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One of the country’s best Indian restaurants is in a Virginia mall, just don’t order chicken tikka masala

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.”

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Places Mentioned on the Podcast
Lehja
Nawab Indian Cuisine
Short Pump Town Center
Acacia
ZZQ
Jason Alley
Jimmy Snead
Dale Ritzer
Mel Oza
Eat It, Virginia!
Robey Martin
Scott Wise

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