When I crave Indian food, it only happens twice a year, so when that craving hits I need to get some Indian food in my stomach fast and it needs to be really good Indian food since I won’t be having it again for six months. Why? Well, Indian food just… stays with you. Kinda like the family member that you’ve allowed to crash on your couch; it won’t leave. Plus, my stomach can only take so much spiciness.
Well my craving hit me really hard last week when I was working at my desk, wondering what to have for dinner. I knew I wanted chicken because my stomach told me I did, and then it reminded me that my six months were up, so off I went! When I go for Indian food, I like to go to Saffron in Newbury Park. Since I hadn’t been there for what felt like six months, it took me a moment to recognize it when I walked in because they had changed some of their decor. Firstly, they hung these pretty fabric panels between the bar and the dining area, which was smart since the two televisions behind the bar always have some obnoxiously distracting sports program on. Secondly, the lighting, which used to make me feel like I was eating in the headlights of an oncoming eighteen wheeler, had been toned way down from an “are you ready for your x-ray?” to a more reasonable “I can almost see through your top!” They also replaced the tables that sat along the windows with nice big booths and it added warmth. They still have the huge wide-screen in the dining room that plays a rotating variety of Bollywood videos and even though I’m not into dark meat, the main star happens to be a total hunk! He’s the Tom Cruise of Mumbai…
You gotta love Indian women too because not only can they have a muffin-top without being accused of having a muffin-top, it’s considered sexy!! Maybe I should move there…
Anyway, everything else about Saffron was exactly as it was six months previously, and it was staffed with the usual Indian guys, who I think own the place. I stood at the doorway taking it all in for a few moments but no one seemed to notice me, which was strange since I happen to be quite stunning! The server near the bar was busy on his phone (I think with tech support), and the bartender wasn’t paying attention. However, when he noticed me a few moments later, he alerted the server, who immediately came towards me with an apologetic look on his face and I finally got seated.
I went straight to their “popular items” section on the menu to try something different because I always order the same thing every time I go and what immediately caught my eye was a dish called Butter Chicken. Two of my most favorite ingredients, Yay!! The dish was described as “marinated tandoor chicken served in a tomato saffron sauce”. Sounds good to me, bring it on! A few moments later, out came my dish with a side of basmati rice. There were chunks of white meat chicken floating in the prettiest red-y, orange-y colored sauce, which was as smooth as Indian silk, and I could see a swirl of the glistening, melted butter circling it’s way around the chicken. I was almost satisfied just looking at it! At first bite, it took a few moments for the spices to dance on my tongue, but once they did, I could only describe it as, well, pretty. The tomato was the predominant flavor with saffron subtly following behind, and there was just the right amount of heat from the ginger and red pepper. As I sat there eating my dish, it occurred to me that the sauce could be the cousin of the Italian pomodoro sauce. In fact, the dish was the most un-Indian, Indian dish I’ve ever eaten, and because it reminded me of Italian tomato sauce, I had the bright idea of using the leftovers on pasta the next day… and it was spectacular!!! In fact, it was waaay better than having it with basmati rice. Personally, I think that’s how the dish is really meant to be eaten. We must be related in some remote way, us Italians and the East Indians. Otherwise, how else would they come up with a dish that could only be described as “Yeah you can eat with rice, but why not try it on pasta!?”
Saffron Indian Cuisine
579 N. Ventu Park Road, #A
Newbury Park, CA