2013-05-08 / Restaurant of the Week

Saffron Indian Cuisine

Saffron Indian Cuisine opened on January 1 and has already garnered a steady clientele of diners who come for fresh, Indian food with innovative twists. Saffron’s interior is as warm and sensuous as the spice itself. The interior reflects this with wood plank floors, brick and terra cotta colored walls, and warm lighting from woven light fixtures. Best of all, the spacious outdoor dining patio will be open in just a couple of weeks in time for warm weather. The tidy bar rests between the front and rear dining rooms, offering a selection of reasonably priced wines and beers, with stools for chatting.

The young owner, Saiful, a full-time engineering student, designed the restaurant himself. His father, Wahidul Alam, is the chef and prepares all dishes from scratch to create traditional Indian dishes as well as many contemporary fusion dishes. Some examples include the visually appetizing bhel poori, which is composed of puffed rice with herbs, onions and tomatoes, topped with tamarind and cilantro ($3.95). Saffron coconut shrimp is another delicious creation, served on a lettuce leaf with its fragrant coconut sauce. Even fried calamari gets a new twist with a coating made from chickpeas that fries up golden and crunchy, while the rings of calamari are very tender. Dip them into the house chutney to complement their flavor, and there’s plenty to share ($8.95). Other more traditional appetizers include flaky vegetable samosas, vegetable fritters called pakora and very tasty tandoori chicken wings marinated in spices and yogurt, then cooked in the tandoor clay oven, served with house chutney.

Entrées include two dozen vegetarian options, chicken, seafood, meat, and rice dishes so there is something for everyone. While Indian food is always flavorful, it isn’t all “hot” so ask your kind waitperson if you have any questions. All dishes can be adjusted to your liking. There’s a list of vegetarian specialties on the menu that cost just $9.95 and include basmati rice. My dining companion enjoyed her baby eggplant with a red masala coconut sauce. Channa saag is one of my favorite dishes of stewed chickpeas with spinach and mild spices. Dal makhani is a blend of black lentils and kidney beans slow cooked with mild herbs, perfect for spooning over fluffy basmati rice. Aloo mutter gobi is a delicious dish of cauliflower, potatoes, fresh ginger, onions, green peas and spices that offers plenty to take home for lunch the next day.

From the tandoor clay oven, the expert chef makes succulent tandoori chicken, minced lamb seek kebabs, cubes of marinated lamb called boti kebab, and the Saffon mixed grill which offers a sampling of many tandoori specialties, served with French fries.

Chicken specialties cost $10.95 and you’ll find all your favorites, such as chicken tikka masala with its rich tomato-based sauce. Chicken shahi korma is roasted and served in mild cashew sauce. Chicken saag is cooked with spinach, spices, onion and tomato. Some like it hot, and one of my favorite dishes here is chicken vindaloo, marinated in vinegar and fiery spices. You can also order vindaloo made with tender lamb. Rice and Biryani dishes are all mild and flavorful, combining chicken, lamb, goat or vegetables with basmati rice and a variety of herbs and seasonings.

Saffron Indian Cuisine makes delicious breads, hot from the oven, which are ordered separately. Naan bread is cooked with the tandoor and can be ordered plain, with onions, garlic, cheese, or stuffed with ground lamb and spices.

Saffron does a brisk delivery business so they’ve created a special prix fixe menu for delivery only. For $12.95 you’ll choose one appetizer, one entrée, one dessert, bread and rice sent out for fast, free delivery. There’s a dining in-house special for just $16.95 with a complimentary glass of wine and daily lunch specials for $9.95. Take a lunch box to go or enjoy an in-house lunch from 12pm to 3pm for an incredible 40% off, for a limited time only.

Sweeten your palate with creamy Indian rice pudding, ice cream, sweetened milk with cardamom, or the unique gajar halwa made with grated carrots, honey, butter and nuts. The service is very kind, thanks to Vladmir and the rest of the crew. To stay or to go, Saffron Indian Cuisine has your favorite traditional Indian dishes with lots of contemporary surprises.

44-04 Broadway  Astoria, NY

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