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RTP: Saffron

h
HeelsSoxHound Aug 1, 2006 03:50 PM

Wanted to do a quick plug for a new upscale indian place on davis drive, in the big shopping center with harris teeter. Saffron does an excellent lunch buffet, with lots of fresh, buttery naan to sop everything up, and a wide range of offerings. Dinner is pretty killer too-- tandoori smoked lobster, braised lamb shanks in a gorgeous sauce, the ingredients of which escape me (i confess an ignorance of traditional indian cuisine). wine list was very thoughtfully put together--eclectic, but good complements to the food. will try again and take better notes.

  1. w
    Westy Aug 2, 2006 12:16 PM

    Agreed!! I live within walking distance of Saffron (Davis Drive in Morrisville), and it is excellent.

    Matt

    1. b
      bbqme Aug 3, 2006 02:29 PM

      The menu looks fantastic! We'll be going there this Saturday evening to try it out and will report back.

      1. b
        bbqme Aug 7, 2006 03:44 PM

        Went to Saffron for dinner on Saturday night. In short, this place is a gem. I can't declare it the best for Indian food in the Triangle after only one meal but it is certainly in the running and may well be after a couple of more meals.

        To start we were brought the now ubequitous pappardums but were brought three sauces along with it: a tamarind chutney, a cilantro chutney, and a yogurt raita. I like the tamarind and cilantro a lot. The mango lassi came in a large, tall glass with a pinapple and cherry garnish and was delicious, if a bit too sweet. The Hoegarden Belgian White also went well with the dishes. I had a coconut a shrimp soup that was okay, could have used more salt. The highlight were clearly the entrees. We ordered the fried okra (to which the waiter said was a excellent choice and gave us a look that indicated we knew what we weredoing) and the lamb shank curry. I figured a curry using lamb shank would require long, slow cooking rather than a pre-made curry sauce being poured over some meat and veg. Both the okra and lamb were outstanding! The okra was sweet, slightly crunchy, with hints of mild spices. The lamb was melt in your mouth tender wher you first tasted the meat and followed by layers of spices and then finally some heat. It was so good I had forgotten about the naan and beer that I had ordered. We only had room for masala tea and it was just like they make it in India: milky, sweet, and fragrant of cardamom, cloves, and ciannmon.

        The prices are a little higher than other Triangle Indian restaurants but given the nicer ambiance, and the extra touches like the sauces, garnishes, and better ingredients and execution of the dishes, it's well worth it.

        Thanks to HeelSox and Westy for clueing me in about this place. I plan to return soon to try out more of the menu.

        1. h
          HeelsSoxHound Aug 7, 2006 04:59 PM

          word... i'm glad you guys had similar impressions of the place. i was a little concerned (and still am somewhat) about the ability of the surrounding area to sustain a restaurant such as that, but i think if we all put the word out on the food, it can only get better! will also be back in for dinner soon.

          1. g
            gyp7318 Oct 26, 2006 12:02 PM

            After reading so many great reviews of this place, I decided to have dinner there last night. First of all, I'm coming from Durham and had never really ventured far into RTP. It was a hike to get there. Enough griping..... :)

            I had a nice glass of cote du rhone and split an order of the vege samosas. They were good but not as flavorful as I've had before. For entrees, my friend had the saffron chicken and I had the goan shrimp. The chicken was delicious----stuffed w/spinach and apricot preserves. My goan shrimp was good but not great. I did absolutely love the cucumber raita--it was delicious. The naan was on the greasy side. I thought it was baked in the tandoori but it appeared it was deep fried. For dessert, we split the chocolate lava cake w/vanilla ice cream. It was not all that great. I've had better from a convenience store.

            Verdict? The wait staff and the manager/owner (I think) were super nice and attentive. Wine? Excellent. Food? Good but not great. I will definitely give it another try and sample some other dishes.

            3 Replies
            1. re: gyp7318
              d
              detlefchef Oct 26, 2006 12:36 PM

              That is essentially my take on the place as well. Nice folks, very cool wine list, and good food. Will not hesitate to eat there again but not like I can't get it out of my head or anything.

              1. re: gyp7318
                b
                bbqme Oct 26, 2006 08:22 PM

                A comment on making naan. Traditionally, naan are baked in the tandoor oven and then brushed with ghee (clarified butter) while it's hot. That's probably why you found it greasy-- it's supposed to be. If you don't like it that way just ask them to skip this step next time you order and I'm sure they'll oblige. If you do like deep fried bread try an order of puris.

