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Sault gets Punjabi diner, just in time for Diwali

Sault Ste. Marie's First Lady of South Asian cuisine opens her first sit-down restaurant today downtown
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2017-10-18 Neeta Marwah
Neeta Marwah's first eat-in restaurant opens at 11 a.m. today on Queen St. E. David Helwig/SooToday

Today is the main feast day of Diwali, the South Asian Festival of Lights celebrating the universal desire of all peoples for renewal of life and triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and hope over despair.

It's India's biggest and most important holiday.

And Neeta Marwah, Sault Ste. Marie's First Lady of South Asian cuisine, is celebrating big, opening her first sit-down restaurant at 11 a.m. today at 518 Queen St. E.

Born near New Delhi and daughter of an Indian restaurateur, Marwah introduced Indian cuisine to the Sault eight years ago.

Faithful SooToday readers will remember Rasoi, Marwah's Indian take-out establishment, operating first from her home in 2009, then from a P-patch storefront at 6 Village Crt. that's now home to Antico Ristoranté.

"My kids were small and my husband started travelling a lot, so I had to shut that down," Marwah tells SooToday.

For the past five years, she's been working from home catering weddings, parties, baby showers and art gallery fundraisers.

Now, she's ready for her first dine-in establishment, an all-new Rasoi located in a downtown diner formally occupied by Mike's Lunch.

"I came back to this business because my kids have grown up," Marwah says. "They'll be gone in two years. My oldest son will be moving out next year. My younger one will be following the following year. Then I'll have nothing to do."

Hahaha.

Marwah will have plenty to do today.

Unwilling to trust others with the cooking just yet, she's planning to be at Rasoi every day it's open.

She has three catering jobs over the next couple of days, so it will be a 'soft' opening today with no dine-in supper service until next Thursday and Friday.

Hours will be 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day for lunch and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. for take-out.

Today's lunch reservations are already fully booked.

Rasoi will only open on weekdays.

"I didn't want to open weekends because of my family. I want to make it small. It's just to keep myself busy and get the cuisine out," Marwah says.

Her new place will be the Sault's first eat-in Punjabi restaurant.

"Every part of India has different spices. I come from Northern India. I'm a Punjabi. The spices which are used there are totally different from Southern India," she says,

Marwah is a little worried about the open-kitchen setup in the former breakfast-and-burger joint.

"The kitchen is really small," she says. "Generally, Indian cuisine doesn't work in this kind of atmosphere. It's always a closed kitchen. It's never an open kitchen. I'm just experimenting with this."

"I don't want to put the prices too high because it's not about money-making. It's my passion. That's it."