Sapphire Cuisines Of India at 2014 Broadway is a bit of an Upper West Side legend. At Sapphire’s previous location near the Time Warner Center (which they left in 2019), they became famous for having the best Indian lunch buffet in the city. Their new location is quaint and cozy and is inside a well-kept prewar building but there is no lunch buffet due to a smaller kitchen with less stoves–but that is made up for by a fantastic three course $35 price fixe dinner that knocks it out of the ballpark. It is considered to be one of the best price fixe deals on the Upper West Side. There is a more elaborate four course dinner available for $95 dollars per person.
As you will see below, we had to order the “classic entrees” because how those are made are the true test of a great Indian restaurant (at least in my humble opinion). The chefs at Sapphire proved that they are real “gems” (pardon the pun). The bar area is comfortable and not noisy like most UWS bars. It has a more sophisticated crowd than most of the bars in the neighborhood that get the post college frat boy types.
I visited Sapphire with my best foodie pal, Gail Worley of worleygig.com who loves Indian food as much as I do. We experienced a couple of the new appetizers that seem to have been influenced by and plated like artistic modern American food. One was a yogurt croquet topped with a spicy brown sauce and a unique Indian cheese not unlike good ol’ cream cheese (honestly, it was even creamier and totally to die for). This is a very filling appetizer so be prewarned that it might make you full when you are trying to save room for all the delightful food that you ordered to come!
The other appetizer that Gail and I tried was brought out as a special surprise. It is called Dahi Kebab which looks like a croquette with sauce but it is actually pan seared hung yogurt on top of raw mustard seed mango slaw. (The mango slaw is in the texture of thick spaghetti as you can see from the photo above). The Dahi Kebab is a bit of Indian and Modern American fusion item as you can tell from the artistic presentation that includes micro greens on top. When I dug in, the flavor was delightfully fruity and spicy at the same time. The Raita on top made for a delightful creamy and cooling effect. This hung yogurt was served warm and would probably taste great on its own as well as with the amazing aforementioned toppings!
We enjoyed both the Aloo Paratha (pictured above on top) and Naan (pictured on bottom) which were hot out of the oven just how we like them. Both were fluffy, light and glistening. The bubbly golden outsides of both breads was a site to behold. We ordered the marvelous and very freshly homemade Raita to dip our breads into. I tried not to fill up on bread but I had to eat doubles on both!
The Chicken Tandoori is particularly outstanding at Sapphire. All meat and poultry is top quality and straight from a farm in New Zealand–just as all the produce used is organically grown at Tristate area farms. The Chicken Tandoori dinner entree features two chicken thighs and drumsticks that are straight out of the Tandoori oven and super juicy. The “eye test” of high quality chicken is that the color is lighter than usual (especially the dark meat), and this chicken passes the test. It is slightly spicy and coated with several Indian herbs including cumin and turmeric that are actually harvested every May in India and promptly sent over to the restaurant. (The Sapphire management does not skimp on quality!)
The Chicken Korma is a type of traditional curry-based dish that I have to order every time that I go to an Indian resto and Sapphire’s version had an amazingly fragrant sauce thanks to a touch of ginger garlic paste and Garam Masala. This satisfying entree also contains the strong savory scents of curry and turmeric–but they give off only a slightly spicy kick taste wise. Needless to safe, this delicious dish is a safe bet when choosing an entree to be served to a large group of people with different levels of “heat” tolerance.
The Saag Panir is another amazing classic brought to a whole new level by the Sapphire kitchen staff. It is particularly creamy and is served with the most amazing Basmati rice topped that is topped with fresh English peas. I probably could live on the rice alone (it is THAT good)! This version of Saag Panir is made with farm fresh local spinach, onion, clove, coriander seed and cardamom. There are lovely small chunks of Paneer (firm Indian cheese) throughout. This is an extra filling, stick to your ribs type of dish and I can best describe it as “Indian soul food” that you will want to come back for time and time again!
Gail and I tried two classic Indian desserts that did not disappoint. We split up both of them and were very happy that we tried both! The first was Gulab Jamun (shown on the left in the above photo), which consists of fried cake balls that are light in texture since they are made from a dough of flour and condensed milk. They are flavored with cardamom and rose and served soaked in a sweet, sticky syrup that is just heavenly. The second dessert that we shared was Kheer (shown on the right) which was so creamy and sweet–it is basically an Indian version of rice pudding where the rice is minced down to a paste-like texture.
Hats odd to veteran restauranteur Darahan Shah and partners Satish Arita and Steve Chopey for doing such a great job with the food, decor and whole mellow vibe of Sapphire! The official website for Sapphire Cuisines Of India is www.sapphire2014.com. You can get delivery and takeout. Reservations are recommended but not necessary. (By the way, I do not know who the guy in the photo is supposed to be but he used to stand outside of Sapphire and now he is indoors for the winter months–if I was him, I would want to stay inside all year and keep an eye on all the great things coming out of the kitchen!)
(Photos by Anne Raso except for Chicken Korma shot by Gail Worley.)