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Jan 8, 2008 07:22 PM

Saffron? Fast Food Indian Downtown?

Seems to be seting up in the whatever-they're-calling-the-Arco-Plaza-Mall-these days (btwn 5th and 6th, Flower and Fig.) Not open yet; looks like they may actually have a tandoor. Anyone know anything more?

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  1. Well, I spoke to managerial-looking guy who was there this Tuesday, with a clip-board in hand. He seemed to be an owner, and said that they had cleared construction inspections, were waiting for a health department inspection, and anticipated doing business by early 2/08. My money says they'll sell their first lunch BEFORE the Wokano in my building, which has been "opening soon" for about a year now. . .

    4 Replies
    1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

      Any signal that they'll be open for dinner? I'm in Echo Park and dying for a decent nearby Indian restaurant, especially for take out. I generally go to Halal Indian down on Vermont and 4th or so, but I'm getting a little tired of it. Any other Indian food recs?

      1. re: artichokey

        If they follow the trend in that food court, I'd say it's highly unlikely they'll be open for dinner. The only place that stays open is the Weiland's.

        Also looking forward to Saffron. Got a glimpse of their menu board and it looks like they'll have naan, garlic naan, a tikka plate, a masala plate, and something else, all possibly with different meats. No prices up yet, but I cannot wait for this to open. Hopefully it's better than the rest of the food in that court.

        1. re: MeAndroo

          I have to correct myself. It's called India's Flavor.

        2. re: artichokey

          Just up the 2 fwy in Montrose (on Verdugo Road, south of Honolulu) is a place called Flavor of India (or maybe it's Flavors of India). We're in Silver Lake and were looking for a new place to try. I found very positive reviews on Yelp and we decided to give it a try.
          It was really good...it's our new favorite Indian restaurant.

      2. thanks, that's good news. it would have to really suck not to be an upgrade over the current situation. went to gill's indian downtown this weekend--though i've had some good experiences, i think all in all they just don't have it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: aventinus

          Yes, good news! I had given up on Indian in this part of town. I am hoping Saffron surpasses the quality of the food options at that court. I am looking forward to trying India's Flavor. Montrose, once again...La Cabinita continues to be my go to for my local Mexican. Bashan is on list of go to as well... What's going on up there...?

        2. Quick update, they're due to be open in a "couple of weeks." Apparently they're waiting for inspection, but the infrastructure is pretty much ready to go.

          3 Replies
          1. re: MeAndroo

            OK, so the story has changed slightly. Went by today after farmer's market and they're handing out samples and saying they open Monday. Prices look like around $8 for a plate w/ meat, 7 w/out meat.

            1. re: MeAndroo

              While I'm not going to rely* on that opening date, I'm certainly going to take a look on Monday. Though I must note, that's only roughly a dollar or so less that the AYCE lunch buffet at Gill's. . .

              r gould-saltman no avatar

              *Wokano, in my building, STILL, as of this PM, hasn't served their first bowl of rice, roughly a year and a month after the original planned opening date, though they've now got bottles on their bar, and the bubble-wrap off the chairs. I guess it beats opening ala Mode (pun intended) without permits and legit utility hookups, and shutting down later.

              1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                You know, I walked by Wokano and I always thought it was shut down.

                I only realized last month that they were planning to open.

            1. re: ns1

              I'm usually in the area for the Farmer's Market on Wednesdays. I'll probably hit Saffron tomorrow, if they're actually open.

              1. re: MeAndroo

                On Wednesdays, I usually hit the Farmer's Market for a danger dog or huli huli chicken, but I tried Saffron today after much anticipation. They have an extremely simple menu, consisting of 3 dishes served w/ chicken or veggie, 2 kinds of naan, tea, soda and dessert. I opted for the chicken tikka plate and a fountain soda, and dropped $10 even. They food comes in a sectioned plastic plate, with the sauce/curry in one section, a large helping of rice, and a section of what looked like those crispy fried noodle bits they throw on asian salads.

