J’s Bistro on A Street closed last Thursday with a curated wine and pizza pairing and many good wishes to owners John Bartow, Joe Banuelos and Jeffrey Lindow. The next day, Lindow handed the keys to Sachta Bakshi Card and her mother and grandmother who are partners in Masala, a new Asian-Indian fusion kitchen operating under the brand Flavor The Restaurant LLC.
“Masala” means a blend of spices typically used in Indian cuisine and at Masala, Ashland’s newest restaurant, all the spices will come directly from India.
Three generations of culinary professionals are partners in Masala and Sachta Bakshi grew up in the restaurant industry. Her parents, Sumesh and Dimple Bakshi have long run the Flavor brand, with restaurants in Baroda (now Vadodara) and Dabhoi, India, about 7 hours north of Mumbai. Three weeks ago, Sumesh and Dimple immigrated to the United States arriving ready to begin the next phase of their lives, their family finally together in one place.
Sachta and her husband, Andy Card, have traveled the world, experienced many cuisines and now are excited to open Masala with Sachta’s family. The young couple runs Oberon’s on the Plaza, a restaurant designed to complement Ashland’s theater culture.
“We want to bring Indian street food to the American palate,” Andy says, his face lighting up as he describes the Mumbai burger, potatoes fried with chickpea and spicy chutneys.
“Traditional Indian food with a modern twist,” exclaims Sachta, “like chaats, tacos and bhel!”
“Indian cuisine and heritage recipes that have come through the generations!” Sumesh Bakshi adds, referring to mains such as butter chicken, daal, curries and paneer tikka masala.
The space at 258 A Street across from Ashland Ace Hardware will soon be awash with color and light, the sights and sounds of India.
Andy Card’s photographs of India will hang in Masala. “Everything is an extreme in India: the smell, the sounds, the sights, the colors, the food; people everywhere, food everywhere” Andy explains. “Interesting people, vibrant clothing, weathered faces — it’s a photographer’s paradise.”
Also in the partnership is Sachta’s grandmother, Kumud Gokani, who has lived in Ashland for almost 20 years. Sachta and her sister Sohana came to study at Southern Oregon University because of their grandmother, both sisters earning bachelor degrees and Sachta a master’s degree.
Kumud is well-known in Ashland for Ayurvedic Indian food and the cooking classes she runs several times a year. She’s also published three cookbooks and hosts a Rogue Valley Community Television show, “Cooking with Kumud.”
“I was always asked, when are you opening the restaurant?” Kumud laughs, but she knew she couldn’t handle it alone.
Now that Kumud’s daughter and granddaughters and their families are all in one place, Kumud’s dream of a restaurant featuring healthy and delicious food is becoming a reality.
“The restaurant business is very busy but I will help them and my daughter will cook,” Kumud says.
“There will be quite a few of the recipes I cooked on TV,” Kumud adds. “And quite a few new ones because always the new generation brings new recipes!”
Masala will be true to Kumud’s healthy vegetarian cookery and many Ashlanders will be glad to find Kumud’s energy sprouts salad on the menu. The new generations will bring traditional Indian recipes made with chicken and seafood, as well as a full bar with craft cocktails.
“I’m very, very excited it is finally happening!” Kumud says. “So yay!! I’m very, very proud and happy.”
Masala will open in three or four weeks in Ashland’s Railroad District.
Email Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at firstname.lastname@example.org.