Mystic — The story of Mystic Royal Restaurant opening earlier this month is one that involves winning the visa lottery, a family history of cooking, a food truck, inspiration from Guy Fieri and Bobby Flay, and a lot of herbs.
Stonington couple Sheuli and Abir Solaiman, who immigrated from Bangladesh to the United States more than a decade ago, opened their international Halal fusion restaurant at 35 Williams Ave., across the street from Sea Swirl.
Sheuli Solaiman, who has been operating the SPICY Fusion food truck, said her goal with Mystic Royal is to introduce people to more herbs and spices. She defined fusion cuisine by saying they “take authentic recipes, then we change it our way.”
The signature dishes on the menu are Wedding Chicken Roast, Wedding Beef Rejala, Mint Lamb Curry and Native Style Bangkok Shrimp. She said her mother also works at Mystic Royal and is particularly good at making the Wedding Beef Rejala, which is beef marinated with 16 types of herbs and spices, yogurt and pepper, and then cooked for three to five hours.
Another popular dish is the Chicken Korma, which, like the Wedding Chicken Roast, features saffron milk, garam masala and ghee, which is clarified butter. Other options include kabobs, curries, fried rice, wraps and bibimbap, a Korean rice bowl.
Customers can call Mystic Royal to place an order for takeout, or get delivery through Doordash, Grubhub or Uber Eats. Mystic Royal is primarily takeout, with just eight seats inside, but Sheuli is still decorating and would like to add outdoor seating.
Drawing inspiration from Bangladesh and the Food Network
For the Solaimans, both in their 30s, immigrating to the U.S. in 2009 was literally winning the lottery.
Sheuli said she had applied to the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which issues 50,000 visas a year to immigrants from what the U.S. Department of State defines as “countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.”
“I was the lucky girl,” she said. And she didn’t believe it at first: Until she got a second letter, she thought it might be fraud.
Bangladesh became ineligible to participate in the program in 2012, because it sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the previous five years. The U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh warns, “Beware of Diversity Immigrant Visa Scammers!”
Sheuli was unmarried when she applied but married to Abir by the time she was selected, and they were both able to immigrate. Her joke is that this is their honeymoon and it just never ended. They now have two kids, ages 8 and 5.
Sheuli said they first moved to New York City, where she worked in her uncle’s restaurant. Faced with a high cost of living, the Solaimans left for Connecticut after a few months, and they began working at a Shell gas station in Stonington.
Sheuli started watching Food Network at night and was inspired by Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay and Gordon Ramsey — and The Great Food Truck Race. She got her ServSafe certification and took some classes.
She started the SPICY Fusion food truck in 2013 and said the first two years were rough, but she got help from Ebbie and Adam Young. Ebbie Young had been the tasting room manager and events coordinator at Stonington Vineyards before leaving about a year ago to focus on the burgeoning family business, which now includes Sift Bake Shop, Mix Rooftop & Bar and Young Buns Doughnuts.
Young said that when she started doing events in 2014, she saw the desire for food trucks at the vineyard, and Sheuli was a hard worker who was “always on time, serving up great food.”
“It was a great amenity to have for us, because she delivers some really unique, delicious food that you really can’t find a lot of places, so it was something special you could find at the vineyard,” Young said. She also commented, “She’s the kind of person you just want to see be a success.”
In the past few years, Sheuli also started taking SPICY Fusion to Preston Ridge Vineyard and then Saltwater Farm Vineyard.
Sheuli would like to open the food truck for the season in addition to the restaurant but said she has already canceled an event because she has been unable to find employees, a problem that is widespread in the food industry. Further in the future, her goal is to expand Mystic Royal into Groton and Westerly.