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Rise and Dine
Carolyn Jung | Photo: Craig Lee | April 10, 2018
A Peninsula restaurateur fuses flavors and fares in his newly launched weekend brunch.
On weekends, Ajay Walia and his family regularly faced what he believes is a common predicament: He and his wife would hanker for brunch, one punctuated by robust and fiery Indian flavors. Meanwhile, their kids would fret, clamoring instead for pancakes and waffles. As owner of Saffron Indian Bistro in San Carlos and the Michelin-starred Rasa in Burlingame, Walia would call ahead to his bistro before the doors opened to ask his cooks to prepare breakfast items at both ends of that spectrum for his family. It got him thinking that others might enjoy it too. So, in March, he launched Jugaad Café, a brunch pop-up at Saffron on Saturdays and Sundays (10am to 2:30pm) that mixes classic American diner items with traditional Indian breakfast staples and unique hybrids.
For kids, there are Belgian waffles drizzled with chocolate or simple scrambled eggs with toast. For adults hungering for classics, there is pav bhaji (a typical street-food of potato masala hash to pile atop griddled buns, sloppy Joe-style) and channa bhatoora (stewed chickpea masala served with a bread so puffy it’s nearly as big as your head, thanks to the rise the dough gets from yogurt). For fun, there are tater tots reimagined with racy sweet, tangy and kicky seasonings; and the irreverently named chicken and waffles, F.U.C.K.: Fry Until Chicken’s Krispy, with Indian-spiced fried chicken paired with a savory waffle. “We’re doing things like spicing up the bacon by candying it, then adding chili pepper,” says Walia. “It’s typically how we eat at home. It’s all about comfort food with really nice flavors.”
To make way for the pop-up, Saffron discontinued its daytime buffet on weekends. To satisfy folks who want a little bit of everything, there is a vegetarian and non-vegetarian thali—an assortment of four curries with rice, raita, naan, papadum, cucumber salad and rice pudding—all served on a silver tray.
The name Jugaad is a colloquial term in Hindi and Punjabi that roughly means “hack,” a word that should be only all too familiar to this region’s tech-savvy crowd. Walia thought it an appropriate way to describe his solution to weekend brunch. Although some local Indian eateries may offer traditional breakfast items, he says his approach is uncommon in its blend of offerings. He deemed it a pop-up to distinguish it from Saffron’s regular operations. If it proves successful, look for it to pop up on a regular basis at Rasa too. 1143 San Carlos Ave., 650.593.4269
Originally published in the April issue of Silicon Valley