Last night I had the pleasure of eating at the one-year-old Upper West Side Indian resto called Saffron. The prices were incredibly reasonable and they offer a $15 lunch buffet special on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 to 3:30 that is a delight to both the nose and the palate ($9 lunch specials are offered the rest of the week). What I love about Saffron (besides the fully glass front that gives a terrarium effect and must be super pretty on a sunshiny day) is the fact that the dishes are from many different regions of India and they are prepared in a healthier manner than most Indian restaurants. Their dishes are not swimming in yogurt sauces and ghee (although truth be told, ghee is as healthy as it is caloric since all the bad parts of the butter are cooked out of it ahead of time).
I was able to sample more than a dozen menu items but a few really stand out to me. First of all, the three traditional Indian breads I tried–Poori, Garlic Naan and Onion Kulcha–all were terrifically light and airy but I definitely loved the sweet and tender onion taste of the kulcha. It is perfect teamed up with the restaurant’s homemade green mint or tamarind sauces. My favorite appetizer was the Ginger Tikka which is probably the healthiest white meat chicken appetizer in Manhattan as it is flavored with herbs and not yogurt. The portion is large and would actually work as an entree! The folks at my table went nuts for the Shrimp Balchao which is a classic Goan dish consisting of succulent shrimp in a spicy chili sauce.
I loved all six main courses that I tried. I cannot eat salmon but all the journalists and food bloggers at my table went gaga for Saffron Tikka which is marinated chicken in a light sauce made with yogurt, nutmeg, clove, ginger and garlic). I could not stop eat the Peas & Carrot Pulao (which is basmati rice cooked with peas, carrots and saffron) or the Palak Paneer (cubes of homemade cheeses smothered in freshly ground spinach with garlic and herbs). The Aloo Gobi Mutter (lightly spiced potatoes, cauliflower and green peas cooked in ginger and tomato sauce) is a vegetarian’s dream–it’s so flavorful with its tangy tomato based sauce. Every bite seems to taste a new spice each time you take a scoop! On the flip side of the coin, lamb lovers must check out the Lamb Hara Masala–which is tender chunks of lamb cooked in a green sauce of coriander, green chili and various Indian spices).
At the end of dinner, I loved getting the Indian Ice Cream, which I jokingly called “Indian Spumoni” since it featured a rainbow assortment of ice cream flavors including pistachios–all on top of a lovely homemade sponge cake. The ice cream is very light which is perfect after trying many of the wonderful and colorful savory dishes at Saffron.
Saffron is located on the NW corner of 75th and Columbus so it is easy access from the 72nd Street stops of the 1-2-3 and C trains. They are open seven days a week and a reservation is not necessary. This is an ideal place for sharing and/or family dining. For more info, go to http://www.saffronny.com