If there’s a creative force behind New York’s trending Indian restaurant scene, it’s Hemant Mathur.
Mathur began his career as a young chef working at Taj hotels in Delhi before working on the private resort of a Pakistani politician in Mexico and Germany. He arrived in New York in 1994, long before regional Indian cuisine had taken a foothold in the city. At this time, high-end Indian cuisine was still fledgling. (Three years after Mathur arrived in New York, Danny Meyer launched [the now-defunct] Tabla, an ambitious 280-seat Indian restaurant featuring chef Floyd Cardoz.)
Mathur’s dedication to lift regional Indian cuisine to the eye level of local eaters has been rigorous and noteworthy—he made a name for himself at Tamarind, as well as former white-tablecloth Devi, which he co-owned with Suvir Saran, and most recently, Tulsi, which suddenly shuttered last summer. Currently, the Jaipur-born chef holds stake in five restaurants in the city—Chola, Chote Nawab, Dhaba, Sahib and Malai Marke.
Today, he and his wife, creative director and chef, Surbi Sahn, conceptualized to open a sixth—Saar Indian Bistro—located at 241 West 51st Street. Here, the duo imagine the “modern Indian bistro” where people come back “again and again.”
The 64-seat Saar, which translates to "essence of something" in Hindi, is styled in pinks and blues after Mathur’s hometown, which is also known as “the pink city.”
The menu emphasizes the ever-changing and multi-cultural aspects of India, featuring Parsi and Jewish Indian sub-culture cuisine with starters like cauliflower latkes and Kashmiri gucchi (morel mushroom) truffle risotto. Entrées include stir-fried Cochin black pepper chicken with coconut chutney; Kashmiri kabargah, consisting of milk-poached crispy New Zealand lamb ribs with onion, red pepper and radish relish; and cilantro-tamarind glazed tandoori tiger shrimp with rice and lentil porridge and lemon chutney. The dessert list features kaju kulfi, an Indian cashew ice cream with Tagmo chile chocolate, and unniyappam in the form of sourdough banana fritters with black pepper caramel.
Saar opens tonight for dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., but will unveil a lunch and high tea menu in the coming weeks and brunch in the summer.
Hero and interior images by Melissa Hom.
Portrait courtesy of Hemant Mathur's Facebook page.