                1. re: bbqme
                  g
                  gyp7318 Oct 27, 2006 11:27 AM

                  Thanks for the info. I had just never had naan served to me that way before so I was a bit unclear as to why I found it greasy. Makes sense. I do think I will skeep the ghee step. To me it detracted from the rest of the meal.

              2. m
                mikeh Oct 26, 2006 02:50 PM

                I tried this place a few weeks ago and my impressions were similar. I actually prefer Sitar India Palace. That may open the door to criticism from others, but I like the naan there much better (and I believe theirs is actually baked in a tandoor) and the spice balances are more nuanced (i.e. less overpowering). Granted, I am definitely not the go-to person to judge Indian cuisine because I have very low tolerance for Indian spices in particular. For example, I came away from the famous S. Indian chain Saravana Bhavnan barely able to palette the food (with a mango lassi ratio of two per dosa!).

                So that said, my "alligator" tongue prefers Sitar. I just wish one of these N. Indian places would feature thali (see my separate thread on this).

                1. klmonline Oct 28, 2006 09:50 PM

                  I see that nobody has reported on the lunch buffet, so I'll chime in with today's luncheon summary. This was our first time trying Saffron and a Saturday lunch buffet is always a test. We came in around the halfway point of their noon to 2:30 serving window.

                  The buffet is set up in a back room that looks like it's normally reserved for private parties. It is a bit crowded and is forced to fit in a U-shape of three tables with diners lining up on the inside of the U. That makes it rather shoulder to shoulder. The food items were being replenished pretty regularly and nothing looked tired and crusty. Fresh plates were replenished at the head of the line.

                  There was an assortment of both veg and meat items. I recall some fried lentil doughnut-type rings, chicken biryani, a goat stew, garbanzos and new potatoes in a mildly spicy red sauce, a vegetarian paneer in a creamy mild red sauce, white rice, curry leaf rice (that's three different rice dishes if you're counting!), and something completely unidentifiable in a thick white cream sauce. To my amazement, there was also a dish labeled as Kung Pao Vegetables. And it was! The classic Chinese flavor in an Indian buffet. Weird.

                  Flavors of all dishes were good, but not standout notable. The best items were brought straight from the kitchen to the table as complimentary accompaniments to the meal. The naan, as noted above, was very hot and fresh and coated with butter. It was just a tad thick and chewy for my taste, but still good because of the freshness. The winners were the complimentary dhosas, which used very light and crispy crepes and contained just a small appetizer portion of the potato filling. We got seconds on those because they worked so well alone or with the mint or tamarind side sauces.

                  Service was plentiful, swift, and pleasant. Everybody smiled, used dishes were cleared quickly, and we felt welcome. The buffet cost $10 without drinks.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: klmonline
                    b
                    bbqme Oct 30, 2006 01:55 PM

                    There are large populations of Chinese in major cities of India, and as here in the US, Chinese restaurants are qutie popular. Over the years, there has been a melding of Indian and Chinese flavors and techniques such that a specialized cuisine has come out of it. In cities like Atlanta, NYC, and Chicago, they have restaurants that specifically cook in this style. They'll have names like Bombay Wok. Here in the Triangle there is one example, Pao Lim in Durham. The owner is a Chinese fellow who grew up in Calcutta. Although they cook mostly Chinese dishes, there are a few that definitely have some Indian influences.

                  2. klmonline Oct 30, 2006 08:30 PM

                    Now there's a useful and educational piece of Chowhound information sharing! Thanks, bbq!

                    1. i
                      Icorpse Oct 31, 2006 05:53 PM

                      The most upscale Indian joint in the triangle has to be Azithra (sp?) around Brier Creek. Hands down the best fusion Indian cuisine in the triangle. BTW, fusion cooking is the "in" thing in India now..so this fits right in. Super staff, stiff prices, nice drinks.
                      In my humble opinion, the best Indian food in the triangle can be found at the restaurant called Royal India in North Raleigh. It is off capital blvd near Toys R Us. Their Sunday lunch buffet is great. I have never tried Saffron but I hear that their chef is from a very good restaurant in India. Usually, when you try the buffet, quantity rules over quality. Azithra has lunch specials but no buffet. I hate Spice and Curry. Indian food is not about dumping copius amounts of spices into every dish. I like Bombay Grill for lunch. Much better.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Icorpse
                        b
                        bbqme Nov 1, 2006 07:06 PM

                        Everything about my Azithra experience was good except the food. It's a pretty restaurant, they had a live sitar player, the bar was nice but the food was only okay. It's wasn't necessarily bad but everything tasted too similar to each other. It all tasted like curry tikka masala. At Saffron, each dish has a spice or two that is highlighted. For examples,in the veg. kofta curry the saffron shines through, in the goan shrimp the cumin is most noticeable, and in the lamb dishes the cardamom and cloves is in the foreground, and the okra plays up shallots and black mustard seeds.

