For 30-year-old Ninder Josan, cooking is in the blood.
It's been a family business since he was boy, all he's ever really known really.
He learned his mother's "true" recipes for Indian food, and now has brought his skills and passion to downtown Santa Barbara.
On Monday, Josan opened "Apna," which means "Ours," at 718 State St.
"Indian food has a bad reputation for being too spicy," Josan told Noozhawk. "True Indian food is flavorful. I love cooking Indian food."
Josan opened the restaurant with his brother, Kuldeep Singh, 35. The family owns two other restaurants, Saffron in Newbury Park and Tantra in Oak Park.
The brothers had always been looking for a spot in Santa Barbara, and came across the restaurant in commercial listings. The previous occupants, Goa Taco, decided to vacate and move back to Australia.
Recognizing the popularity of Goa Taco, Josan decided to keep some of the dishes, including the Paratha tacos, with pork belly, tofu and pesto. He also plans to bring back the duck and tuna. He hired two of Goa Taco's cooks
He began with a soft opening on Monday and slowly plans to ramp up over the summer. He intends to install art on the walls and replace some of the seating.
Josan cooks all of the Indian dishes, including his specialties, such as the Nirvana curry with chopped red onions, bell peppers and coconut milk. He also specializes in Indian fusion, such as his curry waffle fries and butter chicken with tomato sauce.
In addition to his traditional Indian cuisine, Josan said he plans to add seafood to the menu.
"We are a beach town; seafood needs to be on the menu," Josan said.
The space does not have a history of long tenancy. In the past 10 years, it has been home to Fatburger, Killer B Barbecue, Goa Taco and several other businesses
Josan is confident that Apna has a long future on the block. He encourages people to come in and try the food.
"It's really rewarding to see an empty plate," he said, "or to hear a compliment. "
The restaurant also serves beer, including Indian versions, and wine, and is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily.
Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.