New York

All photos courtesy of Maneesh K. Goyal and Sona

Resy QuestionnaireNew York

20 Questions with Sona’s Maneesh K. Goyal

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In the Resy Questionnaire, we play a game of 20 questions with the industry folks behind some of our favorite restaurants. What’s your most memorable restaurant experience? Your favorite food movie? What restaurant would you want to time-travel for?

In this edition, we talk to Maneesh K. Goyal, one of the founding partners behind Sona, a lavish and stunning Flatiron space that celebrates Indian cuisine in all of its facets, from the late Floyd Cardoz’s Goan fish head curry at Tabla to Goyal’s own family recipe for butter chicken.

The Resy Questionnaire

1. Favorite thing you’ve ever cooked?

A few years ago, I dove deep into making shakshuka and it’s become my signature item. I mostly cook on the weekends, and shakshuka is a gather-round-the-table-and-dig-in crowd-pleaser. Talk about savory goodness.

Sona’s butter chicken is in tribute to the one served at India House, Goyal’s family’s bygone Indian restaurant in Texas.
The galouti lamb kebab at Sona.

2. Kitchen tool or equipment you couldn’t live without?

My cast-iron oyster grill pan. Again, on the weekends, I love to throw oysters on the grill and lather them in so many various toppings. My grill pan is worn-and-torn and has stories to tell.

3. What pantry items would you bring on a desert island?

In no particular order: cumin, turmeric, everything bagel seasoning, chili oil, and tortilla chips.

4. What’s your favorite place to get a slice in New York?

Spunto – I’m a sucker for delicious thin-crust pizza.

5. Favorite cookbook?

The Immigrant Cookbook – Recipes that Make America Great, by Leyla Moushabeck (and featuring a recipe from Sona’s executive chef, Hari Nayak).

6. Your drink of choice?

The Blue Negroni you can only get at Temple Bar.

7. Favorite food movie?

The Hundred-Foot Journey.

8. Your ideal dinner party guests, dead or alive? 

Chefs Floyd Cardoz, Gabrielle Hamilton, Rachael Ray, Madhur Jaffrey, and Jesse Schenker.

9. What restaurant industry person do you admire the most?

Nelly Moudime, perhaps the best maître d’ (and most lovely human) there ever was.

10. The greatest restaurant experience of your life so far?

Contramar in Mexico City. The multi-generational families gathering for long, boisterous lunches … dreamy.

11. Your greatest professional achievement?

Following in my father’s footsteps and, more than four decades after he opened an Indian restaurant (the first ever in the entire state of Texas), I opened one of my own. I pay tribute to his bygone restaurant, India House, at mine, Sona. I would never have dreamt of opening Sona had it not been for the first nine years of my life spent running around India House.

Goyal (far left) and his family in front of India House, the restaurant his father opened in Dallas, TX in 1975.
Goyal (far left) and his family in front of India House, the restaurant his father opened in Dallas, TX in 1975.

12. What single dish best describes your personality?

Funfetti birthday cake … who wants to hang out?!

13. If you could go back in time, which restaurant would you dine at?

I would have loved to experience the glamour and wonder of elegant railway dining in the 1950s and 1960s in India. It was a time of sophistication and elegance in dining and service, where meals were long and time seemed to stand still, all aboard a steaming locomotive train.

14. Your favorite meal from childhood?

My dear mother’s perfectly melty grilled cheese, always served with a side of her homemade green mint chutney. Heavenly.

15. Your wish for the restaurant industry?

A continued — and even increased — focus on culture and the employee experience within restaurants. A restaurant can never achieve greatness without a motivated and inspired team.

16. What do you wish you did better? What do you do well?

I am still getting used to the unexpected ups-and-downs of this industry. I made a big pivot when, at 46 years old, I opened my first restaurant. The high highs and the low lows (oftentimes in rapid succession of each other) are a lot. Still getting accustomed to that. What a ride this is …

Not sure what I do super well, but one thing I know I love is to touch tables, greet our diners, and make smiles happen. It’s the real joy of this industry. 

Details at Sona.

17. If you could eat through a city for a day, where would you go?

Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam … I could’ve eaten all day and all night (and did, frankly). Explosive flavors that are perfectly in tune with a chaotic city, that creates a real harmony.

18. The one thing you can’t resist splurging on when you go out?

Caviar.

19. What do you value most in restaurants?

It’s the service, every time.

20. It’s your last meal on earth, what are you eating?

Nachos. Definitely a plate of nachos with all the toppings and an ice-cold margarita. I’ll go to sleep smiling.

 

Sona is open everyday from 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekends, and from noon to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays through Fridays.

 

Noëmie Carrant is a Resy staff writer. Follow Resy on Instagram and Twitter.