The family that introduced New Orleans to contemporary Indian cuisine at Saffron NOLA has a second restaurant project underway. It will be just a stone’s throw from Saffron NOLA, but a world apart in concept.
The Kingsway is slated for 4201 Magazine St., the former home of Vietnamese restaurant Magasin, which closed earlier this year.
Chef Ashwin Vilkhu said it will be an upscale modern American restaurant, with elements of East Asian and French cuisines. He said the idea is based the flavors his family knew growing up in the U.S.
“What is American food? It can be anything that you get through your memories and experiences of being here,” he said.
The Kingsway is a family endeavor that will be largely led by the next generation, by Ashwin and his sister Pranita.
The opening is still a ways off. With a major renovation to come, Vilkhu expects the debut to be sometime in 2023.
The chef‘s mother and father, Pardeep and Arvinder Vilkhu, moved from New Delhi to the U.S. when Ashwin was just six months old.
His mother developed a career as a psychologist, while Arvinder devoted his life to hospitality. He was the longtime manager of the Pickwick Club, one of the city’s old-line social clubs.
Back in the 1990s, after a successful experiment cooking for a friend’s wedding, he and Pardeep started a catering company on the side, called Saffron Caterers. This evolved into a one-night-a-week restaurant called Saffron, which drew a devoted following to its Gretna strip mall to taste new ideas around Indian cuisine, with strong Louisiana influences.
In the Vilkhu kitchen, coriander and cumin, fenugreek and turmeric, lentil flour and yogurt sauces can mix it up with pulled pork and pompano, soft shell crab and roasted duck.
Saffron NOLA evolved into a full-fledged Uptown restaurant in 2017.
The forthcoming restaurant takes its name from the Gretna street where the family once lived, Kingsway Drive East.
“The catering company got its start in the garage,” said Ashwin Vilkhu. “It was a very modest home, but because of my dad and his training, and my mom’s ideas about hospitality, it was always filled with food and they were always entertaining. We learned a lot about hospitality growing up there.”
While the menu for the Kingsway is still under development, Vilkhu gave one hint as to the wide-ranging style it will take.
“We are 100% bringing back the salt baked shrimp from Kim Son,” he said, name-dropping a cult-favorite dish of peppery fried shrimp from a beloved but now-closed Vietnamese restaurant in Gretna.
“We ate there all our lives, we were crushed when it closed,” said Vilkhu. “We’re not going to be an Asian restaurant, but a dish like that is part of our experience and memories that we’ll be drawing inspiration from here.”
4201 Magazine St.
Projected opening 2023
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