Follow your nose to Saffron

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

When you spot the deep yellow sign, pull over and go inside. You won’t be disappointed

Russell Wodell

Chef Keshaw Dutt organizes servings of his popular dishes at the Saffron Indian Cuisine restaurant on Kingsway. Photograph by : Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

Previously we had registered this restaurant only as a cheering splash of bright Indian colour — saffron, of course — in an otherwise drab Kingsway mini-mall, while approaching the indispensable intellectual resource of the Metrotown branch of the Burnaby Public Library.

Big mistake!

When you spot the deep yellow Saffron Indian Cuisine sign, we strongly advise you to pull over and go inside. (It’s only a few blocks from the Metrotown SkyTrain stop.) You can pretty much follow your nose, as a deep and delicious melange of spices makes itself known even before the door is opened.

The small, oddly angular space (presumably because a triangular pizza parlour has been sliced off one end) is decidedly contemporary, and Saffron offers a nicely modern take on the decor evoked by a few decorative panels of traditional Indian textiles.

It also has a slightly surreal-looking bar, lit from below in bright blue. On a cold, dark January evening, we were surprised to find almost every table occupied, and only slightly dismayed to register that two of our trio were by far the oldest people present (staff included).

Chef Kuldeep Bains, who trained in a variety of international cuisines at the Ritz Hotel in London, says the clientele changes depending on the time of day: a lunchtime crowd descends from the surrounding offices, and the weekend crowd tends to be larger family groups “who seem to come for the butter chicken.”

Just as the room avoids the excessive decor of some ethnic-focused restaurants, the menu has been kept to a workable number of options. We chose to sample some of the less familiar regional dishes from the Punjab-oriented selection: Chicken Hederabadi ($12.95), Goa curried prawns ($14.95), Kashmiri pulao rice laced with raisins and slivers of nuts ($3.50), a mixed vegetable korma ($10.95), and a lamb chili ($13.95).

Our waitress kindly warned us that one dish per person plus rice and bread was going to be more than plenty. In the interests of good reviewing, we ordered far too much (that’s as good an excuse for gluttony as we can come up with) and happily took the residue home.

It proved a fine sampling choice. The chicken was lusciously subtle; the veggies heartening and comforting; the lamb sharply assertive and sinus-cleansing. Our one small disappointment was the prawns — the seafood was previously frozen and slightly rubbery. But the coconut milk-based sauce that accompanied it was sensational, and every drop got scooped up with the accompanying breads: plain naan ($1.50) and a special Saffron stuffed naan ($3.50) — the latter highly recommended.

We returned the following Saturday to sample the mid-day buffet ($10.50 per person). A discreet, possibly jocular sign invites you to help yourself to as much as you wish, but warns of a retributory surcharge of $2.50 in the event of excessive waste. Fat chance!

All present cleaned their plates, returned for dessert, then relaxed totally replete and ready for a nap. A lavish choice of entrees favoured chicken dishes, but there was a good selection of pakoras and other vegetarian entrees.

The standout vegetarian dish was the mushroom mutter, a fabulous combination of peas and mushrooms in onion sauce that one could happily eat daily. No doubt some local customers do. Lucky them.

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5 – 4300 Kingsway, Burnaby


Open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Reservations recommended

© The Vancouver Sun 2008


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