                The tikka tasted pretty good, creamy with peas and small chunks of chicken throughout. I didn't care for the noodle bits (soggy-tasting) and the rice was competently cooked, if unspectacular. I have a personal problem with large volumes of repetitive flavors, so that detracted from my final verdict. I also have trouble offering a final verdict without trying the naan (plain or GARLIC /drools), but at this point, I'm not in a rush to go back. I tried a bit of my friend's marsala, and there was definitely fuller flavors and a bigger kick of spice. I'm glad there's another option in a pretty mediocre food court, but for $10, I'd rather head elsewhere.

              2. re: ns1

                Oh, yes. I must sorrowfully report that I've just eaten one of the least interesting meals I've had (outside of maybe, airline food) in many a year. I'm hoping they get their act together and take a step to move towards FAR less gringo-ized food, but in light of the fact, of which I've now been reminded, that the Mexican restaurant that used to be in that mall featured on their menu that well-known regional Mexican delicacy, the Idaho Tater Tot, I'm not holding my breath.

                The tikka platter consists of the "chicken tikka" stuff, some plain rice, and some unidentifiable, little cold, fried puffy things, not noticably either spiced or even salted. Coulda been potato, coulda been lentil, coulda been chickpea; I can't tell you and the Cam-Man couldn't tell either. Naan is extra, which takes the price of this, with no vege sides and no dessert, higher than Gill's AYCE luynch buffet.

                The next sad news was the chicken tikka masala itself. It's now general knowledge that CTM, as it's now apparently known in Desi restaurants nation-wide, isn't really from India originally at all; it supposedly came into existence when somebody somewhere in a restaurant in the UK reheated some tandoori chicken by chopping it up and throwing it into some condensed cream of tomato soup, and adding a little "curry powder".

                This dish, unfortunately, recalled those origins very vividly. The addition of a sad handful of (frozen?) peas did not cover the complete lack of any interesting spicing.

                NO additional spicing or condiments were anywhere in sight.

                Come on, folks; this is Los Angeles, 2008, not Minneapolis, 1951. We have chains of Thai restaurants with largely Latino clientele, clamoring for more more more chili and lime. There's a restaurant within two or so miles of here (Chichen Itza) which serves a table salsa consisting of almost straight pureed habanero peppers; even the adjoining Panda-Express-clone (which actually is far better than Saffron, at least so far) has some real heat and flavor in their dishes.

                The naan was pretty good.

                Until someone reports that there's been a change, then, Gill's it is.. ..

                r gould-saltman
                no avatar

                1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                  How sad. But maybe it will satisfy some of the expat Brits looking for "real Indian" food.

                  Gill's really isn't that bad. Even the Indians in my office used to say it was okay.

                  1. re: mlgb

                    I actually LIKE Gill's, though I don't go in there with vastly lofty expectations. It is, after all, an inexpensive AYCE Desi lunch buffet located in a somewhat-worse-for-wear hotel. The food's pretty tasty, and the service is generally accomodating. I would NOT trade Gill's food for Saffron's pretty signage.

                    1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                      The only thing I have against Gill's is the gut-busted feeling I have when I leave. I'll take the AYCE anyday and actually appreciate the rundown site helping to keep the place from getting too packed during lunch hour.

                    2. re: mlgb

                      I'm not a big fan of Gill's but it's just good enough to entice a visit or a delivery order now and then.

                      1. re: ns1

                        I love Gills. They have a new owner. I used to have to order Chicken Tikka Masala with white meat, now they only serve it with white meat. Great flavors and the onion naan is the best I have ever had. If you haven't tried it in a while, go now. Now, can someone tell me why the owner of the hotel has had carpet rolls in the lobby for years...very tacky (along with the lobby couches that look like they were left on the street). I keep hoping someone will buy the Hotel Stillwell and put some money into it. Until then, I will happily walk thru the lobby to get a great local Indian meal!

                        1. re: RobertC

                          Went to Gill's buffet recently, the carpet is still there and the naan is indeed excellent. Best part of the meal, really.

                          On topic, nice to see the post from the owner below. Hopefully future reports are more positive.

