“Today’s Special”
Published: Nov. 19, 2010

Mumbai-born, British-raised Mandvi won an Obie for his 1998 one-man show Sakina’s Restaurant and has graced numerous movies (The Mystic Masseur, Spider-Man 2, It’s Kind of a Funny Story), but he’s best-known here as a correspondent for The Daily Show. Refreshingly, Mandvi and ex–Daily Show scribe Jonathan Bines relegate snark to the back burner in their screenplay for Today’s Special, an intimately scaled domestic comedy that, like a well-spiced meal, gradually radiates warmth without overwhelming its main ingredients.

Mandvi stars as Samir, a sous-chef in a trendy Manhattan bistro who eyes Paris after losing a promotion. But then his disapproving father (Patel) suffers a heart attack and Samir takes over the family’s rundown Indian eatery in Queens, while mom (Merchant-Ivory alumna Jaffrey, author of more than two dozen cookbooks) continues her online search for her son’s potential bride, unaware that his blond, doe-eyed colleague Weixler is a contender. Upstaging them all is Bollywood veteran Shah (Monsoon Wedding) in a sly turn as an earthy cabbie of many talents who steers Samir’s restaurant to new popularity.

Cinematographer David Tumblety works his mojo with saffron and cinnamon hues as events heat up inside the kitchen (and out), while director Kaplan avoids the traps of a recognizable formula by keeping things trim without skimping on flavor or soul.