                        Sant

                      2. d
                        durhamois Dec 11, 2006 04:25 AM

                        I haven't tried Saffron yet, but a friend of mine from India gives it a very strong recommendation. Indian cuisine is one of my favorites. While I know that Udupi is considered the star around here, the dosas at Sitar are head and shoulders over those at Udupi or Tower. I would go so far as to say that the dosas at Udupi are just nothing special. It's been awhile since I ate there, but I seem to remember scant fillings on the dosas, and a pretty flavorless crepe. Those at Tower are slightly better. But Sitar's win hands down with the wonderful crackling texture of the dosa crepe, and the savory & spicy fillings, such as the mysore masala dosa (potatoes and cashews). Sitar's sambar is also superior. Coconut chutney is... well, that's good everywhere. I'd happily bathe in it.

                        Sitar does not have dosas on their regular dinner buffet. They DO have the fixin's to mix up some chaat, which in and of itself is rather fun and exciting. Furthermore, they feature dosas on their weekend lunch buffet (Sat & Sun, daytime only), which also costs less than dinner. Of course, food that's been sitting on a buffet is invariably not as good as ordering off the menu. However, Sitar usually remains fairly busy, so the food never seems like it's sat around too long.

                        1. s
                          shaidarharan Apr 27, 2007 04:13 PM

                          I snagged a reservation at Saffron for Valentine's Dinner and the experience was delightful. I would definitely do it again. I agree with the OP.

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: shaidarharan
                            j
                            JosephP Aug 22, 2007 03:52 PM

                            Glad to hear such great reviews of Saffron. My wife and I lived around the corner and have been there many times. We absolutely love it. As a former owner of an Indian food restaurant and a person who frequented the chef's former haunt in NY, I humbly agree that Saffron is the best Indian food in the area. I haven't been to every place, but I've been to most and the consistent quality and inventiveness of the food is wonderful. Azithra is very good and a lovely space, but I think the consistent quality of the food is better at Saffron. Just my opinion...

                            1. re: JosephP
                              m
                              MJE2 May 2, 2008 01:04 PM

                              Me, my kids, my wife and about 15 other folks in the restaurant today would agree that the reviewer needs to try Saffron again because the initial report is DEAD WRONG. Burned, crusted-out and near-empty buffet pans, servers more concerned with setting up for dinner THREE hours away than to clear dirty buffet plates, wipe the layers of food drippings off the counters, but so quick to take your credit card...Saffron's age of good food worth the suffering of poor service is coming to the end. Take the inconsistent food with the lame service and throw them all out with the dishwater!

                              1. re: MJE2
                                p
                                Pigloader May 2, 2008 03:30 PM

                                I think the initial review was from 2 years ago or so-- could be part of the discrepancy.Sorry to hear that your experience was so bad... there are indeed a bunch of other good Indian restos in the area.

                                1. re: Pigloader
                                  LulusMom May 20, 2008 03:03 PM

                                  I'd love to know what the other good Indian places in the area are. I live in Chapel Hill and havn't found anything yet but really love Indian food. Can you give me some names?

                                  1. re: LulusMom
                                    s
                                    suse May 21, 2008 06:04 AM

                                    I like India Palace near the Durham Target off 15-501. They have good Dosas. They are in an abandoned strip mall across form Sam's Club which is on the verge of renovation. Everyone says Udupi (vegetarian - no alcohol) is the best, but I haven't ventured to Cary yet to check it out.

                                    1. re: suse
                                      LulusMom May 21, 2008 11:11 AM

                                      Thanks Suse. The no alcohol thing kind of makes it less attractive as an idea for a night out, but maybe stopping by for lunch would be fun.

                                      1. re: suse
                                        LulusMom May 26, 2008 09:51 AM

                                        Went to this place (India Palace) today looking for dosas ... it was more of a small grocery than resto, and the guy working there said the only dosas they had are frozen. Did I somehow find the wrong place (it was in the strip mall behind Sams; same place as the Thai Noodle place)?

