Frozen food forbidden in Indian restaurant

By Jessica Brown, @BrownJessicaJ

An emphasis on crisp ingredients at Reema’s Indian Cuisine has kept the customers coming since it opened in July 2013.

Ramneesh Prabhakar, owner and manager of the restaurant, said he is always looking for ways to set his establishment apart from competitors.

Reema’s, located on the Strip at 709 S. Illinois Ave., creates most food from scratch, such as the naan bread, yogurt, samosas and paneer, an Indian cheese.

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“The freshness of the food brings success,” Prabhakar, 46, said.

The restaurant opens at 11:30 each morning. It then closes from 2 to 5 p.m. every day except for Friday, when it closes from 3 to 5 p.m. It then reopens until 9 p.m.

During the break in operations, the restaurant is cleaned thoroughly and ingredients are delivered from St. Louis or Chicago.

“We know that we could be getting business within those hours,” he said. “But we don’t compromise.”

Reema’s waitress Haley Hodgson, a junior studying social work, knows this all too well, as she often helps carry in the ingredients.

“They usually come by the carload,” she said.

Despite the large amount of food in the shipments, there are few leftovers.

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“We don’t really have much extra,” said Hodgson, who has worked at the establishment for a year. “They’re pretty precise with getting the right amount.”

Food not sold at the end of the day cannot be reused. If Indian food is not prepared fresh, it doesn’t taste right, Prabhakar said.

Leftover food is either used for the employees’ meals or discarded, said waitress Brennan McMillen, a senior studying fashion design merchandising.

Taste is not the only important factor of the food, Prabhakar said. He said health benefits play a role as well. But Beth Michaels, a dietitian at Southern Illinois Healthcare, said the claim of increased health is questionable.

“There’s very little, if any, nutrient loss simply by decreasing a food’s temperature to freezing point,” Michaels said. “What really matters is whether or not any additional alterations were done to the food prior to freezing, such as heat-treating or adding preservatives.”

A definite advantage to having fresh food over frozen, however, is taste and quality.

“When frozen food is thawed, it can be a little watery,” Michaels said. “This can give the food a different texture and flavor.”

Reema’s food is spread solely by word of mouth. Because of this, Prabhakar depends on customer satisfaction.

Aja Garmen, a freshman from Springfield studying cinema and photography, said the spices make the restaurant authentic.

“It was my first experience with Indian food,” Garmen said. “I’ve eaten at other Indian restaurants afterward, and Reema’s is definitely my favorite.”

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