Saffron Modern Indian Dining will debut June 4 in the Third Ward, combining traditional Indian flavors with contemporary plating and cooking techniques from beyond India.
Saffron will open at 223 N. Water St., where there will be a full bar and riverside patio for alfresco dining, as well as a dining room that seats approximately 60 people.
Reservations can be made through OpenTable from Monday, but are not required.
Rivalry Bar’s most recently held space.
“It was very bar-esque. … Everything was very dark,” Fatima Kumar said. “That’s not the look we were going for here.”
She owns and operates Saffron with her husband, Hanish. His brother and sister-in-law, Manish and Amrita Kumar from New York, are partners in the restaurant.
The restaurant, in a historic building with Cream City brick walls, now has a white quartz counter and a custom wood paneled back bar with gold accents.
White, blue, teal, antique gold and dark wood appear throughout the restaurant, Kumar said. One wall has a custom mural by Jenny Vyas; other walls are decorated with large mirrors and sconces.
Likely in a year or so, Saffron will open additional dining space on the lower level of the restaurant, Kumar said.
The Saffron menu
The dishes on the menu will be prepared with traditional Indian spices and flavors, and the restaurant has a tandoor oven for bread and other dishes. But the dishes will also be prepared in a way not usually associated with Indian cuisine, Kumar said.
Some of the menu items include shredded tandoori chicken bao rolls, one of the small plates and butter chicken main courses made with smoked chicken and a red pepper and tomato sauce, as well as Malay lamb chops brined with cardamom and baked in the tandoor.
Admission prices range from around $24 to $32.
The menu will offer nut-free, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, including gluten-free bread.
“We try to be as inclusive as possible to all dietary needs,” Kumar said.
The Safran bar
Most of the bar’s cocktails and soft drinks will use fresh juices, Kumar said, adding that Saffron’s head bartender created the drinks for the restaurant.
One drink, for example, will combine cardamom-infused mezcal with ginger, carrot juice, maple syrup, lime, and black bitters.
Another is basically a pisco sour made with tangy, nutty green mango; the drink is vegan, using aquafaba instead of the traditional egg white.
Old-Fashioned Saffron, meanwhile, blends vanilla-infused Bourbon with demerara sugar, Trinity bitters, and Apologue saffron liqueur.
Kumar said Saffron takes inspiration from upscale Indian restaurants in New York and elsewhere where she and her husband have dined.
“We love food and we love these places to eat. We just wanted to bring that to Milwaukee,” Kumar said.
The menu will be displayed on safranmke.com. Take-out and delivery will be via the Toast online ordering platform.
Safran will be open for lunch and dinner from June 4, closed only on Mondays. Its hours will be 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, and it will likely be nonstop on Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., staff permitting, Kumar said.