The clean-lined décor and neutral color scheme belie a riotous blast of tastes and aromas that awaits diners at Cinnamon Indian Cuisine in Rhinebeck. With a menu of traditional and modern dishes spanning the Indian subcontinent, Chaminda and Shiwanti Widyarathna have surprised and delighted fans of Indian food since opening in 2011 just south of town. Four years later, they moved into the village and have become busier than ever. “It’s been great being here so far,” says Shiwanti. “Since moving to downtown Rhinebeck, the lunch has grown so much. Sometimes it’s hard to get into the restaurant! We also have a private dining space upstairs for parties, dinners and meetings.”
Dubbed the Spice Room, this upstairs lounge is open to the public from 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday, unless otherwise booked. In addition to serving artisan beers from New York State craft breweries and wines from all over the world, they’ve created special house cocktails inspired by flavors of their homeland to wow the palate. The brunch, lunch and dinner menus present an array of dishes that will challenge even one who’s already fluent in the genre: dosas, gulab jamun, naan and chapatti, kebab, tikka masala, saag paneer, samosa, palak chaat, mapas, sali-boti, phaal, jhinga jalfrezi and of course, curry.
When asked about their background in the food industry, Shiwanti says, “My husband graduated as a pastry chef and worked in European countries and in Dubai, and on a cruise ship. He got this interest from one of his friends who opened a restaurant. He learned to cook the basic foods from a well-known chef in South India. Then he worked at a restaurant in Connecticut for a few years.”
After they were married, Chaminda expressed more interest and curiosity about opening his own eatery. “I have a fashion marketing background, working for Tommy Hilfiger in India,” says Shiwanti. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we open one?’ We looked in Connecticut and couldn’t find a place we liked. Then a friend suggested that we come to Rhinebeck, where there had been an Indian restaurant that was now for rent.”
Shiwanti reports that they’ve gotten great feedback from the locals, and from people who come up to the Hudson Valley from the City as well. “We are very blessed in that way. When I come into the restaurant, I try to talk to each and every table before they leave – make sure they have a good experience. Most of the tables I go to, I really don’t have to fix anything. ‘It’s better than New York City,’ people say.
“We serve all organic chicken and natural lamb. In the summer we support three or four local farms. The menus change seasonally a bit. Our lunch special menu we change every week. Indian dosa is very popular, so we’ll do one with salad topping and one with chickpeas and asparagus. We change the menu with the produce we get for the week.
“We get into every little detail. I’m personally into eating very healthy and getting as many things organic as possible. What we want to do is get good ingredients and maintain a reasonable price – and make it accessible to any group of people. People appreciate that.”
Chaminda is from Sri Lanka and Shiwanti hails from the south of India. Heading a growing international team of cooks and servers, their focus is on making people feel comfortable and well-taken-care-of. They also do catering, so far producing fabulous meals for up to ten weddings a year. “We have a food truck that has a tandoori [a cylindrical clay oven] that we can take to the site and have cooking stations,” says Shiwanti. Bringing the diverse and exotic flavors of India’s many regions to the Hudson Valley is their pleasure, and it’s our culinary gain.
Cinnamon Indian Cuisine, 51 East Market Street, Rhinebeck; (845) 876-7510, https://cinnamoncuisine.com.