                      2. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                        I work in the building (City National) and have been to Saffron the past two days. Overall I am very happy. Yesterday I had the Tikka and it was quite good - yes if I could tinker with it I'd add some more spice - but I'll still be coming back for more and am excited to add a dish of this quality to my regular rotation. Today I had the yellow daal and I am ecstatic - this dish is fantastic. There's complexity to the spicing and it's not watered down at all... one of the best daal dishes I've ever had.

                        After eating I wandered over and talked to a guy who turned out to be an owner. I gave him my compliments and my two gripes: 1) I, too, despise the fried puffy things; and 2) I could have used a larger portion of the entree. Apparently they're hearing a lot of this, because the fried puffy things are on their way out and the portion size will increase as soon as they can find some new packaging. We'll see... but so far, so good as far as I'm concerned.

                        1. re: bunk11

                          I completely agree with silverlakebodhisattva's review. Granted, I ate there the first it opened. Not only did my order take forever (I ordered the masala) but my coworker put it best when she saw my food: it looked like baby food. Looking at the previous posts, they seem to suggest that saffron is british-indian influenced; if that's true, then that explains why english food had that bad rep. I've never had such watery masala before, nor did I ever have masala with such small pieces of chicken. The peas outnumbered the chicken 5:1. Come to think of it, I don't remember masala having peas. Bottom line, if you like watery chicken masala with tiny pieces of chicken in a can and a gang of peas, then saffron is DELICIOUS. The garlic naan was actually quite good, although I wish the place had either that green sauce or yogurt sauce available.

                    3. This place keeps it simple and does it right. 3 delicious and flavorful choices: Tikka, Masala, and Dahl. All three are fresh and taste like a fine Indian cuisine. The chicken was moist and tender and the portions generous. They also have a mango desert!

                      Also, the price was good and the service fast and very friendly. And OPEN until 9 pm for late-night cravers...

                      It you like Indian food but thought it couldn't be done "fast"--try Saffron..it is amazing.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: MichaelDC

                        9pm? I walk by there regularly on my way to 24 hour fitness around 7-8 and there's nothing open in that food court except Weiland's. Unless they changed since last Thursday...

                        1. re: MeAndroo

                          Hi. My wife Radha and I are two of the owners of Saffron.

                          We are now serving food from 11AM - 9PM every Monday - Friday.

                          Also, I wanted to let those of you who tried our food in late February or March know that our executive chef, Bhupender Singh, has made a number of substantial changes to our dishes. This has been a "soft opening" period for us during which time we have been taking customer feedback and making adjustments.

                          Our official opening is on May 1 -- when we'll be handing out menus and other information about our restaurant. Then on June 1 our website will be going live and we'll begin doing catering and delivery.

                          In the meantime, please feel free to email me at pstris@saffronindia.com with any questions or comments. We're really exciting about joining the downtown Los Angeles restaurant community!



                          P.S. Our executive chef, Bhupender, runs a wonderful sit-down Indian restaurant in Northern California called Ambrosia. Here is a Chowhound page on Ambrosia -- http://www.chowhound.com/topics/422586

                          If you're interested, you can read about Bhupender on the Ambrosia website -- http://www.ambrosiaib.com/about.php

                          1. re: saffron_owner

                            Interesting...I'm certainly curious to see what changes have been made, because lord knows I could go for some quick and good Indian food w/in walking distance.

                            1. re: MeAndroo

                              I may check this out tomorrow. Will report back.

                              1. re: ns1

                                I have been enjoying Saffron a lot since the recent changes.

                                The food is tasty, piping hot, and served pretty quickly.

                                After tasting their sauces, I am specializing in their Chicken Tikka Masala (how boring, right?). The sauces are creamy and not oily - pretty decent for anything at the food court level, and beyond that the fluffy rice is so welcome compared to some of the clumpy/nasty rice I have endured in food courts far and wide.

                                But the naan absolutely defies expectations. It is prepared right in front of you in a tandoor, and - since they start it when you say "I'd like naan with that" - it is approaching the theoretical maximum of hotness & freshness. It really makes the meal a tasty treat!