The Golden Squirrel pub in Oakland becomes the Afghani Saffron Kitchen – East Bay Times

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There’s a newcomer in Oakland’s tony Rockridge strip, and it’s nothing like the old one: Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar, an upscale joint serving Afghan food blended with the flavors of the Mediterranean and Silk Road.

Saffron Kitchen takes the place of the Golden Squirrel pub, which sold its business this year. Golden Squirrel was a gastropub popular for its bar bites, trivia nights, stand-up comedy and NBA watching parties. It also held other, more unexpected events, like the author talk last spring with journalist Luke Russert, son of legendary newsman Tim Russert, to discuss his new memoir about grief.

“I purchased Golden Squirrel and ran it for almost two months and realized the concept was a dying breed and needed to be changed,” says Akbar M. Arghandiwal, managing partner of Saffron Kitchen. “So we closed the place and worked on a complete facelift. We opened it only a few days ago quietly as a soft opening. The reception from our neighbors has been nothing short of awesome so far, as testimony in Yelp and Google reviews show.”

Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar opened in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood in Nov. 2023, serving a mix of Mediterranean/Afghan/Asian food. It takes the place formerly occupied by the Golden Squirrel pub. (Photo courtesy of Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar)
Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar opened in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood in Nov. 2023, serving a mix of Mediterranean/Afghan/Asian food. It takes the place formerly occupied by the Golden Squirrel pub. (Photo courtesy of Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar) 

The new restaurant has a full bar and expansive wine list to complement its food, which is a base of Afghani mixed with regional cuisine from far and wide across Asia and Europe.

“We have taken original Afghan dishes and mixed them with herbs and spices that travel the Silk Road regions from the Far East to the Mediterranean,” says Arghandiwal. “For example, the Mantu Dumpling is filled with meat, onions and spices that originated in the Far East. It is topped with housemade spiced yogurt and meat sauce and mint. While the dumplings are Asian in origin, the yogurt mix is Afghan/Persian while the meat sauce hints Italian and Turkish in taste. This process is incorporated throughout our menu.”

The kitchen produces a wide range of vegetarian fare, from eggplant pakora and potato bolanis to entrees of sauteed butternut squash or spiced spinach with fresh-baked flatbread and a trio of chutneys. There are chicken and beef kebabs with basmati rice and that kabuli pulao, the sumptuous baked lamb that some call the national dish of Afghanistan, with rice pilaf, caramelized carrots and raisins. Sweet lovers might try the ferni, or milk pudding topped with roasted pistachios, or the baklava with ice cream.

Take a look at the food-and-drink menus and restaurant details below:

The dinner menu for Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar, which opened in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood in Nov. 2023. (Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar)
The dinner menu for Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar, which opened in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood in Nov. 2023. (Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar) 
Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar opened in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood in Nov. 2023, serving a mix of Mediterranean/Afghan/Asian food. It takes the place formerly occupied by the Golden Squirrel pub. (Photo courtesy of Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar)
Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar opened in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood in Nov. 2023, serving a mix of Mediterranean/Afghan/Asian food. It takes the place formerly occupied by the Golden Squirrel pub. (Photo courtesy of Saffron Kitchen Restaurant & Bar) 

Details: Open 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday (closed Monday) at 5940 College Ave., Oakland; saffronk.com

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