                                        1. re: LulusMom
                                          o
                                          otto_pivner May 26, 2008 11:28 AM

                                          My guess is that you were looking for Sitar Indian Palace. The place by Twisted Noodle is only a grocery store, and is named India Palace, though they have good samosas that they make there.

                                          Sitar Indian Palace, which is a good restaurant, is across the road, tucked back toward a furniture store and not much else. The address is 3177 Shannon. The website is:

                                          http://www.sitarindiapalace.net/

                                          1. re: otto_pivner
                                            LulusMom May 26, 2008 03:01 PM

                                            Aha! I looked on the other side of 15/501, but only as I drove by, so I wouldn't have seen the other. You can see how I confused the names ... Thanks for the info, I'll try again.

                                            1. re: LulusMom
                                              s
                                              suse May 26, 2008 04:33 PM

                                              Oh, man - I'm so sorry for not giving you the full name and sending you on a wild goose chase. For some reason I always have a mental block on the "Sitar" part of it. I feel like I should make it up to you. We should have some sort of local chowhound get-together sometime and I'll buy you a drink.

                                              1. re: suse
                                                LulusMom May 26, 2008 04:41 PM

                                                Not to worry! I just wanted to try to find out the details so I could try again. That said, I'm always up for a drink with a local chowhound. But don't worry for a second about me not being able to find it today. It was sort of a lark since I happened to be in the area.

                                                1. re: LulusMom
                                                  s
                                                  suse May 27, 2008 05:58 PM

                                                  We should definitely do that sometime, but I'm not sure how to go about arranging that on this site. Any ideas?

                                                  1. re: suse
                                                    LulusMom May 29, 2008 06:54 AM

                                                    I'm not sure either ... maybe one of the mods will see this and direct the two of us to guidelines? I've got a 2 year old so scheduling stuff can sometimes be iffy, but I like the idea.

                                  2. re: MJE2
                                    b
                                    blewgo May 2, 2008 04:08 PM

                                    What time were you there? I think many places would be better off closing between 2:00 and 5:00. There really can't be enough business between those hours to justify keeping a buffet stocked with fresh food so they would be better off being closed.

                              2. t
                                toosuns May 20, 2008 02:48 PM

                                I ate here about 4 months ago for lunch and had the buffet. It was okay. There was only 1 dish that really stood out as something I would go back for. I can't remember the name though. It was some kind of chicken dish. However, I must add that my husband works in RTP and he and his co-workers go there often as several people on their team are vegetarians and so they try to go to restaurants that can accommodate vegetarians when they go out as a group. Not long after I went there, my husband came home and said that the chicken dish I had enjoyed so much (which happens to be my husband's favorite) didn't taste as good as it used to and they raised their lunch buffet price. Then a few weeks later my husband told me they went there again and that everyone on the team agreed that they weren't going there for lunch anymore because it wasn't as good as it used to be and with the price increase it just wasn't worth it.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: toosuns
                                  b
                                  bbqme May 21, 2008 09:02 AM

                                  To MJE2 and toosuns,

                                  It's silly to judge a restaurant's quality by its lunch buffet. The chef probably isn't even in the kitchen then. Try going there for dinner, order items off the menu that will be made to order, and then if you don't like it let us know.

                                  1. re: bbqme
                                    t
                                    Tom from Raleigh May 21, 2008 10:38 AM

                                    I couldn't agree more with bbqme's post.

                                    I've been to Saffron twice now. Each time I ordered dinner off the menu. Both times were excellent. The service was very attentive. I loved the house special okra dish. It was awesome. Chicken Tikka Masala was the best version of this dish I had.

                                    I also love the fact that they actually serve an IPA from Carolina Brewing in Holly Springs, rather than just the macro lagers from India. IPA stands for India Pale Ale, a much hoppier version of a pale ale. It was served to the British soldiers and officers in India.

                                    1. re: Tom from Raleigh
                                      s
                                      Sinophile May 27, 2008 03:58 PM

                                      I've never tried the buffet, but the menu at Saffron is excellent. I consider Saffron the second best Indian restaurant in the area after Udupi in Cary. The problem is that Saffron is almost twice as expensive as Udupi, making Udupi by far the more attractive option.

                                      1. re: Sinophile
                                        b
                                        bbqme May 29, 2008 12:34 PM

                                        Good to hear from you, David A. Keep in mind, however, that Udupi is an all veg restaurant and thus food cost is a lot less than I imagine it is for Saffron.

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