Family drama is brewing in Brookland where Indian restaurant Masala Story opened Dec. 31. The space at 3301 12th St. NE was initially slated to be a second location of Indigo—a cozy Indian restaurant known for its vegetarian specialties and homey feel located at 243 K St. NE in NoMa.
Indigo co-owners Dinesh and Nidhi Tandon planned to collaborate with family members, including Dinesh’s sister Renuka Berry and Dinesh’s brother-in-law Manish Berry, on the new restaurant. But negotiations fell through. “They moved from India and we extended support to help them out and bring them on board, thinking that we’ll expand our Indigo family by joining hands and creating more outlets, not knowing that they had something else cooking behind our backs,” Dinesh says.
Now he says he’s considering suing his family members. When the Tandons and Berrys parted ways, Dinesh says there was an agreement that Masala Story would not replicate Indigo in any way. “I’ve sent a word out for them to change the whole thing immediately,” Dinesh says. “If not, I’ll be forced to take legal action.”
“It’s a copy and paste kind of thing,” Dinesh says. “We thought they were coming up with a different style of Indian restaurant. But on the 31st, it was quite a shock that they had plagiarized the whole thing. They copy and pasted our concept from A to Z, our menu, and some of our recipes.” He continues, “I have a shot of their menu board that I got online, and if I place it next to my menu board, you’ll see that even some terms that I use they’ve copied. It is very sad.”
Dinesh says his brother-in-law was plotting all along to take over the concept. “I was busy making the restaurant while my so-called partners were getting ideas from us.”
Renuka tells WCP that the Tandons pushed for an “unfair deal,” which caused the partnership to break down. “He felt like he had the upper hand because he was already the owner of a business, but our money was as important to us,” she says. “I’m not against him. He’s my brother and to tell you the truth, I love him very much.”
She insists there was no agreement that the concept would have to change. “If he’s so hurt, he’s never spoken to us,” Renuka says. “He should have sat down with us.” Dinesh says that the Berrys are blocking his calls and messages.
“He’ll remain my brother until I die,” Renuka says. “I understand he became successful, which is a lovely thing, but he lost his values. It has hurt us most.”
Manish does not feel like he has “copied” Indigo unfairly. “Northern Indian food is the same,” he says. “There are the same menus in restaurants in the U.S. and India.” He’s hopeful that he and his brother-in-law will be able to resolve the issues and move forward. “We are family,” Manish says. “And good luck to him [Dinesh]. God bless him and god bless me. We should be fine and do business and try to look after the neighborhood and D.C., and all the people who can come and try our Indian food.”
Masala Story, 3301 12th St. NE; facebook.com/MasalaStory.DC