Lavanya Mahate is a remarkable woman. Does she sleep? It doesn’t seem so. The founder of East India Pantry, Biscotts and Saffron Valley is constantly on the go, overseeing her various business ventures, which now includes a new Saffron Valley restaurant in Sugar House. The newest sibling to Mahate’s South Jordan and Avenues Saffron Valley locations, the new eatery on 21st South is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood. And, with plenty of free off-street parking, getting in and out of the restaurant is a cinch.
Among Mahate’s passions is her mission to spread the richness of Indian culture and cuisine among Utahns, one forkful at a time. It’s a delectable adventure that takes her customers on a regional tour of Indian cuisines from Kashmir to Kerala and Goa to Manpur. And, as is certainly the case with the food at Saffron Valley, the decor and ambiance is vibrant and dazzling as well. Prussian blue banquettes with napkins to match contrast with warm golden hues in this contemporary, comfy eatery.
At lunchtime, the Sugar House Saffron Valley restaurant offers a traditional Indian combination platter called thali. It’s a terrific way to enjoy a wide range of Indian flavors and typically includes roti, dal, rice, salad, dessert and an array of main dish options such as curries and vegetarian dishes – all for about 10 bucks.
A specially of Saffron Valley is dosa, a savory rice and lentil crepe filled with tasty stuffings like spiced minced lamb with turmeric mashed potatoes; chicken tikka; spiced grated paneer and caramelized onions; or the masala ghee dosa filled with green peas and potatoes. I also really love the Indian rice casseroles called biryanis, especially gosht biryani, which is locally-raised slow-cooked goat with zafran rice, nuts, cream, spices and saffron.
Since Saffron Valley is located across the street from a church, there is no wine, beer or other boozy libations to be had. But there are lots of chai choices, fountain drinks, teas and refreshing homemade lassi drinks. I needed all of my strawberry lassi (a yogurt-based smoothie, of sorts) to help extinguish the fire of the laal maas I ordered – an incendiary (but painfully delicious!) lamb curry made with kashmiri red chilies. At the opposite end of the heat spectrum is fairly mild but boldly flavorful shrimp malai curry: tender sauteed prawns in a creamy cashew sauce. And of course, traditional curry dishes like chicken tikka masala, vindaloo, and chicken coconut curry are crowd favorites.
Vegetarians will be pleased with the non-meat options on the Saffron Valley menu, including tempting items like Hyderabadi baingan – baby eggplant braised in ginger, tamarind, coconut and sesame sauce; or a cumin-spiked dish of okra tossed with onion, garlic and ginger.
Grilled selections include juicy lamb chops marinated in fenugreek, yogurt and spices; the salmon tikka kebab with ginger, garlic and fenugreek flavors; or the Mixed Kebab Platter – a sampler of chicken tikka, paneer kebab, bharwan aloo,and salmon kebab – perfect for sharing.
Since she is tireless and committed to spreading fantastic flavors throughout the Wasatch Front, I’m eagerly awaiting Lavanya Mahate’s next move. A curry-fried chicken joint, perhaps? Who knows? But stay tuned here to find out.