In the small town of Twin Falls, Idaho, a refreshing respite from the usual chain restaurants has opened on the ever-regenerating old main street in the historic downtown. Yellow, red, and orange paint with gold accents adorn the walls, suggestive of the warm smells of spice lingering in the air. Wafts of cardamom, cinnamon, and anise engulf you as you enter Saffron, the first standalone Indian restaurant in Twin Falls.
Sanu, from Kolkata, India and Rosemary, his wife from Peru form the dynamic duo running the restaurant. Both Sanu and Rosemary immigrated to the U.S. on work visas within the last 5 years. They met in Sun Valley, Idaho while working at different restaurants in the area and bonded over their mutual love and passion for food.
Sanu and Rosemary
Sanu grew up learning about cooking under the tutelage of his Mother, who he says was a very good cook, but didn’t start thinking about cooking as a career until he was 22. After completing a 3-year degree in Hotel and Hospital Management, he cooked at various 5-star hotels in India. Dreaming of bigger and better things, he heard of an opportunity from a consultancy group for a job cooking in Sun Valley, Idaho and jumped at the opportunity.
Vegetable Curry, Karahi Chicken, Chicken Korma
Rosemary moved to the U.S. four years ago on a work visa to join her family who owns a group of local burrito shops in Southern Idaho called KB’s. In her spare time, she pursued her degree in Business Management from the local community college.
After dating over the course of a few years, they moved to San Francisco and worked in an upscale Indian restaurant, honing their culinary and restaurant chops. During their time in San Francisco, Rosemary’s mother called and asked her if she and Sanu could come help manage and cook at the Pocatello KB’s restaurant to help the family. Rosemary was hesitant as they were really enjoying their time in San Francisco, but she knew she had to help her family, so she agreed.
Chicken 65 Appetizer
After a few months of managing and cooking at the restaurant, although they enjoyed the business, they realized that they longed for something more. Sanu was dying inside to get back to his Indian roots and express his true culinary self. They dreamed of owning their own restaurant, making their own dishes with their own spices in their own way. One night, Rosemary and Sanu were spending time with Sanju, Sanu’s brother who had owned an Indian restaurant in Pocatello. After sharing some laughs, they had a sudden thought- why don’t we open a restaurant? That night they started looking for available spaces in Twin Falls where they might open a restaurant. As fate would have it, they found that the KB’s burritos in downtown Twin Falls had just closed and was available to lease. Although it was 9 at night, they called the realtor and set up a meeting to see the property the next day. The next day, they showed up at the restaurant and 30 minutes later signed the lease and Saffron was born.
Lunch special with assorted dishes
With the help of Sanju and other family members, they started rapidly painting, decorating, and just 3 months later, Saffron was open for business. With Rosemary running the business side and greeting customers with a smile and Sanu cooking his creative and comforting food, Saffron has taken off. Dishes like chicken 65, an appetizer named for its 65 different spices that go into the flavorful curry, are part of a delicious and adventurous menu. Community members were packed in on the first night I visited, excited to welcome something new and authentic into their town. As I take the first bite of the chicken karahi, flavors of ginger, garam masala, tomato, chiles, and cinnamon warm my palate. The Naan is chewy, buttery and crispy. The rice is fragrant and fluffy. Sanu comes out to eagerly ask how everything is, satisfied as we rave about all the dishes we are eating.
In the back of the kitchen are Renuka, Kal, Krishna, and Ran, immigrants from Nepal and Bhutan, laughing and enjoying each other’s company as they chop onions, garlic, peppers, and ginger. They say they are all one big, happy family. Sanu says that he is most excited when other Indians come in and give positive compliments to the dishes. He says that Indians can be quite critical of Indian food, so when they give their seal of approval, it means a lot. Sanu says that he prides himself on not cutting corners, spending hours simmering the curries, toasting and grinding his own spices, and roasting the vegetables to build the bold, complex flavors that go into each of his dishes. He says that he is constantly experimenting with new dishes, testing them out as specials, and if the customer reaction is good, he will put It on the full-time menu.
Rosemary says that it took her a while to learn all the nuances of Indian food- all the spices, the dishes, and flavors that were very different from her Peruvian roots. She is also learning to speak Hindi, while Sanu is slowly picking up Spanish. Sanu jokes that Peruvian food doesn’t taste like anything, to which Rosemary shoots back asking why he asked her to make Peruvian Ceviche on their day off? Sanu laughs and admits that he has grown to love Peruvian food, but Indian food will always be first in his heart. This beautiful combination of cultures seems to be the secret ingredient to the delicious flavors and inviting ambience of Saffron, making it well on its way to becoming a staple in Twin Falls for years to come.
117 Main Ave E,
Twin Falls, ID 83301
About Author: Porter Long
Porter Long is a food scientist by day, food fermentation experimenter by night, and a food enthusiast always. He lives in Twin Falls, Idaho with his wife, two dogs, and four chickens.