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Taste

Saffron packs a punch but serves more than spiciness

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Tandoori chicken (center) is a standard on Saffron’s menu, full of flavorful fare.
Photo: Steve Marcus

The Details

Saffron Flavors of India
4450 N. Tenaya Way #115, 489-7900.
Tuesday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m.; Sunday, 5-9 p.m. Lunch buffet Wednesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

The surprises began as soon as I opened the door to Saffron Flavors of India, located in a burnt-orange stucco office park just off the 95 and Craig Road. Knowing this restaurant is family operated, I anticipated the modest environment of a typical small ethnic eatery. Lazy assumptions were washed away instantly. There’s a cozy round bar greeting you, a relaxed place to sip a Kingfisher or Taj beer or perhaps the house special mango-infused cocktail. To the left, a spacious banquet hall for special events or private dinners. To the right, an almost regal dining room with rainbow-colored curtains, cushioned chairs and maroon table linens. This is no hole-in-the-wall.

Saffron Flavors of India

The $11.99 lunch buffet, perhaps obligatory for Indian restaurants, was well-assembled and tempted with exotic fragrance. But Saffron’s menu is too expansive and interesting to rest with predetermined eating. A full range of appetizers, including flaky samosas ($5), spring rolls ($5) and tandoor clay oven-roasted chicken wings ($7), are great beginnings, but not before you enjoy a perfect basket of garlic naan bread. This naan is thinner and crispier than the fluffy stuff I’m used to, bringing a universe of texture to this traditional treat.

Speaking of tradition, you can’t miss with anything from the tandoor or the curry pot. If you dig that brick-red tandoori stuff, the chicken ($15) is great, but the spice-laden lamb seekh kebab ($15) packs more flavor. Among the curries, chicken madras ($14)—boneless white meat chunks hiding in a thick, rich, wildly seasoned gravy—is satisfyingly incendiary in a way most local Indian food isn’t. Don’t worry, you’ll cool off at dessert with mango kulfi, a delightful whole milk ice cream.

Saffron chef Raj Reddy offers a wide variety of vegetarian dishes and even some Indo-Chinese fusion plates, like hakka noodles stir-fried with vegetables and chicken ($13) or shrimp ($14). There appears to be something for everyone at this complete and comfortable dining experience. Saffron is a gem in its neighborhood, and worth a visit even if you don’t live nearby.

Tags: Dining
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