July 7, 2017 Staff Report
The third time could be the charm for a popular Skillman Ave eatery.
Saffron Garden, located at 46-11 Skillman Ave, underwent renovations early last month and had a soft-reopening on June 16 under the guidance of two new owners, Samin Rana Magar and Indian chef Nezli Fernandes.
This will be the third set of owners at this location since 2010, which at the time was named Basmati Table and owned by Alim Maruf. Maruf handed over the business to Shekh Noman in 2011, who changed the eatery’s name to Saffron Garden and ran the restaurant up until May of this year.
Nezli, one of the new owners, is an 8-year Woodside resident who moved to the United States from Goan, India. He spent four years working as a chef on board P&O and Princess cruise lines and then 5 years working as a chef at Jackson Diner’s 72 University Place Manhattan location, operated by the same owner as the Jackson Heights restaurant by the same name.
Samin, 23, who is from Nepal and is a five-year Elmhurst resident, said she and Nezli worked together at Jackson Diner for over a year before deciding take the helm at Saffron Garden.
“We were both very familiar with Sunnyside, and have eaten at Saffron Garden before,” she said.
They said the location and demand for Indian and Nepalese food on the north side of Queens Boulevard is what led them to acquire Saffron Garden from its previous owner.
The first thing they tackled when taking over the space was making sure the place was clean, Samin said. For instance, the biggest part of their renovations other than changing the colors of the walls was cleaning and removing layers of grease and residue buildup that had accumulated over the years on the walls, ceilings and furniture of the restaurant.
From there, they then updated the menu.
Some of the new items, Samin said, include Chicken Xacutti, which is chicken made in roasted coconut sauce and Indian herbs. They’ve also added Guan Fish Curry, and Achari Mushroom, which is slow roasted mushroom marinated in yogurt and pickle spice.
Traditional menu items such as Chicken Tandoori, Biryhani and Tikka Masala remain, in addition to Mulligatawny Soup and Lamb Vindaloo.
For Samin opening the restaurant has been a dream come true.
“I always wanted to own my own business, and be my own boss,” she said, adding, “Sunnyside is also a really good neighborhood to open a business. When we finished our renovations, most of our neighbors from the dry cleaner across the street, to the Welcome Home realtors next door came inside to wish us good luck.”
Hours of operation after then will be Monday to Thursday, from noon to 11:00pm, and Friday to Sunday noon to midnight. They will also offer delivery service by phone beginning July 11, at (718) 433-4449.