The décor is simple, autumnal with oranges and woods, wooden tables in the center and cushioned booths around the perimeter, with Indian music gently playing in the background. Service is prompt, a pleasure as it’s only 3 weeks old. While this is usually too early for me to visit, the buzz about the place was just too strong to ignore.
Mixed Appetizer Next was quite fresh salads with a slightly tangy vinaigrette. The Mulligatawny soup (($4.95) was vegetarian, a change for those who expect chicken, and it was the only “just ok” dish of the evening.
The entrees were the stars. We ordered “medium” spicy on our dishes, and it was spot on. The Gosht Akbari ($17.95) was a succulent taste blend of lamb with dried apricots, other fruits and sliced green and red peppers in a tasty rich sauce. We could have used another few tablespoons of delectable sauce to dip with the naan; we were very happy with the dish.
The mixed Tandoori Grill ($17.95) was a tasty selection of Chicken Tikka, (breast meat), Tandoori Shrimp, much like BBQ’ d shrimp, and Malai Seekh Kabobs- tasty lamb -a great example of a true Indian kebab, properly spiced. While the tandoor chicken was a touch dry, this was not the case with others who later ordered it. Others raved about the Saffron special chicken ($13.95)- a boneless chicken cooked with cauliflower in a light and spicy sauce.
Mixed Tandoor Platter (Veggies replacing rice) The white rice was very tasty, accompanied by cinnamon sticks, cloves, and mild tasting whole green cardamon pods. Sampling the Rogan Josh revealed a pleasant lamb curry. To be overly picky, it was just not the specific taste of the exquisite North Indian- Kashmiri Rogan Josh delight my Kashmiri (North Indian) cooks were expecting, which is where the dish originated. (It's like serving a "New England clam chowder" with a touch of say, coconut milk or corinader and cumin. Yes, it's a clam chowder; tasty?-perhaps, creative?-uh-huh; the real New England clam chowder deal to a New Englander?-nope.) Many US Indian restaurants generically call lamb curry variations a “Rogan Josh”, not aware that it’s really a very specific tasting dish, so we were not surprised- this is only an academic point, and certainly not a strike against them.
***Addendum*** We later tried the Hyderabadi Biryani ($17), a huge portion of tender spiced lamb, rice, nuts, raisins and other goodies, that has a great blend of mild spices , mild "heat" and just enough natural sweetness, to keep us tasting more! Check my July 1, 2008 entry for a second visit..
We were already planning on inviting other Indian diners to enjoy this oasis of food at a later date, when we heard of the Mango, and the pistachio Kulfis ($5) for dessert. Kulfi is a very hard and generally pretty sweet Indian ice cream, made of thickened milk (rather than a thick cream) and frozen in a specific mold, to yield perfect triangles of frozen love. Our favorite was the mango. Both were good, and less sweet than as found in India. Still, a good ending to a lovely meal.
Pistachio Kulfi Dining Room at 6 O'clock
The bill for generously serving very good Indian food to 3 people was $93, including 2 spiced teas and a diet soft drink, and there was food enough for four people-we wanted to sample a lot! While $23 per person may be higher than in other cities, one must cover the Naples high rent. This is a quite moderate price for the best quality Indian Cooking in the Lee- Collier area. The restaurant is already getting a following, all by word of mouth. We were full, and happily brought home the rest. Is it the best Indian restaurant we've sampled out of well over a hundred? No, however we were very pleased, and will sample more of Saffron’s offerings again.
Chef Pravir, Pallavi, and Chef Raj
Saffron Indian Restaurant 2059 Pine Ridge Rd. (Behind Hess Station) Naples, FL 239-331-3319
Supper only now, Tuesday-Sunday, closed Mondays