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A sizzling twist

Kinu by Sizzling Tandoor steps out on its own to offer a tapas-style take on South Asian cuisine
Colton Armstrong, left, and Kirn Bawa at Kinu by Sizzling Tandoor.

When it comes to ethnic cuisine, restaurant diners often arrive with expectations about the menu options or the flavours they’ll experience.

Indian restaurants, of which dozens can be found in Greater Victoria, in particular face this form of historical stereotype daily, says Kirn Bawa, general manager of Sizzling Tandoor. Many operators take the safe path, aiming to maintain consistency in food and beverage offerings and venue atmosphere, while respecting cultural traditions. Kirn says the success of her family’s restaurants has largely come from not being afraid to push boundaries to differentiate themselves and change the culinary narrative.

The family’s latest move into new territory is Kinu by Sizzling Tandoor, a rebranded, contemporary tapas-style restaurant at Uptown that offers an elevated take on traditional South Asian dishes, along with globally inspired cuisine.

Having overseen her family’s business for eight years—and immersing herself in an industry she didn’t previously see as a big part of her future—while she studied fashion design in the UK, Kirn is the visionary behind this venture, a reimagining of their third location.

“This space, essentially, is a big part of my identity,” she says, looking around the restaurant. “It’s everything I’ve worked towards in the last eight years to create. It just feels so like me.”

At age 30, Kirn is already a veteran of this typically male-dominated industry and a confident, outspoken woman whose thorough research has given her a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. One thing she knows?

“Cool, standalone restaurants” are rather rare in suburban neighbourhoods like Saanich’s Uptown area.

When she and her mother, Sizzling Tandoor founder Narpinder Bawa, began talking about ways to capture a bigger share of the crowded Indian cuisine market, they wondered what to do with the Uptown space. Options included opening a more Western-oriented restaurant to appeal to a broader demographic or rebranding to differentiate themselves from other Indian restaurants.

Unwilling to open “just another restaurant” to cover off their renewed lease, Kirn supported the latter idea, choosing to play to the family’s strengths while creating something unique.

“I said, ‘if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it in a way that is true to ourselves,’” she says, noting her family is known for being authentic and honest.

Kirn proudly points out that her mother was the driving force behind Sizzling Tandoor, with full support from Kirn’s father, Gurpinder. Over the years, Narpinder has been an important female role model for her daughter’s growth in the industry, Kirn says.

Recognition of strong and determined females shows up on Kinu’s cocktail menu, with tributes to pioneering Indian women in the names of several unique concoctions.

The food menu is a collaboration of various professionals, including consultant Colton Armstrong, whose creations make up roughly half the menu. The culinary team of chef Manvender Singh, Daniele Mereu, Adi Sekhon and Narpinder drew on their own expertise to help create a menu that matches Kirn’s overall vision.

With each sample tapa offered—the Spanish word for appetizer heads up two of three menu sections—Kirn expertly describes the flavours and approach to the dish.

One gets a good sense of the international flavours with the opener: cashew-stuffed chillies with garam masala-infused cashew paste inside jalapeno and serrano peppers, set on a sweet bed of Sizzling Tandoor’s signature tamarind chutney.

Pakora gnocchi. Lia Crowe

Next up is a pakora gnocchi, with house-made pasta in a karrahi veloute sauce topped with delicate pakora fingers and crumbled paneer, then garnished with kale chips.

An early menu favourite is the Indo-Chinese-inspired Kinu chicken, generous pieces of breaded breast meat bathed in a tasty sweet-and-sour-style sauce.

The spice comes out in the fourth taster, the more traditional Indian goat dum biryani, a phyllo pastry-topped combination of aromatic rice and slow-cooked goat, its marvellous flavours baked inside a metal bowl.

Kinu, an orange-like citrus fruit widely grown in India’s Punjab region, also happens to be the Bawa family’s nickname for Kirn. A decorative ceiling feature laden with kinu fruit is one of her personal touches.

“Honestly, the name didn’t even come about until the very end,” she says, noting it emerged in a brainstorming session with a marketing consultant, after most decisions about the restaurant’s format had already been made.


While the goal was to create an identity for Kinu separate from its parent restaurant, Kirn says, it was important to recognize and respect Sizzling Tandoor by keeping some traditional Indian dishes on the menu, such as its popular butter chicken.

“However, that is not the main direction of this restaurant, so we now have a few new dishes that come from all over India. About 70 per cent of our menu is creative and new and is going to continue to evolve. We’ll gain new customers from that, and we’ll lose some old customers.”

Kirn recognizes it will take time to acquaint people with the new concept and menu, especially those very familiar with the reputation of Sizzling Tandoor.

She is overflowing with ideas for the space, from cultivating a cafe feel, where people drop in for a beverage, a snack or both, to reinstating the popular buffet lunch for people in the Uptown neighbourhood on a set break time. She also envisions hosting high tea, engagement receptions, rehearsal dinners, weekend brunch events and more.

“It’s taken a lot of different people to bring this to life,” she says of the collaborative approach to Kinu. “It’s such a positive team environment, just so enjoyable, and it really allows us to cross-train and be more successful with our operations … I’m just super happy and proud to be taking these next steps.”

Kinu is open daily for dinner, on the Highway 1 side at Uptown beside H&M. Find out more at or visit @flavoursofkinu on Instagram.