SAAR Indian Bistro brings fun cocktails and the exquisite flavors inspired by Delhi street food to the Theater District. The creation of culinary super-couple Hemant Mathur and Surbhi Sahni, SAAR is perfect for after work drinks, a pre-theater bite, or a fun date night. Its vibrant décor—evoking Chef Mathur’s hometown of Jaipur–and the fusion of traditional recipes with contemporary flavors, successfully transports the diner halfway across the world, to the tantalizing country of India.
Prior to visiting SAAR, my Indian restaurant order has remained embarrassingly consistent. The wait staff at my regular curry shop probably even assumed, with some basis, that “lamb curry” and “garlic naan” were the full extent of my vocabulary; however, dining at SAAR Indian Bistro exposed me to new dishes and flavors I had been missing all this time.
The drinks menu at SAAR features distinctive and enjoyable cocktails, which complement the food and are highlights in their own right. My favorite was “The Yellow Taxicab,” a refreshingly delicious concoction of locally distilled Noho gin, infused with saffron and cardamom. The use of lemon chutney in the “SAAR Bourbon Sour” is unconventional but balanced the drink so nicely I’m tempted to try it at home. My dining partner and I also tried the Pani Puhri Shot, an Indian street food drink specialty. Per instructions from the chef, we poured a mixture of tamarind, green chili-spiced mint water, and vodka over and into a fluffy chickpea-stuffed pastry and then plopped the pastry into our mouths in one bite. I enjoyed the novelty of the drink, but wouldn’t recommend it for those who, unlike my dining partner, don’t appreciate the taste of spicy mint. .
SAAR’s menu lists small, medium, and large plates, all designed to be shared by the table. As an ardent proponent of maximizing the types of food I get to eat, I strongly support this concept, but some items, like the Samosa Tasting and the Lasooni Kebab, may be too delectable to be saved for others. I rarely shy away from fried meat or cheese and the three samosas in the Samosa Tasting small plate checked both boxes. In addition to the traditional samosa, the dish offered two alternatives: lamb, and Jalapeno cheese. Each one was flakey and delicious, but it was the jalapeño cheese variety that was dangerously good. True to its name, the samosa was the perfect savory appetizer to fill up on, to the chagrin of both your doctor and your scale.
My favorite dish of the evening was easily the Lasooni Kebab. These chicken thigh kebabs were wonderfully seasoned with pineapple chutney and green chili, and reset my high point for chicken tenderness. The only apt description is that exhausted (but finally accurate) claim that it fell apart like butter in my mouth. Undoubtedly a must order on your SAAR visit!
The Palak Aur Tamatar Chaat, a crispy battered spinach served in a sweet tomato sauce, was also excellent. If only my parents had prepared vegetables like this for me when when I was a child…
The larger plates selection also offered a variety of flavors . The Lemon Saffron Scallops were cooked to perfection, and enticingly flavored with coconut basil. While I don’t often order fish, the Macher & Potol Bhaja, which is a halibut served in a cauliflower and potato sauce, was uniquely appetizing.
The Cochin Black Pepper Chicken was not as succulent as the kebab, but was nonetheless moist and flavorful. It is served in a pancake-like rice crepe called a dosa, and I felt like I was eating the Indian version of chicken and waffles. Some things just work.
SAAR Indian Bistro also marked the first time I have ever been served risotto at an Indian restaurant and I’m actually hoping this trend catches on. The Kashmiri Gucchi Truffle Risotto was one of the best risottos I’ve ever had. The creamy texture seamlessly absorbed the intoxicating umami of the generous pieces of wild mushrooms. .
SAAR also has my old go-to order, as there are a variety of naans and curries on the menu. The garlic naan was doughy, savory, and everything I want out of naan while the goat curry delicately harmonized the sweet and the spicy. Both the chicken curry and the vegetable curry of mustard greens, were satisfying as well.
SAAR Indian Bistro is an exciting addition to the Theater District. The menu is filled with dishes I had never heard of and each course was an exciting exploration of another layer of modern Indian cuisine—or maybe I was just really enjoying the cocktails. Either way, SAAR was a hit. Chef Mathur and Chef Sabhni’s excellently tailored menu offers a unique and enjoyable dining experience.
Ted Reilly lives and eats in New York City and can count the number of times he’s said “no” to ice cream on one hand. As a teenager in the Midwest, his daily lunch diet consisted of mall pizza and/or Burger King. His passion for food developed as a college student in New Orleans where he regularly attended crawfish boils and sought out the best jambalaya. Since then he’s been an avid consumer of okanomiyaki, 回锅肉, and [anything] curry. He loves traveling but knows that you can find any dish you want somewhere in Queens.