The sudden closing of Dévi has raised a lot of questions, few of which were answered by photogenic front man Suvir Saran’s gnomic utterances to Eater, who broke the story yesterday. But we have some intelligence that might help shed some light on the restaurant’s closing. Part of what Saran told Eater is surely true: The curtain dropped as a result of “operational differences between the restaurant’s owner and our staff.” What follows is some informed speculation on the causes of those differences, brought to us by sources close to Saran.
Saran, though an ideal front man for Dévi, neither owned the restaurant nor was primarily responsible for the cookery, which was the work of a brilliant chef named Hemant Mathur. The restaurant was actually owned by a man named Rakesh Aggarwal, the owner of Balucci’s. Dévi’s building had, we’re told, been for sale for nearly a year, but we doubt from the sound of things that real estate was behind the closing. More likely, it was one of Saran’s numerous outside projects — which he had been working on apart from Dévi and possibly without Aggarwal’s knowing — that caused the conflict. These plans are said to include a Steven Starr restaurant in Philadelphia, an “Indian Olive Garden” chain called American Masala after Suran’s book, and an Indian restaurant in Epcot Center. For our part, we want to know where Mathur is going. The shy, self-effacing tandoor master was the real draw at Dévi and wherever else the team goes in the future.