Lavanya Mahate has done it again. This restaurateur is never comfortable resting on her laurels. Known for not shying away from a challenge, Mahate has not only pioneered another unique Indian restaurant, serving her award-winning family recipes, but she revitalized a corner of Sugar House that had been an eyesore for years.
Saffron Valley in Sugar House is the restaurant’s third location, but it has many unique offerings that sets it apart from its sister establishments. The most notable is the debut of thali-style dining. These beautifully round-plated samplings of traditional Indian foods include roti (flat bread), dal (simmered lentils), brown or white rice and sabzi—a dish made up of many combinations of vegetables and spices, which can be either sweet or spicy, along with your choice of dessert.
“Thali has been the traditional way of serving Indian food at home in India for centuries and something that was exclusive to our Sugar House restaurant,” Mahate says. “We wanted to serve authentic Indian food, but elevated. Indian food is a combination of spicy, sour, sweet and pungent that gives you a guessing feeling of what flavor is coming next. I think our menu really captures that.”
Also introduced on the menu are signature curries from the north, south and west of India. Chicken coconut curry, laal maas (lamb) and butter chicken are all deliciously crafted along with the specific spice blends used in each dish. The biryani selections (rice casseroles) are made using a distinctive technique of layering a sheet of naan dough on top and slow cooking the dish to seal in all the flavors. Cracking open this dish presents a gust of steam and aromas, a pleasure for all the senses. Many vegan and vegetarian dishes have been added to the menu. The garlic okra has become very popular, and the eggplant dish, hyderabadi baingan, is a favorite among diners.
The old corner building that now is home to the new Saffron Valley has housed an array of businesses over the years, but most recently sat vacant. Mahate enlisted MJSA Architecture to translate her vision of creating a space that is reminiscent of an Indian spice market, with vibrant colors and textures. The result is a bright, warm and comfortable space with mixed metals, wood tables and hand-painted mandalas adorning the walls.
The new location has private and semi-private dining areas for special occasions, meetings or events. There is also unused space adjacent to the restaurant where Mahate plans to create an Indian cooking school with free culinary training for underserved youth.
“This is an opportunity for us to bring all our businesses together,” Mahate says. “We have products from our spice store Dhanya, bakery items and chai from Biscotts, and the foods from the Saffron Valley restaurants. It is unique that we brought these three things under one roof and created an Indian marketplace environment, that is not only a restaurant, but is a place where people can fall in love with Indian food—that is our ultimate goal.”
Saffron Valley Sugar House
479 E. 2100 South, SLC