Forty years ago, Shaun Mehtani’s parents opened Moghul, their first restaurant, in Manhattan. With no industry experience, Sneh and Satish Mehtani focused on catering to the large Indian community that was new to the area in the 70s and 80s.
In 1990, the Mehtanis opened a second Moghul location in Edison, and eventually moved their business full-time to New Jersey. After launching the Mehtani Restaurant Group, they opened Ming, a Pan-Asian spot, next door to Moghul. More restaurants followed.
“They both had a very immigrant, can-do mentality,” says Shaun Mehtani, the second-generation owner of Mehtani Restaurant Group.
Mehtani joined the family business—and a new business partner, Kamal Arora of Arora Hospitality, who had joined two years prior—in 2006. Mehtani focuses on the fine-dining establishments, while Arora manages the fast-casual spots and catering.
After nearly 20 years in Edison, Moghul and Ming recently received makeovers, trading original décor for a more modern setting. Both restaurants also added new menu items, focusing on Asian and Indo-Chinese dishes, as Mehtani likes to call them.
“It’s great to carry on the legacy my parents started,” Mehtani says. “We’re excited to freshen up our brands and give our customers something new.”
What brought your parents to New Jersey?
Shaun Mehtani: My parents were always a big part of their community. In the 70s and 80s, a lot of doctors were coming over [to the U.S.] from India, and toward the late 90s, they began moving to New Jersey from New York. My parents opened a second location of Moghul in Edison. Eventually, the Manhattan restaurant closed and we started making New Jersey our home base, [with] Ming opening next door to Moghul in Edison. They wanted to establish a place where all kinds of people can enjoy authentic Indian food.
Did you always plan to take over the business?
When I was younger, I always helped with the business and in the restaurants. My parents never put pressure on me to take over the business. They let me choose my own path, but it ended up leading me here. I didn’t have any traditional training, but I had very hands-on training. I’m 38 years old and have probably had 39 years of training, because my mom said I’ve been trained for this since I was in the womb!
What did you learn from your parents?
Managing stress. Every day is not perfect, but everything is sorted and cleared by the next morning. There are so many issues that can happen, but they taught me to take a deep breath at the end of the day and just get ready for tomorrow.
What sparked the renovations at Moghul and Ming?
My parents also taught me that the customer just wants to be understood. That’s really why we did these new renovations. Customers’ tastes and desires change over time, so we felt the need to evolve as a brand.
What changes did you make?
As far as the kitchen, we present an Indian-Chinese version of food. India and China share a border, and the cuisines on both sides have a lot of similarities. We brought in some more items that aren’t as traditionally rich, so that [meant] more grilled items, steamed items and things like skewers and dim sum, that appeal to that Indian and Asian customer. We also have new private dining rooms, lounge areas and a much more modern look.
What has the reaction been?
The new menu debuted December 10. We were very busy through the holidays and new year. A lot of customers are blending our old items with new ones, and supplementing their favorite meals with something new.
What are you most looking forward to?
We have families who say, “I got married at Moghul in Manhattan in the 1980s,” and now they bring their granddaughter to the restaurant and sometimes great-grandkids. We’re a 40-year-old brand, and it’s wonderful to see families that have been with us since the start. It’s cool to be a part of that.