Sam Khanal and his two business partners opened the first Ambrosia India Bistro in Monterey 12 years ago.
Now the restaurant has four locations, including one in Aptos and another in Scotts Valley, which opened in 2016. Khanal, whose favorite dish is the rack of lamb, lives in San Jose and drives 100 miles a day on average. He enjoys offering slightly different menu items at Ambrosia’s various locations.
To hear Khanal tell it, cooking Indian food requires some grit. Ambrosia has one lentil dish, for example, called dal makhani, that must be soaked overnight before seven hours of cook time. “Small flame. That’s the beauty,” he says. “You need to have a lot of patience when you cook.”
Which is your favorite location?
SAM KHANAL: All of them.
You can tell me.
All of them, but I’m trying to spend more time here in this restaurant [in Scotts Valley]. This is more like my baby, like how a newborn needs more attention. With specific customers, you need to treat them well—that kind of thing. I’ve been in business since 2007, so my Monterey restaurant already took off. I don’t need to be there 24/7, whereas this one’s about 2-and-a-half years old.
What’s it like sharing ownership with two partners?
If you have understanding partners, it’s a very good idea, because obviously you can’t go around to all four locations and be present there all the time. They come here once a week. I go there once a week. They have different eyes to look at things, and so do I.
What’s your favorite alcohol and food pairing?
Our food goes well with the dry Riesling. It’s not too sweet, and it kills the spice. It goes well with vindaloo. For the red drinker, we have a Petite Sirah.