In June, Saffron Indian Bistro marked its second year in Oro Valley's Oracle Crossings.
Business has been "very good," according to owner Saurabh Sareem, known as "Mintu" to his friends. "The last two summers have been outstanding. We're still new."
There's no holding still, Mintu said. He's emphasizing Saffron's catering options, and has placed a clay oven on the patio in preparation for "Tandoori Nights at Saffron," Indian barbecue on the patio one night a week.
"We always look at new ideas," Mintu said. "Once people come in, we want them to have a good experience, with service, ambiance, and food the main part."
What's popular at Saffron? For starters, the daily buffet from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mintu reports the chicken tikka masala, England's national dish, sells very well, as does the tandoori seared lamb chops, particularly when he has a special $5 off price. "People love it," he said.
Saffron has a wide vegetarian menu, and "a lot of vegan people are coming lately." The restaurant can serve a fine meal without dairy or animal products.
Mintu describes the food as "authentic, but a little more modern. We keep it contemporary and clean, warm and inviting."
Chef V.J. Srivastava is "good at creating new stuff," Mintu said. "V.J." is widely trained and experienced, and enjoys adding dishes to the menu. Spices and Indian specialties are imported.
"All our food is very mild," Mintu said. "People think it's spicy, and we can make it spicy. But it suits the older palette."
Rachel Bracety is Saffron's new manager. With management help in place, Mintu now contemplates opening other new locations.
"Indian food, Indian culture is becoming pretty popular in America," Mintu said.
Saffron, which employs up to 30 people, has expanded its catering business. It can handle jobs of 10 to 1,000, counting big events for the Arizona Air National Guard, Bollywood at The Fox and major catering for Tucson's annual gem and mineral show. "We go there, set it up, serve, load and clean it up," Mintu said.
Mintu also owns Kababeque Indian Grill, "more of a fast-food place, the only Indian fast-food joint in Arizona," near the University of Arizona. It opened in July 2004, and has "done very well."
And he is part-owner of Om Fusion Restaurant, the "modern Asian kitchen" at River and Campbell.
Mintu likes the Oracle Crossings location. "I think our plaza is very good," Mintu said. "This plaza has a lot to offer, and everything you need. I'm happy with the turnout. We get a lot of foot traffic."
Mintu's father was an ice cream distributor in India, and he's "always had an interest" in the hospitality trades. He came to the United States and bought the New Delhi Palace, running that restaurant for four years before selling it.
"I enjoy it," he says of the life. "I like to work hard. There's a lot of hard work in the restaurant life. There's no social life, but it's good to be known, and it's good to serve people with a quality product."
Saffron Indian Bistro
7607 N. Oracle Road, Suite 101
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday