Graham Kilmer

Upscale Indian Restaurant Coming to Historic Third Ward

Named Saffron, it's planned to open this summer on N. Water St.

By - Feb 4th, 2022 03:09 pm
221 N. Water St, 223 N. Water St, and 225 N. Water St. Photo taken by Jeramey Jannene on August 25th, 2013.

221 N. Water St, 223 N. Water St, and 225 N. Water St. Photo taken by Jeramey Jannene on August 25th, 2013.

A new option for upscale dining is coming to the Historic Third Ward called Saffron, and it’s planned to offer an elevated take on Indian cuisine.

One of the owners, Fatima Kumar, described the concept to Urban Milwaukee as “an upscale, new, modern, vibe to Indian cuisine.” She said the menu will have, “Things that you wouldn’t necessarily see tied in with Indian Cuisine, but with those same authentic Indian flavors.”

Fatima and her husband Hanish Kumar have been working on the restaurant for about a year. She said they’ve been looking for the perfect space, and they found it at 223 N. Water St. It was formerly the location for the short lived bar Rivalry, and before that it was Rustico Pizzeria.

The restaurant is named for the highly sought after spice, which will be incorporated into many of the restaurant’s dishes, Fatima said. It’s flavor may be new to many Milwaukeeans, as it is an expensive spice, and for this reason, not commonly used.

Fatima said there are many wonderful Indian restaurants in the Milwaukee area. In fact she thinks she’s been to them all. “I’m very aware of what there’s to offer, and it’s delicious,” she said. “This, I don’t feel like, is in any way a competition to them.”

While Saffron will serve Indian cuisine, Fatima said it will offer a brand new way to experience the food and the flavors. There will be seafood options — like lobster and octopus — that will be new for Milwaukeeans enjoying an Indian dining experience. That said, the restaurant will still offer the staple dishes of any Indian restaurant. “You can’t exactly cut those out of the menu because you’re gonna take away like 50% of what people like,” Fatima said.

Saffron will also offer more vegan, organic and gluten free options than a typical Indian restaurant; and it will take a farm-to-table approach to sourcing ingredients, . “We’re gonna try to keep this as local as we possibly can – local produce, local meats – because we really want to incorporate Milwaukee into this.”

The Kumars have family in the restaurant business in New York, Fatima said, and Saffron is in part inspired by the newly emerging upscale, fine dining Indian restaurants of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. 

A chef is coming in from New York, who has experience in restaurants like this, she said. Though for now, he remains unnamed. Fatima said they plan to have the restaurant open by summer.

“I think this is just a different level of dining for this cuisine that Milwaukee hasn’t seen yet,” Fatima said, “and that’s something we’re super excited to show and introduce to everybody.”

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