Status: Soft opened last Tuesday
Saffron, the fast-casual Indian restaurant that downtowners have grown to love, opened its second location earlier this week on Beverly Drive. Never heard of it? The whole thing started when Peter Stris and his wife, Radha Pathak, found themselves driving to Artesia and even upstate California for Indian food that satisfied their authentic tastes. There are only a handful of places in Los Angeles that make fresh mango lassis, chutneys and North Indian curries, and at so many Indian restaurants, the sauces are watered down or the flavors are unpronounced. Though neither of them have any prior restaurant experience, partners Stris and (operations and business development guru) Ben Karlin dove head first into Saffron, taking advice from Pathak's family and business friends along the way, and now, less than two years later, they have opened their second location.
The Saffron Downtown and in Beverly Hills offer the same menu. Developed by Executive Chef Bhupender Singh, the menu is full of familiar dishes like Tikka Masala, Saag Paneer and Samosas. Singh owns three fine-dining Indian restaurants, one of which is the highly acclaimed Ambrosia Indian Bistro in Monterey. Taking Singh's highly elaborate cuisine down to the level of a fast-casual concept wasn't easy, says Stris, "he wants to do daily specials, he'd love to feature lamb." But for right now, the concept is a small, easily accessible menu of vegetarian or chicken curries. Tandoori Chicken features prominently as well, with a Tandoori Chicken Salad to satisfy the salad lovers, and a Tandoori Chicken Platter that comes with a fresh mixed vegetable salad or relish called kachumber. The ordering system is fairly straightforward: Stand at the queue in front of the registers, pick up a menu, choose from among the eight curries and stews, pick between bowl of basmati rice or on a plate with rice and salad. You will be given a number which you take to your table, and then you wait for your food to arrive. Chutneys and sauces are freshly made daily and are self-serve near the beverage station. Mango lassis, made each morning from fresh fruit, are lined up in the beverage case.
Poon Design, an architectural firm located in Beverly Hills, took on the task of designing Saffron. They've been in the news before -- won some awards even -- and are no strangers to the fast-casual concept. When Saffron made the move to take over the Marty D's space on Beverly Drive, Poon moved right in to outfit the space accordingly. Principal Anthony Poon said that they wanted to "honor the Indian legacy in a modern way." What does that look like? Think tandoori red/orange walls, plenty of white, eco-friendly paperstone counters and wall graphics by Pasadena-based design firm Oringe. A major element in the space is the henna wall, a custom wall light fixture patterned to look like traditional henna patterns. During the daytime, it's like a shiny wall sculpture, but at night it casts a cool glow over the dining area. While the downtown location is only open for lunch business, Saffron Beverly Hills is open seven days a week from 11AM until 10PM. Further plans for expansion? Saffron's popularity has created demand even further west and Stris says they are looking at locations in El Segundo and Manhattan Beach.
Additional Reading: Plywood Report, 5/3
Additional Photos: Eater LA Flick Page