NO fancy or rich settings but just a plain and simple restaurant that offers some of the finest Indian dishes in town, Arati Vilas is the go-to traditional Indian restaurant for all.
Having been around for 30 years now, Arati Vilas has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the early 1990s when they only used to sell ‘chapati’, ‘mutton peratal and varuval’, ‘chicken peratal and varuval’ and potato sambal.
The proprietors of Arati Vilas, R. Vengdesparan, 59, and Philomena Joseph, 55, are a husband and wife team who are affectionately known as Vendass and Mena among their staff and customers.
The restaurant’s roots trace back to Philomena’s in-laws, Rajalingam Pillai and Sivanayagi, who initiated the business in Pulau Tikus many years ago.
“When my father-in-law fell ill, my husband stepped in to take over the food business after resigning from his cargo company job in Bayan Lepas.
“This prompted our move to our current location and my husband decided to name our shop, Arati Vilas, which means ‘symbol of light.’
“We started very small by selling simple dishes, and after a couple of years of being recognised by the community in Tanjung Bungah, we decided to diversify our dishes.
“My mother-in-law has played a pivotal role as the main cook until she got sick lately. Credit goes to her for imparting invaluable culinary skills. Through her teachings, we, the family members, are doing a pretty good job continuing her incredible work in the kitchen.
“Back then, I already had an interest in cooking but did not have the right skills. It was during this time that my mother-in-law became a key figure in nurturing and honing my culinary skills.
“My late father-in-law was equally a good cook too.
“During the early days of our business here, we struggled a lot, especially trying to make ends meet.
“However in 1995, after officially opening its doors, the restaurant’s fortunes improved and Arati Vilas started to attract a larger customer base,” Philomena told Buletin Mutiara during an exclusive interview at the restaurant in Tanjung Bungah today.
Located along the rugged coastline in the northeast district on the island, Arati Vilas did indeed bring light to the people in the vicinity, creating a friendly environment to eat, chill and have fun, and at the same time, enjoy some form of light sea breeze.
Currently employing 10 staff members, the front-of-house team ensures a warm and inviting atmosphere while family members and several kitchen staff uphold the culinary traditions.
Meanwhile, Buletin Mutiara took the opportunity to speak with a couple of loyal customers, who were there earlier to better understand their views about the restaurant.
Gordon, who hails from Northeast England, has established a close relationship with the owners over the course of more than a decade of patronage at the restaurant.
“Vendass is a highly motivated person, and his charity-driven character makes him even more special than he already is.
“I am charity-driven myself, and during the Covid-19 pandemic, Vendass and I had a golden opportunity to work closely to prepare food for the needy.
“We will be more than happy to continue with this cause with Vendass and his people here,” Gordon said.
Another customer, who wished to remain anonymous, has been coming to the restaurant for 20 years.
“The restaurant is clean, and the food presentation is always done exceptionally well.
“I come here so often that some people have questioned my ethnicity (if I was Chinese or Indian).
“My wife and I never get tired of coming back here. There are times that I make multiple visits to have my meals, and that shows my loyalty to this shop.
“Moreover, the people here are friendly, and it is so easy to look for a parking space here,” he said.
When asked about the essential skills needed to excel in this business, Philomena emphasised the importance of patience, hard work and genuine interest.
“These three key attributes cannot work individually, but it should be done collectively,” she added.
Arati Vilas opens every day from 9am to 10pm, with the exception of Mondays when it remains closed.
Story by Kevin Vimal
Pix by M.Vekenesvaran