THE 2019 JAMES BEARD AWARD SEMIFINALISTS
BYThe James Beard Foundation
Date Posted:27th February 2019
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Joey Baldino, Zeppoli, Collingswood, NJ
Sandeep “Sunny” Baweja, Lehja, Richmond, VA
Jamilka Borges, The Independent Brewing Company, Pittsburgh
Amy Brandwein, Centrolina, Washington, D.C.
Erik Bruner-Yang, Brothers and Sisters, Washington, D.C.
Kristin Butterworth, Lautrec, Farmington, PA
Tom Cunanan, Bad Saint, Washington, D.C.
Nicholas Elmi, Laurel, Philadelphia
Randy Forrester, Osteria Radici, Allentown, NJ
Jerome Grant, Sweet Home Café, Washington, D.C.
Haidar Karoum, Chloë, Washington, D.C.
Matthew Kern, Heirloom, Lewes, DE
Rich Landau, Vedge, Philadelphia
Cristina Martinez, South Philly Barbacoa, Philadelphia
Dan Richer, Razza Pizza Artigianale, Jersey City, NJ
Jon Sybert, Tail Up Goat, Washington, D.C.
Kevin Tien, Himitsu, Washington, D.C.
Cindy Wolf, Charleston, Baltimore
Nobu Yamazaki, Sushi Taro, Washington, D.C.
Wei Zhu, Chengdu Gourmet, Pittsburghhttps://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/the
Sample A Taste of Richmond at the Omni Richmond Hotel on April 18
Date Posted:10th April 2018
'It feels like a dream': Five Richmond restaurants recognized by 2019 James Beard Foundation Awards
Date Posted:27th February 2019
A complicated recipe: The inside dish on how Richmond restaurateurs make a menu
Date Posted:15th April 2019
Eating Around Richmond, Virginia
Date Posted:1st April 2019https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnma
One of the country’s best Indian restaurants is in a Virginia mall, just don’t order chicken tikka masala
Date Posted:29th July 2019
SHORT PUMP, Va. — One of Virginia’s finest restaurants is in what some might consider an unusual spot for a destination-worthy dining experience. But that is the case at Short Pump Town Center in far western Henrico County where Sandeep “Sunny” Baweja’s Indian restaurant Lehja delights diners and racks up awards for both its mouth-watering dishes and expertly curated wine list.
“Our first thought was either [opening] in Carytown or the Fan,” Sunny said when asked about choosing the location of his restaurant. “After looking for a location for a few months, we could not find the one which we liked. The one [we’re looking for] should have parking space and the square, the design of the restaurant is supposed to be.”
On his first trip to Short Pump Town Center, he knew he found the right place.
“[Mall management] was so excited. They wanted to bring an ethnic place to the town center and they wanted something local,” Sunny said. “It just worked out to perfection.”
On this week’s episode of Eat It, Virginia! the James Beard nominated chef talks about his childhood in India and the decisions he made as a young man that put him on the path to the United States to open Lehja — a restaurant named Richmond’s Restaurant of the Year by Richmond Magazine.
“I’m lucky this is my passion and profession at the same time,” Sunny said. “I enjoy every single thing. If I’m in the kitchen, I want to give 100 percent. If I’m at the bar, I want to make sure you tell this is the best drink… I love it all.”https://wtvr.com/2019/07/29/eat-it-
Restaurant of the Year 2017
Date Posted:27th November 2017
Proudly awarded Richmond Magazine's Restaurant of the Year in 2017. Thank you to all our supporters!
The Best at This Moment
From a modern take on a Jewish deli to a still-too-under-the-radar Indian gem at Short Pump Town Center, the 25 restaurants on this list represent the best the region has to offer right now in service, consistency and quality, as culled by our team of food writers and reviewers, who also highlighted insider tips and people you need to know.
RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR
11800 W. Broad St., Suite 910 (Short Pump Town Center), 804-364-1111
You’ll find dishes from India’s north, south, east and west, in what amounts to a dazzling armchair tour of the richness of the subcontinent’s various regions.
Owner Sunny Baweja, arguably the most gracious, engaging host in all of Richmond. Don’t be surprised if, even on the busiest night, he swings by your table.
INSIDER TIP: Richmond is rife with brunches, but none quite like this one: $20 brings three courses, including a witty, rewarding take on chicken and waffles.
Taking that friend who professes not to like Indian food. Because, as Baweja’s restaurant exuberantly demonstrates, there’s so much more to Indian food than just curries.
Lehja is one of the few places in the country where you can sample, say, a wonderful Grover Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from the Nandi Hills region.
