Just before an unprecedented pandemic, Ashish and Kimberly Sathyan combined their unrelenting enthusiasm for hospitality by opening Kinaara in a tiny, unassuming space located in a Millard strip mall. Despite pandemic uncertainties, word of the Kerala cuisine spread quickly, and the co-owners soon outgrew the space. The new dining room, located inside Regency’s shopping center, is colorful and welcoming, dotted with robust green plants cared for by the local plant experts at Nodest.
After spending time abroad in India, Kimberly Sathyan developed a deep adoration for Indian food but didn’t imagine herself co-owning a restaurant. Inspired by her husband’s love for cooking and insatiable desire to share it, the former hair stylist, who has a degree in economics from the University of Nebraska Omaha, found herself navigating the business and getting to know customers in the original Millard restaurant.
Ashish Sathyan’s love of cooking began at the elbows of his mother and grandmother. “I was always interested in how they made the food and thought attending culinary school after high school would be easier than engineering,” he said. The ambitious student fell in love with the food, the pace, and the customers, quickly moving up the ranks and soon working at a 5-star restaurant in Dubai.
Twenty years later, Sathyan crafts traditional dishes from his childhood in Kinaara’s new space. Born of an affinity for shopping the daily market for fresh ingredients, he relishes relationships forged with, and ingredients found at local producers such as Miller Dohrmann Farm (wheat) and Long Walk Farm (spinach). “Better quality food is great medicine—better for your body and saves on health care in the long run,” he said.
In harmony with a love for all things local, Kinaara serves only local brews, including craft beer from Jukes Ale Works, Nebraska Brewing Company, and Pint Nine Brewing Company. Craft cocktail ingredient quality mirrors that of the kitchen, using fresh squeezed juices, fresh herbs, and scratch mixers. In addition to a small list of classics, the menu features two unique offerings: a tamarind whiskey sour and a star anise and strawberry seltzer.
Kimberly Sathyan is proud of the inclusive service the front-of-house team provides and credits former supervisors for teaching her to encourage and support staff so they feel listened to and cared about. “I love being able to employ people and help their lives,” she said.
Because the flavors, techniques, and ingredients are foreign to many diners, she ensures wait staff are knowledgeable about the menu and able to answer questions, gently guiding patrons to dishes they will enjoy. Additionally, the printed menu includes origin information, dish descriptions, and fun stories about each dish. Expanding diners’ palates is a privilege both owners appreciate. “We love to be asked for recommendations and take the time to explain and suggest the best dish,” Kimberly Sathyan said.
Popular appetizers include the Chat Samosas bejeweled with pomegranate seeds and drizzled with yogurt, or the aromatic Chilli Chicken. Entree offerings include standard Indian fare but focus primarily on the Kerala cuisine of Sathyan’s home state. Classics such as Pork Vindaloo are elevated with quality local ingredients such as Jon’s Naturals pork cheeks, resulting in tender, flavorful meat nestled in a zingy tomato-based sauce. Another local option is the Beef Coconut Fry made with Morgan Ranch Wagyu beef cubes.
Local Plum Creek Farms chicken is used in the Tandoori Chicken and frequent specials and collaborations often highlight and marry local products with Sathyan’s flavors. Close to the chef’s heart are dishes such as Grandma’s Fish and Mango Curry, featuring tender flaky salmon nestled in a beguiling sauce.
The couple is enthusiastic about Omaha, venturing out on their days off to visit other local establishments and supporting nonprofits where possible. One such nonprofit is the RISE Academy, an organization that helps people reassimilate after incarceration (Kinaara is on the list of employers willing to hire participants).
The Sathyans are bubbling over with future ideas and plans, including expanded bar menus, growing their own produce, additional collaborations and popups, and a chef’s table. Ashish Sathyan is especially excited about the latter option, describing it as “a special homestyle menu that feels as if you are visiting my house where my mom is preparing the dishes.” Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are always welcome where the couple promises to treat you like family.
More stories like this one can be found at Our Food.