Since last summer, we've been hearing buzz about how Suvir Saran, the first chef to earn a Michelin star for an Indian restaurant in America, is leaving New York for our city on the Bay. Well, it's finally happening. The New Dehli native is moving into the increasingly popular Mid-Market corridor with a still-unnamed restaurant, and adjacent bar and lounge, slated to open this fall. His first restaurant on the West Coast will come into in the NEMA building (14 10th Street), across the street from Twitter.
Along with earning the first Michelin star for an Indian restaurant in America, while at Devi in New York, Saran has appeared on Top Chef Masters and penned several cookbooks. Saran's most recent book, Masala Farm, focuses on the upstate New York farm where he’s been spending much of his time since leaving Devi last year. This ethos will show up in the new restaurant with a seasonal approach as part of the operating plan. Bay Area Bites caught up with Saran recently. His comments have been edited for content and clarity.
Bay Area Bites: Tell us about your new restaurant.
Saran: My new project will be at 10th and Market, in San Francisco’s NEMA building. The overall concept is my version of California cuisine, a reflection of my Indian birth as well as flavors from the countries I have traveled. The staff will be a mosaic of hospitable people from all walks of life; a grouping that echoes the population of San Francisco, as well as the complexity of my food.
When I first moved to New York, I lived in Greenwich Village and frequented the nearby Meatpacking District, which at that time was a forgotten part of the city. Over the years I saw the Meatpacking District go through a transformation, becoming the city’s ‘most fashionable’ neighborhood. I see a similarity between San Francisco’s Mid-Market area now and New York City’s Meatpacking District from the 1990s, and am excited to invest in this community’s revitalization and give San Francisco another wonderful restaurant to enjoy.
The restaurant will offer something for everyone: a welcoming and comforting environment with the main focus always being that of serving delicious and memorable food and drinks to our guests. Our goal is to have the overall experience linger on your taste buds long after you leave our doors.
Bay Area Bites: Do you have a name for the spot yet?
Saran: Currently, we are deciding between two or three and will be choosing one in the next few weeks.
Bay Area Bites: What are some of your new menu favorites so far?
Saran: Fried chicken – a crispy, crunchy fried chicken with a fountain of juicy aromatics. Grandmother’s cornbread – once you have had this cornbread you won’t want any other. Walnut, pepper and sumac spread. Spicy cabbage with peanut ginger slaw – turns humans into goats while endlessly grazing.
We'll also have Rose Levy Beranbaum’s favorite biscuits, served with house-made jams, jellies and marmalades. The Pie and Pastry Bible author has called these the ‘best biscuits she has ever had.’
Bay Area Bites: How will this be different from Devi?
Saran: Devi was my tribute to the home-cooking of India. This new project will showcase my love affair with the produce and meats found in San Francisco and will bring to life all that has captivated my attention over the years.
Bay Area Bites: What is the toughest part about opening?
Saran: Just being able to open! Luckily, financials have not been an issue as I have at my side entrepreneur extraordinaire, Paresh Ghelani. Paresh believes in me, believes in San Francisco and believes in gracious hospitality, generosity and good food.
Bay Area Bites: What do you think the Indian/farm-to-table scene is like in the Bay Area? And how do we compare with other cities?
Saran: Sadly, the Indian food scene across American is rather dismal, which is why I opened Devi. As I settle down in San Francisco I hope one day to open a fine dining Indian restaurant. Now, however, my focus will be on Californian cuisine and sharing food that reflects the global village that the world has become.
Since I moved to America in 1993, I have been traveling to San Francisco many times each year. To this day, no city matches it in terms of what their farms and markets have to offer. This was the main draw for me to move to San Francisco and open up a new restaurant.
Bay Area Bites: What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Saran: A pint of ice cream in bed at midnight!
Bay Area Bites: What else is new with you—locally and nationally?
Saran: Our upcoming move to San Francisco this May is keeping us very busy. I also have a new book coming out in April of 2015, which will be my second book with San Francisco-based publisher, Chronicle Books. And we just received Angora rabbits at our farm in New York.
14 10th Street (at Market)