Coconut Curry Scallops, Lahori Lamb Shank, Duck Pondicherry, Garlic Naan.http://richmondmagazine.com/restaur
REVIEW: At Lehja, Indian cuisine goes beyond Americanized staples
Date Posted:21st August 2018
If you follow food politics, you're aware of the ongoing discussion about ethnic food. The argument is that Americans tend to pay more for cuisine from European lands, but want cheap eats from browner countries like Mexico, Korea and India. This discrimination shows up in subtle distinctions like labeling food from Italy, France or Germany as international, and dismissing many Asian and Latino foods as ethnic.
Places like Enrique Olvera's Pujol in Mexico City, David Chang's Momofuku empire and Virginia's own Peter Chang chain are changing the narrative by elevating their ethnic cuisines. The dining experience is high-end, with dishes created by well-trained chefs riffing on cultural touchstones.
At Lehja, owner and executive chef Sandeep "Sunny" Baweja is enthusiastically elevating Indian food in the same way.
This is not simply high-priced curry served on fine china alongside a cloth napkin. Baweja tweaks and updates traditional preparations and ingredients from across the Indian subcontinent's many cuisines. The cocktail program is fresh and seasonal, and the extensive wine list, curated by Baweja, has won top wine-industry awards.
Always start with Lehja's chaat du jour. In India, chaat is a casual roadside snack. It's a catch-all term for an infinite number of possible ingredient combinations, traditionally including fried bread. Our savory chaat of the day blended textures, colors and flavors with crunchy bits of naan bread, puffed rice, mango, tart apple, red onion, pomegranate seeds and cilantro.
We enjoyed our chaat with a round of cocktails including the Snake Charmer, a surprising but inspired pairing of tequila and fresh ginger juice. It complemented the strong flavors of one of my favorite small plates: the gobhi manchurian. Three of us made quick work of the tender cauliflower florets fried in a rice flour batter and tossed in a tangy tomato-chili glaze.
The blue crab taka-tak successfully melds Chesapeake Bay blue crabs with a light dusting of ginger, turmeric, Himalayan rock salt and crushed pink Tellicherry pepper, spiked by bits of crunchy scallion and asparagus. This is exactly the kind of East-meets-West hybrid dish that Lehja does well.
Leaning decidedly more East, the Malvani rassa goat comes with bite-sized pieces of goat, tenderly braised on the bone. The meat stands up to the rich Malvani-style curry, which includes fresh coconut and a low-heat but complex masala, or blend, of 18 spices.
Some of the plating leaves room for improvement. The Malvani rassa goat, although delicious, is basically a bowl of red sauce, with goat pieces in the middle.
The crab scallop meljol combines two seared scallops and jumbo lump crab, flavored with an unusual combination of nigella and mace. The scallops are perfectly cooked, with the nigella adding a slight herbaceous edge to the buttery tomato sauce.
Patiala shahi lamb hanandi is a meltingly tender, slow-cooked leg of lamb, tempered by a rich green sauce of cumin, ginger, and coriander.
A vegan in our group is delighted to find many thoughtful dishes far better than half-hearted vegetable stir-fry or curry that many Asian restaurants offer. The pahadi baingan with eggplant, kale, tomatoes and fennel has depth of flavor created by the well-balanced blend of garlic, ginger, turmeric and lime combined with expert roasting.
The warm naan bread, cooked in the traditional tandoor oven, is brushed with butter. The roti — a similar style flatbread brushed with oil — is vegan friendly.
One of the true international joys of dining at Lehja is the wine list, especially if Baweja suggests the pairings. I would never have chosen the spätburgunder rosé from Germany, but I'm glad I trusted his judgment. It's much drier than traditional Provençal rosés, and that dry crispness cut nicely through the crab curry and chaat appetizers.
A full-bodied but dry German riesling from S.A. Prüm winery stands up to the strong flavors of our lamb and goat. The Sula Vineyards chenin blanc from Nashik, India, brings lighter notes to the eggplant dish.
For dessert, you can't go wrong with one of the flavorful kulfis. This traditional frozen, dairy-based Indian dessert is richer and denser than ice cream. Here, Lehja's plating shines, with a lovely molded pyramid of colored kulfi surrounded by pretty garnishes. It's the right size for one dessert lover, or two who want to share a few sweet bites after dinner.
The soft colors and banquette seating create an upscale atmosphere, but Baweja's ebullient hospitality sets the tone. He bounces from table to table, answering questions, suggesting wines and sharing stories. One of the best meals I've ever had was an off-menu private birthday party at Lehja for a friend, during which Baweja introduced every course.
