By Robin Garr
I try not to miss much when it comes to developments in local restaurants. It happened this month, though, when I finally got to Sankalp Louisville for what proved to be one of the best Indian meals ever.
Where has this place been all my life? Or to be more specific, why was I so clueless about this large, stylish Indian eatery that had announced its opening in an Instagram post almost exactly 18 months ago?
“Now we are open to serve delicious food,” the restaurant posted on July 13, 2022. “Find all your favorite cuisines under one roof. Visit to experience those new restaurant vibes.”
I would have raced out there if I had only known … and I should have, as Sankalp got a couple of mentions on the HotBytes forum. But it hasn’t had any mention that I can find in traditional media (including this one); no local website except for menu distributors, and, well, if you don’t know its name in the first place, you’re not likely to spot it on social media.
Bah! No more excuses. Sankalp has apparently become popular in the local Indian-American community, which flocks in for special menu items and celebrations like Diwali, Navaratri, and the traditional undhiyu vegetable curry and jalebi sweets served during the celebration of Uttarayan this month.
Sankalp’s roots, in fact, are in Gujarat, where it started with a single restaurant in Ahmedabad in 1980 and has since grown to more than 150 properties around the world. It recently expanded to the United States, where Louisville’s shop is among a dozen recent arrivals.
Even the restaurant’s Sanskrit name, Sankalp, might be unfamiliar to many of us, but it’s an important term in Hindu culture. According to Wisdom Library online, a Wikipedia-like website covering Indian culture, sankalp is a broad term covering ideas like “determination,“ “resolve,“ “resolution,“ “will,”“ “concept,” or “idea.” In a form of Hindu ritual worship called puja, participants recite sankalp mantras to set the ceremony’s purpose and intention: “These mantras help establish a focused mindset and create a sacred atmosphere.”
This may or may not have been coincidental, but shortly after we arrived, the sound system shifted from Bollywood-style tunes to a 45-minute rendition of Om Namah Shivaya, a sankalp mantra that purportedly helps infuse positive energy in one’s everyday life while removing negative energy around you. It might have worked. I didn’t feel at all bothered by a half-hour wait for our meal.
So now you know more about Sankalp – with or without the capital “S” – than you did a few minutes ago. But if you love Indian food, you still need to hear me telling you that you need to go eat at this place as soon as you can.
It’s a good-size room in a multi-unit Stony Brook strip, with high ceilings, walled on the front by floor-to-ceiling windows, with choice of seating in comfortable booths by the windows, along a banquette, and comfortable upholstered high-back chairs set at tables in the middle of the room. A well-stocked bar fills the front of the room, apparently geared for table service; there are no bar stools.
The colorful menu is extensive, covering a dozen large pages, so check it out online before you go, or come prepared to spend a little time with it. It’s divided among soups, appetizers, sizzlers and sidekicks, chaat, pizza (with an Indian twist), sandwiches, Indan-style Chinese dishes, idlis and dosas, rava and uthappa, some 40 curries, Indian breads, lentil dal, basmati rice dishes, beverages, and accompaniments.
About half of the items are vegetarian, and the rest are described not as “meat” but “non-veg.” Pricing is fair, with most main dishes between $11 and $15, and only a few sampler plates and a whole tandoori chicken rising over $20.
Fish ajwaini tikka ($14.99, pictured at the top of the page) consisted of five big chunks of boneless white fish that had been grilled on skewers after spending time in a spicy marinade of yogurt, turmeric, and ajwain, an Indian seed-like fruit that’s related to cumin, coriander, and dill. It was plated on a sizzling hot cast-iron platter the shape of a fish, sitting on a bed of thin sliced red onions and green peppers, and topped with a slice of lime and a charred green pepper. It was served mildly spiced, as requested. A dish of sweet, creamy tartar sauce alongside seemed unnecessary.
Paneer Afghani bhurji ($14.99, pictured above), an Afghan-style recipe from Punjab in far northern India, is a vegetarian dish. Shredded bits of Indian paneer cheese (“bhurji” means “scrambled” in Hindi) were tossed in a thick, spicy tomato sauce studded with bits of peppers. It was one of those dishes that seem simple but whack you upside the head with fascinating, complex flavors the more you eat. It was perfect with bites of chewy, fluffy warm garlic naan ($3.99).
An outstanding Indian meal for two came to $36.01, plus an $8.49 tip.
Noise Level: Crowd noise was no issue as we had the place to ourselves during a lunch visit, although a Hindu chant on the sound system pushed the average sound level to a still reasonable 66.4dB.
Accessibility: Level entrance and restrooms allow wheelchair access throughout.