Austin’s First Nepalese Restaurant, Saffron, Serves a Fascinating Fusion
Welcome to the capital of Texas, where tacos, margaritas, Frito pies, Mexican martinis, queso, and barbecue rule the culinary scene. So when there’s a new kid on the block, everyone is curious to give it a shot. It takes a brave pioneer to enter such a competitive market, but there is always a first time for everything. Owner and Nepalese native Phiniso Tashi brings twelve years of restaurant experience from across the United States, and was the mastermind behind Saffron, a Nepalese, Indian, and Himalayan restaurant with very big boots to fill. Located in Far West Boulevard in northwest Austin, Saffron replaced Indian Palace which was a local favorite for decades. A lunch buffet is served from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for about $10. The buffet line has a wide selection of dishes. I suggest starting with the Nepalese potato salad. Most of the dishes are spicy, but on the mild side.
As far as beverages, request a Masala Iced Tea. It has an interesting bitter kick with sort of an aromatic incense aftertaste. This is vegetarian paradise to enjoy slices of naan to accompany the mixed vegetable pakodas, channa masala and saag paneer. Popular Indian curry dishes are also available. I was surprised to learn there were three executive chefs behind the scenes specializing in Indian, Nepalese and Pandoori cuisine. The simultaneous creations of masterpieces were the main reason why the culinary fusion is authentic, balanced, and blend successfully. The chef’s choices are: the Nepalese style pan-fried chicken pot stickers called Kathmandu Kothey Momo, and a Nepalese Portobello Choila assembled with mushrooms, raw spices with a hint of virgin mustard oil. My top dish on the menu was the chicken lollipop: Frenched chicken drumlettes marinated in soy, spices, herbs, and grilled to perfection with a mustard dipping sauce. It is on the spicy side, very colorful, crunchy from the outside, and juicy on the inside.
Mr. Tashi’s decision to choose Austin was a strategic location to cater to an open-minded population who will give his native cuisine a chance. Congratulations sir, you were absolutely correct!