The word Lehja in Urdu means accent or personal style, and the name accurately encompasses Baweja's food. This restaurant may not offer the exact dishes you know from traditional Indian food, though many recipes come from Baweja's own Punjabi background. But trust me, everyone will feel very cosmopolitan eating at Lehja. Shttps://www.styleweekly.com/richmon
A day trip to the four Richmond restaurants nominated for food's biggest prize
BYThe Virginian Pilot
Date Posted:15th March 2019
The Five Best Dishes at 2017 Sugar Land Wine and Food Affair Grand Tasting
BYThe Houston Press
Date Posted:10th April 2017
The Houston Press lists Lehja as the best of the 2017 Sugar Land Wine and Food Grand Affair:http://www.houstonpress.com/restaur
Richmond Times Dispatch picks LEHJA as the BEST Indian Restaurant
BY Richmond Times - Dispatch
Date Posted:12th October 2015
Thanks Richmond Times-Dispatch & Richmond for picking LEHJA as "The Best Indian Restaurant" and One of "The Best Restaurant Wine List" in Richmond.http://m.richmond.com/mobile_adv/th
Lehja Featured in GOOD FOOD America on Z Living TV Channel
BY Z Living
Date Posted:9th July 2015
Grammy Nominee renowned chef Danny Boome visits Lehja and tastes some
our offerings....See the video at 17th minute....
Henrico’s Worldly Restaurant Scene Unveiled
BY Henrico Now
Date Posted:7th October 2014
Lehja - "one of the best Indian Restaurants in the region..."
Richmond based Henrico Now is listing Lehja Indian Restaurant as one of Richmond’s best. This is based on a handful of awards including notoriety from the Washingtonian as “one of the best Indian restaurants outside of Richmond."http://news.henrico.com/live/henri
Lehja among 14 Must-Try Richmond Restaurants...
BY Vacation Idea Staff
Date Posted:9th July 2015
Lehja has been named as "one of the most romantic restaurants in Richmond"....http://vacationidea.com/ideas/best-
2014 Uncorked & Pairing Winner
BY Uncorked & Pairing
Date Posted:21st June 2014
Lehja's Seafood Curry paired with Cooper Cabernet won the "Uncorked & Tapped 2014" event in Richmond...http://www.richmond.com/events/coll
Lehja wins Bon Secours' Healthy Dish Award
BY Broad Appetit
Date Posted:8th June 2015
Lehja's "Mango Chana Chaat" wins Bon Secour's "Healthy Dish Award" in Broad Appetit event, Richmond, June 8, 2015http://www.broadappetit.com/
Best Places to find VA wine
BY Ash Daniel
Date Posted:20th May 2014
Lehja Indian Restaurant in Glen Allen offers some of the finest Virginia wines available including some from the Trump Winery. Lehja in Henrico County has made the Wine Spectators Award of Excellence.http://www.styleweekly.com/richmond
Egg Curry at Lehja
BY Jason Tesauro
Date Posted:18th February 2015
Lehja Magazine has made Richmond Mag’s list of great breakfast places with their authentic Egg Curry. Lehja also offers a weekend brunch that serves authentic Indian dishes.http://richmondmagazine.com/restaur
Favorites: Lehja's Goan Lamb Vin d'alho'
BY Daniel Warshaw
Date Posted:8th February 2013
I admit I have a bit of an aversion to the Far West End when it comes to food. With some bright exceptions, it’s bursting with chains, chains, and more chains. But.
Find about one Richmond reviewers delight after eating Lehja's Goan Lamb Vin d'alho'. Like all Lehja dishes, the flavor is incredible from this Indian Gourmet Restauant in Glen Allen…http://rvanews.com/features/favorit
Outside of DC’s Rasika, this might be the best Indian restaurant in the region...
BY Todd Kliman
Date Posted:11th April 2013
It is one thing to win acclaim as one of Richmond’s best restaurants, but it is another to win from publications of other cities. The Washingtonian ranks Lehja the 2nd best restaurant in the region which includes the whole DC/ Northern Virginia Metropolitan area…http://www.washingtonian.com/articl
Lehja truly is India Delicious
BY Jennifer Turner
Date Posted:12th August 2012
When one's first experience with Indian food is so stellar that it sets the bar unattainably high for any other restaurant, you know...
Here is one Richmond women’s take on her visit to Lehja. Jennifer Turner goes into deaail on how spectacular he food is.http://www.examiner.com/review/lehj
BY Open Table
Date Posted:31st October 2014
Facebook is venue for another drea revie of Lehja Indian Resauant. Chck out.https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lehj
Lehja voted among Richmond Magazine's 25 Best Restaurants
BY Richmond Magazine
Date Posted:29th October 2014https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lehj
Dining Out: Lehja Restaurant review
BYDANA CRAIG | Times-Dispatch
Date Posted:24th June 2010
For many people, myself included, being presented with an Indian restaurant's menu can bring on the beginnings of a panic attack. It's amazing how much complexity and variety can be packed into a single country's cuisine...thingstodo.timesdispatch.com/henrico-va/venues/show/2507425-lehjahttp://thingstodo.timesdispatch.com