Local food and contemporary Indian flavor at Saffron Table
It feels like stepping into a parlor. The space is small, intimate. A long wooden bar and stone fireplace are accented by plush purple chairs and the lingering aroma of cumin, ginger, and fennel. The menu is neat, featuring spicy curries and savory daal, as well as samosas, crispy pakoras, and divine fresh-baked naan.
Andleeb Dawood’s Saffron Table offers a preeminent dining experience, where traditional Indian cuisine meets warm hospitality with a touch of colorful flair. Now in her sixth year on West Main Street, Dawood has carved out a unique niche in Bozeman’s food scene, one that indulges newcomers and fuels their return.
Seated in her Bozeman home, where large rocks adorn the yard perimeter and stained glass brings colorful light in from the windows, Dawood holds a mug of Egyptian licorice tea with both hands. Her brown eyes are warm as she tells her story.
“My love for food really comes from my family,” she says. Dawood, who earned a degree in political science from a university in upstate New York, isn’t formally trained as a chef. But having grown up in the populous city of Karachi, Pakistan, in a large Pakistani/Indian family that embraced the link between culture and food, she certainly knows how to cook. She fondly recollects making savory samosas with her mother, laughing at the patience her mom must have had as
Dawood learned how to roll and fold dough as a child. Her childhood home was just two blocks away from her grandmother’s house, which was surrounded by garden beds full of herbs, and where the family kept chickens, goats, and a water buffalo. Products they couldn’t grow or that weren’t shelf stable at the grocery store the family bought from stalls at the neighborhood market; they’d pick out live chickens, select cuts of meat, choose fresh produce, and buy milk just collected from the cow—spooned into a bag from an icy vat.
“Food has always made sense to me. When I hold food and I feel it in my hand, I know what can be done. I know I can take something like a ripe tomato and transform it into something that’s going to create some joy for someone.” —Andleeb Dawood
“Food has always made sense to me,” she says. “When I hold food and I feel it in my hand, I know what can be done. I know I can take something like a ripe tomato and transform it into something that’s going to create some joy for someone.”
Dawood opened Saffron Table after nearly a decade working in finance, and she brings forward a unique blend of business savvy and authentic culinary know-how. She works closely with her head chef and kitchen staff to develop traditional home-cooked Indian recipes, which often means preparing dishes in small batches at home the way she learned in her youth and then working with staff to adapt the meal so that it can be produced in a restaurant setting.
“I want my restaurant to be the way I eat at home,” she says. Produce and meat she sources locally or from the Pacific Northwest regional market; the Saffron staff makes spice blends in-house to stay true to the flavors of India and South Asia. Dawood has built a successful business based on the philosophy of spreading joy and Saffron Table is a place of welcome, one that bridges the gap between cultures: “It’s a really great way of telling people there’s so much more to where I come from than what you see on the news,” she says. “It’s allowed me to have a dream come true where you can inspire warmth and kindness, love and joy.”