The hubby and I watched with curiosity as Saffron was preparing to open. So after giving them awhile to settle in, we were excited about our first visit, a Friday night dinner. There was no hostess station, instead we were directed to seat ourselves anywhere that struck our fancy.
We settled in at our table and took in the decor. Brightly painted red, yellow, and green walls provided a colorful backdrop for photos of Indian landmarks, reproductions of artworks, beaded mirrors and pieces of cloth. Modern swirled glass pendant lamps hung above the mahogany colored laminate tables. Finishing it all off was a black and white checkerboard floor.
It took a few minutes for our server to find us and take our drink orders. When he did, he heard only the hubby's request and walked away before I could catch him. I placed my order with the server who brought the hubby's glass out a few minutes later, but I was a bit surprised.
We were surprised more pleasantly when a basket appeared a few minutes later. Similar to the chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant, Saffron provides rices crisps and dipping sauces as a crunchy pre-appetizer.
The crisps came in a variety of shapes and sizes. The round, flat crisps had seasoning embedded in them, lending a sharp, dry flavor. The crisp itself had a glossy look and a somewhat waxy finish. The balance of the crisps had a look similar to styrofoam, shaped like cylinders, stars, and flowers they added a healthy dose of color to the mix but were more crunchy and dusty than any strong flavor.
Served with the crisps were two chutneys--a mint chutney and a tamrind sweet chutney. The mint chutney had cilantro and more heat than I like, though the hubby thought it was tasty. The tamrind chutney was similar in flavor to a sweet and sour sauce, but had more of a vinegary tang. It was a nice compliment to the round, flat crisps.
We munched and crunched our way through deciding on our entrees. The menu covered lots of ground--dosa, samosas, a large vegetarian selection and an entire category called "indo chinese specialties". Lunchtime diners can sample the many choices of a buffet, but we needed to pick! I settled on the chicken tikka masala, mild, while the hubby opted for the karahi chicken, medium. We added an order of garlic naan to split though I was tempted to skip the naan and try a dessert made with sweetened carrots.
Our basket of crisps had been happily demolished when our food appeared, oddly staggered. First up came my tikka masala. A long minute later, my husband's meal and the rice that accompanied our dishes appeared. Another strange pause and finally our naan came out.
Much was forgiven when I took my first bite of the tikka masala. Thick slices of tender chicken were coated in a fresh and bright sauce. Just the right amount of creamy, it paired beautifully with the light, long grained basmati rice. The "mild" turned out to be not spicy at all, but the dish still had a lovely flavor.
As I started getting some food in my system and recovering from the blood sugar crash that precedes a late dinner time, something finally dawned on me. The reason for the rushed drink orders and oddly gappy food deliveries? Was because there were only two people working the entire dining area--one server and one person to carry orders. And they were being kept running from one table to the next.
Given this observation it didn't surprise me, nor particularly bother me, when our drink refills were slow. Still, I am hoping this was a bad night--where someone called out sick at the last minute--and not a usual state of affairs.
I expected to greatly enjoy the naan. I am a happy carb eater and the naan looked fabulous and smelled even better. In truth, it was disappointing. The naan itself seemed undercooked, with a slightly doughy center. The garlic tucked into the bread was uncooked, giving it a sharp taste and overall it had a wierd, almost chemically aftertaste. That may have been due to the cilantro, which was unexpectedly sprinkled on top, but I couldn't fully place it. Even my husband, the carb king, wasn't a fan.
He did, however, enjoy his meal (shown at the top of this post), stating that it was good quality chicken and sauce.
I greatly enjoyed my tikka masala, the sauce was incredibly well done, the chicken was tender, and it was equally good alone or over the accompanying rice. On our next trip (because we will be back) I'll skip the naan, or, if I'm feeling lucky, at least opt for the non-garlic variety). The servers were doing their absolute best to keep up with a heavy workload, and I certainly can't fault their effort. I do hope though, that if this is a pervasive problem that another server is added to make it more manageable.
Total for the meal: $33.03 (Included two entrees, one order of garlic naan, and two soft drinks)
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