis.
Staffing levels had to be reduced from
a normal of about 30 employees to
around 10. In addition to curtailing the
regular flow of diners, Chopra says that
her catering business for banquets,
weddings, anniversaries and birthdays
has been all but sidelined.
"Right now, we're just trying to manage
the takeout along with the outdoor
dining," she says, adding that although
they never did close, even back in
March, when many others were shuttered,
staying afloat has been tough.
"Our wedding business was not
happening at all," Chopra explains.
"There were almost no large gatherings
happening and that took its toll
Indoors, the restaurant has put cabanas
in place, 12 feet apart, in order to better
distance diners and outside there is a
large patio area that spans the perimeter
of the restaurant, where tables
are at least 10 feet apart. Health
guidelines mandate a minimum
of six feet between tables.
Ramit Malhotra, Chopra's son,
who handles consulting and management
duties at Akbar, relates
that outdoor dining has been fairly
steady during the week and better
"It's hard to operate on just takeout
business," he says, adding
that Akbar can comfortably
seat about 60
diners outside. "I'm
that our business is
coming back … it's just
a matter of if and when
this virus is stopped or at
Lately, he says he's been getting inquiries
about catering operations for
weddings, normally catered at nearby
locations such as Crest Hollow Country
Club and the Marriott Hotel, for anywhere
between 400 and 500 people.
help to feed
f r ont l i n e
ho s pi t a l s
H e a l t h
"We donated food but we just wanted
to help and didn't really want to call
attention to the fact we were helping,"
Chopra explains. "It was the right thing
In the kitchen, Akbar's executive chef
"Reddy" says he studied to be a chef in
India, receiving a degree in kitchen
"Most of our staff have been working
here more than 10 years," he says,
joking that "they don't want to leave.
There must be a magnet that keeps
Reddy himself is an Akbar veteran of
almost seven years, who says he continues
to refine and improve the menu
Specialties include specially marinated
New Zealand lamb chop cooked in
a charcoal oven; chicken tikka
masala, tandoori chicken,
biryani, lamb curry, and spicy
vindaloo dishes, which are
among peoples' favorites.
Reddy also supervises
other cooks at Akbar's
functions. "Reddy multitasks
very well," says
Overall, Chopra says she
is "very grateful and blessed to
have such a good team."
Chopra adds that she wants to reassure
diners that Akbar is taking all necessary
precautions to keep everyone safe
during these challenging times.
"We are doing whatever we can and
just hope things get back to normal
Akbar is located at 2 South St. in Garden
City. It can be reached at 516-357-8300 or
"Most of our staff have been working here more
than 10 years," says Chef Reddy.
Chef Reddy cooks up Indian cuisine
at Akbar in Garden City (Photo by Ed