My Karma Indian Bistro is proof that there’s truth in the old saying that “timing is everything.”
Subhash Gavri was looking to open his own restaurant after years of working in other restaurants just as the Lorton area was being transformed.
“It was my dream to open a restaurant,” Gavri told Lorton Patch. “This area just happened to need an Indian restaurant.”
And the rest is history. My Karma has enjoyed good karma, in the form of a loyal following and good reviews, since it opened in February 2007. Gavri explains how the restaurant got its name this way: “Karma is a word of ancient origin meaning action or activity. It is commonly understood as a term to denote the entire cycle of cause and effect as described in the philosophies of Hinduism and Buddhism.”
Gavri’s journey to Lorton began in India. Now 47, he moved to the United States at 21 to join a brother who already lived here. “This is the land of opportunity,” is how he explained his decision to leave his native country.
Gavri could speak English, but he didn’t go to college and didn’t have many skills. He got a job as a busboy at a restaurant in Washington, D.C., then moved to another restaurant in the District where he worked his way up to manager. But he said there came a time when he felt he had learned all he could in the restaurant business and wanted to try something else, so he left to go into sales. That gave him a good background in customer service, he said.
His time in sales coincided with the development of Lorton, coming after the closure of the District of Columbia’s prison in 2001. Shops and restaurants were opening to serve the new residents who were moving into the new neighborhoods that were springing up nearby. One of those shopping centers was the Lorton Station Marketplace, where My Karma found a home.
“This popped up and now was the time to open a restaurant,” Gavri said.
It was an exciting time to strike out, he said, and business was good from the start. Unassuming from the outside, My Karma is modern and sleek on the inside, with rich red curtains and large mirrors on the walls framed in black wood. Touches of India come from large, bright photographs, including those of a woman’s beautifully hennaed hand and another striking a yoga pose.
Gavri is a constant presence at My Karma, “bell to bell,” he said. His wife helps manage the restaurant in the evenings and waits tables, while other family members care for the couple’s two young children.
Gavri is not surprised by My Karma’s success. “I knew the area. I did my homework,” he said. He also credits the quality of the food, which is made to order, the reasonable prices and the decent-sized portions. “We don’t cut corners,” he said.
9429 Lorton Market Square, 703-372-1888. Open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner. Closed Mondays. Lunch buffet served daily. Prices: $9.95 to $17.95 for entrees.
Gavri’s favorite dishes: Kadai chicken (kadai is the Indian name for a wok), butter chicken (succulent cubes of boneless chicken cooked in a creamy tomato sauce) and rogan josh (aromatic lamb curry originated from northern India in a yoghurt and tomato sauce).
If Indian food is new to you, try the butter chicken and mughlai curry (lightly spiced, with various fresh herbs). Something you may not expect on the menu: Indian-style Chinese (a nod to the influence of neighboring China). Gavri likes the chilli chicken, Manchurian (vegetable, chicken or shrimp fritters sautéed in dark soy sauce with onions, peppers and spices) and hakka noodles (pan fried noodles sauteed with spices and herbs, your choice of vegetable, chicken or shrimp.)