When Saaz Indian Cuisine owner Sameer Mohan talks about his work, “love” is a word that comes up often. And the love is mutual—when Saaz opened on Southampton’s stretch of County Road 39 in 2014, the South Fork breathed a sigh of relief—a full-service Indian restaurant here! At last! Ahh. You’ll find Mohan working there almost every day, often alongside his beautiful wife Sonia. Their lunch buffet is particularly popular—you can also meet this remarkable food professional and taste some of his restaurant’s food at Dan’s Rosé Soirée Presented by Porsche, the official kickoff to summer, on Sunday, May 27. Did we mention that Saaz offers local wines from Wölffer Estate Vineyard and Channing Daughters Winery year round? Ahh.
Where are you from originally? How do memories of home continue to influence your work?
I was born and brought up in New Delhi. I remember walking into the house after school and trying to guess what was cooked for lunch by just smelling the flavors….usually my younger brother won, though…. sitting together at the dinner table being served by grandpa and grandma, along with our uncles and parents, with a lot of love and care.
So I take that visual and try to recreate that environment of happiness by serving a symphony of spices.
What’s your earliest food memory?
My grandma’s love of cooking and her feeding me a yogurt-based curry called kadhi, with rice, and my uncle making a salad. And my mom making the roti bread.
How does living on the East End inform your cooking?
I love the East End, there are amazing people all around. Our business is progressing beautifully—people try it and give it a chance and return.
What has inspired your career the most?
I got into it accidentally—but once I did, I loved the feeling of serving and being able to put a smile on others’ faces, not just food-wise but also sometimes listening to them and maybe helping in some small way—just an absolutely humbling and a very emotionally uplifting feeling—so, therefore, a very selfish impulse.
When did you begin to truly appreciate wine?
I’ve always been a Scotch drinker, but a few years back I started drinking wine and I’m still learning its beautiful notes.
Which Long Island wines are you drinking these days?
Wölffer Estate Vineyard’s cabernet sauvignon and Channing Daughters Winery’s chardonnay—nice wine makes it a great meal.
What’s your favorite dish to prepare and why?
Cheese ravioli for my kids…because I love their reaction. Also, yellow dal (lentils) for myself or mashed turnips—I love the simple flavors that take me back to childhood memories
What’s your favorite celebrity dining memory?
I love Alan Alda and his beautiful wife Arlene for their humility. And he’s a person I love because one of the first shows I started watching, when I came over to this side of the ocean, was called M*A*S*H.
What approach do you refuse to use?
Fusion cooking….why fuse two different and amazing cuisines?
What’s the most important thing to teach the next generation of diners?
Simplify flavors, enjoy the moments and create memories.
What dish do you like to prepare for vegans?
Aloo gobhi—potatoes and cauliflower—simple and healthy ingredients.
What beverage do you pair it with?
What’s your favorite beverage to take on a picnic?
Beer or sparkling wine.
What’s your favorite thing about Dan’s Taste of Summer events?
The sense of joy, curiosity and the energy that can be felt from the crowds. The East End is full of amazing chefs, kitchens and restaurants…along with some amazing people who are very proud to be here. And it’s a place that can bring in all sorts of people and make them one.
Dan’s Rosé Soirée presented by Porsche is Sunday, May 27 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Southampton Arts Center. GA tickets are $140. VIP tickets are $190 and include event entry from 5 to 8 p.m. PLUS access to the Rosé After Dark VIP After Party Presented by The Palm by Whispering Angel, from 8 to 10 p.m. For tickets and more information about all Dan’s Taste of Summer events, visit DansTaste.com. Patrons must be 21 or older to attend.