A Symphony of Spices: Saaz Indian Cuisine

Shout it from the rooftops: Indian food has finally come to Southampton! Until very recently, the closest traditional South Asian restaurant was Curry Club in East Setauket—and now, the family behind Curry Club has decided to expand farther east.

Dan’s Papers editors Stacy Dermont and Kelly Laffey accompanied me to the completely redesigned Saaz restaurant (which formerly housed Spiro’s) for a taste of the daily lunch buffet. Owner Sonia Mohan smilingly guided us toward the buffet, situated in a tented-in patio area (which is also available for dining), and our knowledgeable server Puri brought a glass of smooth, crisp Infamous Goose Sauvignon Blanc for me, and mango lassis for both of my companions. Stacy described the lassi as “fruit forward, with a little hint of salt, the way it should be,” while Kelly assured me, between sips, that she was “diggin’ it.”

I loaded up on a little of everything at the buffet table, beginning with a few onion pakoras (deep-fried onions coated in a chick pea flour-based batter), which proved to be less crispy than I expected, but somehow all the more enjoyable for it. A wide array of chutneys was, of course, available—ranging from the spicy mint chutney to the tamarind, which was thick and deliciously sweet.

I then moved on to the mater paneer—a sweet, light, tomato-based curry colloquially referred to as “cheese and peas”—and chicken tikka masala, which was perfectly spiced and brought exclamations of delight from all three of us.

Next, we sampled a number of Saaz’s signature breads. The chili cheese naan was my personal favorite. This leavened flatbread was filled with hot melted cheese and dangerously fiery chili peppers, making it a formidable offering in its own right (unlike standard naan, which is most often used to scoop up curry and rice). Also up to the challenge were the lacha paratha (a crisp, layered whole-wheat bread) and the poori (a puffy, flaky, almost pastry-like bread, perfect for mopping up our last remnants of curry). The buffet, I was told, always includes an order of regular naan—as well as a platter of chicken kebabs, which were next to arrive. The beef kadai, which only Stacy and Kelly chose to sample, was tasty, but both my dining companions did note its exceptional saltiness, which stayed with them for some time afterward.

The kebabs were tender, zesty, and practically fell apart in our mouths—the high point of the meal, in my opinion—and the plate was large enough that they became the only fare to remain unfinished by meal’s end.

Finally, completely full but still yearning for more, we made our way to the dessert table, which featured kheer (Indian rice pudding) and beet halwa (a specialty dessert concocted by the exceptional chefs at Saaz). The kheer was light and pleasant, but the beet halwa was what really blew us away—it’s sweet, chewy, and made from caramelized beets, with a hefty helping of milk and butter. I’d never had this particular version, but was familiar with a carrot-based variety called gajar-ka-halwa, and was pleased to learn that that dish will also be featured on certain days.

The atmosphere at Saaz is friendly and quiet (Stacy described it as “tasteful, clean and airy”), with music playing at a low volume and a wide area available for seating. I spoke to Sonia’s husband and co-owner Sam afterward, and he informed me that the buffet is also available for takeout—customers simply pay the buffet price and fill a to-go box with whatever they’d like, along with the naan and kebabs. Additionally, Saaz receives much of its produce and other supplies from local sellers, and that it plans to buy its seafood locally starting “as soon as we can.”

Saaz is the Hindi word for “symphony,” and that’s an unusually apt word to describe our experience. It was nothing short of a masterpiece—and we’ll definitely be back for the dinner menu!

Saaz Indian Cuisine, 1746 County Road 39, Southampton. saazindian.com, 631-259-2222. 

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