Chef-restaurateur Ajay Walia has transformed the Michelin-starred Rasa into a second location for Saffron.
Like with most changes in the last two years, Rasa too was severely affected by the pandemic. Add to that the impossible standards and expectations raised by the restaurant’s Michelin recognition, and Ajay Walia decided to shut shop.
Following their last service on 8 May, the second location of his restaurant Saffron made its debut in early June. Walia’s initial motive behind opening both Saffron and Rasa was to turn the concept of all-you-can-eat Indian buffets on its head. Using only the finest ingredients to champion elevated Indian cuisine, he opened the original Saffron 20 years ago with a focus on Northern Indian dishes.
From there, the journey with Rasa began in 2014. Two years later, Chef Vijay Kumar and the team caught the eye of the Michelin judges. Rasa was awarded its first Michelin star in 2016 and has earned one every year since.
According to several interviews, Walia speaks of the menu allowing him to refocus the restaurant on the simple goal he set out two decades ago. It was all about serving delicious Indian food made with great ingredients and offer diners excellent service. He’s also said that he never imagined the restaurant would garner a Michelin star.
Once the pandemic hit, however, it became near impossible to present Rasa’s dishes in a takeout fashion. What was once meant to be a neighbourhood eatery with great South Indian cuisine was also often seen as not refined enough in a post-Michelin star world. And with Saffron still doing so great, it wasn’t long before Walia made the hard call to transform Rasa into Saffron.
The remodelled restaurant will feature a midcentury-modern design in white and oak, with larger tables to encourage group sharing of dishes, more soundproofing and more space around tables. There are also going to be fewer seats, opening up the space some more.
The menu at the new Saffron will feature dishes such as Old Delhi-style Butter Chicken, General Tso’s Cauliflower and Daal Makhani, with black lentils simmered 24 hours. However, they’ve taken care to not alienate the community that’s come to love Rasa, making sure to incorporate Southern Indian influences. So for fans of the popular Bombay Sliders, there are plenty of spiced potato fritters topped with tamarind and cilantro chutneys.
The full bar will remain too, with craft cocktails such as Thyme Me Up, Indian Air Conditioning and the Maharani. A new dessert menu is also under development at the moment. Partnering with founder Priti Narayanan of the Bay Area-based Koolfi Creamery, diners can expect an exclusive ice cream flavour for Saffron.
It’s also worth noting that the Rasa staff will stay on and become part of the new Saffron team. It’s the same team, same sensibilities, and a few of the same flavours, just in a more casual set-up.