‘Semma’, headed by chef Vijaya Kumar, is currently the only Michelin-starred South Indian restaurant in New York City, as per Bon Appetit.

The name ‘Semma’ is a colloquial Tamil word for awesome or superb, which perfectly describes the restaurant.

The year-old restaurant is run by hospitality group Unapologetic Foods led by Roni Mazumdar and Chintan Pandya.

Here, guests are requested to keep their forks and spoons aside, and encouraged to eat with their hands, just as traditional South Indian cuisine is supposed to be enjoyed.

The food pays homage to the chef’s upbringing and the cuisine he enjoyed in his childhood.

Kumar told The New York Times, “We are completely focusing on true Southern Indian food, exactly how we grew up eating it back home.”

Their motto is simple — ‘Move away from the Eurocentric vision of Indian food, and present food with authentic flavours, as they are cooked at our houses’.

One of the hero dishes on the menu is the nathai pirattal (snail masala), a tribute to Kumar’s grandmother.

Growing up, Kumar would visit his grandparents in Arasampatti near Madurai during the holidays. He would spend his day foraging for snails, which his grandmother would cook in a gravy form for dinner.

Not just the snail delicacy, but the entire menu is derived from Kumar’s childhood memories.

For instance, the kudal varuval (goat intestines), meen pollichathu (fish), nandu masala (crab), and of course, Dindigul biryani, dosas and pesarattu.

“One of the reasons for the success of Semma is Vijay’s vulnerability. You truly get the chef’s perspective in his food,” says Roni.

“He has bared his soul. It is because he has owned who he is, and it’s liberating. We don’t have to fit into someone else’s rules.”