Over in Hauppauge the other day, I finally got a chance to visit a new Indian place called Beenz.
“It’s not new,” said the waiter, correcting me.
In point of fact, Beenz, which is housed in a large, handsome space on Motor Parkway, has been open since August, and specializes in a blend of Indian and Persian dishes, with some Chinese influences here and there.
“Would you like naan?” The waiter again. Yes, do you have a recommendation? “Garlic is Beenz’ most popular,” he said without hesitation. Oh, and where does that name come from?
“Everyone asks that,” laughed Shaila Sandhala, who manages the place. “It’s from nowhere. I wish I had a nice story to tell about it but I really don’t. It means nothing in any of the Indian languages.” And then, just in case I was wondering: “I assure you we weren’t drunk.”
Be that as it may, Beenz is owned by Jay Talluri, a local businessman who is also president of the Telugu Association of North America (“the oldest and biggest Indo-American organization in North America,” according to its website). “He has a lot of businesses and entertains a lot of clients,” Sandhala said. “But he really couldn’t find a place in the area that had fine Indian.”
I myself was only able to scratch the surface of the Beenz menu, but I did thoroughly enjoy the chicken korma ($14) and aforementioned garlic naan ($4). Among the most popular dishes, noted Sandhala, is an appetizer called Gobi Manchurian ($10), featuring cauliflower fritters slathered with a Chinese-inspired sweet-and-sour sauce. Other crowd-pleasers are the chicken tikka masala ($14) and Beenz’s extensive selection of grilled entrees, from tandoori shrimp ($15) to lamb seekh kebab ($16), although patrons should expect a 20-minute wait. “At other places they half-cook the meat in advance,” said Sandhala. “We don’t do that. We have it marinated and then make it fresh.”
As it happens, Sandhala was originally hired not as Beenz’s manager but designer, “and then things happened.” The design challenge alone was formidable: re-imagining a former 65-seat Italian restaurant with an attractive sunroom and 3,000 square feet of space. As of this writing, there is still artwork waiting to be mounted and a few more finishing touches necessary, but the dining room is already a handsome mix of gold and silver that makes Beenz equally suitable for restaurant patrons, special events and catered affairs. “We really tried to get away from the traditional to the modern.”
At Beenz, as elsewhere, business has been challenging of late, but Sandhala said she’s excited for warmer weather and the popularity it will mean, especially for a few of her tables. “Everyone loves that sunroom. They just wish it was bigger.”
Beenz is at 658 Motor Pkwy. in Hauppauge, 631-813-1414, beenzli.com. Opening hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Monday.