Alhambra resident Sonny Sehmi, a Brit of Indian background, found California cuisine lacking in one crucial area: no fish and chips.
“Sonny noticed that every time we tried to get fish and chips here,” said his wife, Sage Sehmi, “he couldn’t find any flavors that were close to home.”
About a year ago the couple got their start in the restaurant business with the Ma Jasmin Indian food booth and catering service at the Alhambra’s Farmer's Market. This week their new brick-and-mortar restaurant opens in the heart of Main Street, just east of Garfield Avenue.
The restaurant and catering business are named for Sonny Sehmi's mother, Jasmin, who taught him to make traditional Punjabi dishes. Jasmin is also responsible for Sonny pursuing a culinary career, since she encouraged him to train in the restaurants where he grew up in the English Midlands.
Sehmi began making visits to Los Angeles in 1998, after his older brother married an American woman. On one trip, a colleague of his brother's caught his fancy, a young woman from a Texas cattle ranch: Sage.
As their relationship developed they chose to live together in Los Angeles, settling in Silver Lake, and then, as young newlyweds, in 2010, they moved to Alhambra. Sage Sehmi had previously enjoyed living in Alhambra when she relocated from Texas, and they both felt Los Angeles lacked the more personable character they found in Alhambra.
Coming from a farmer's market background, they didn’t want Hot Red Bus to be a typical sit-down restaurant. They designed the space so the customers order at the counter, and they encourage patrons to mix and match items on the menu.
The cuisine is neither Punjab or Midlands cuisine, but rather a blending along with some of their own creations. The menu includes a cheese and bacon topped Samosa roll with chips and curry sauce, the traditional British Indian kebab meat — lamb mixed with beef, and chicken tikka masala mixed with cabbage and pickled carrots topped with tamarind sauce. Sage, who became a vegetarian upon leaving Texas for California, also ensures there are various non-meat options on the menu.
"We aim to get folks to enjoy their eating experience,” she said. “We truly love the food we make.”
Hot Red Bus is located at 31 East Main Street. It is open from 11 am – 10 pm Tuesday – Sunday, and is closed on Mondays. The phone number is 626-576-2877.