December 2, 2022
The Best Indian Food In Seattle And On The Eastside?

The Best Indian Food In Seattle And On The Eastside?

The Best Indian Food In Seattle And On The Eastside | Michigan’s Best Local Eats: Saffron Serves Up Indian Cuisine At Lunch Buffet In Kalamazoo

Saffron, an Indian restaurant on Kalamazoo’s west side, has restarted its popular lunch buffet — much to the delight of its many fans.

After two and a half years on hold, the restaurant reopened the buffet last month, offering it on Wednesdays through Fridays, 11:30 a.M. To 2 p.M.

And it includes all the old favorites. There are 11 items each day, seven of which are daily standards: Tandoori chicken, naan bread, raita (yogurt with mint and cucumber), rice pudding, and “sensational salad,” consisting of fresh fruit and vegetables in a mint vinaigrette, plus plain and saffron rice.

There also is a meat entree and three vegetable dishes each day, a rotation of dishes such as chicken curry, lamb keema, meatballs, Indian style cauliflower, lentils, chickpeas in a savory sauce, paneer cheese cooked in a coconut yogurt korma sauce and more.

“It’s the same as before,” said Sheetal Singh, who owns and operates Saffron with her husband, Channi. “We didn’t cut anything.”

The only difference is the price: Pre-pandemic, the buffet was $13. It is now $18, the result of higher costs for food and staff.

Customers have taken the price increase in stride, Singh said.

“People are like, well, for the kind of food we get, it’s worth it,” she said.

Indeed, on a recent Wednesday, lunch customers were waiting for a table to open up.

“We haven’t had a problem” drawing customers, Singh said. “All the customers that used to come to the buffet are back, and they’re all like ‘We missed it!’ … Someone said, ‘I haven’t met my friend in two years because every time we would meet, we would meet at the buffet and then we weren’t able to do that.’”

Located in Tiffany’s Village strip mall on West Main Street, Saffron first opened in 2003. Its proximity to downtown and the Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College campuses and its skill with Northwest Indian cuisine quickly drew a regular customer base.

Then the pandemic struck, which shut down the restaurant in March 2020. When Saffron reopened that June, it was takeout only — and just for dinner. Over time, the Singhs expanded their days and hours, adding takeout lunch and takeout and dine-in service at dinner.

But the buffet stayed on hold. One problem was staffing; the pre-pandemic crew had found other jobs and the job market has tightened considerably since. Another problem was supply chain issues. The buffet requires a variety of daily dishes, and the Singhs worried that they wouldn’t be able to provide the consistency that diners were used to.

“Sometimes (the suppliers) were out of lamb,” Sheetal Singh said. “Sometimes they were out of chicken or rice, all the ingredients we need to make things. You can’t start a buffet and then say, ‘We don’t have any chicken,’” particularly when that was one of the buffet staples.

But the supply chain appears to be stabilizing in recent months, she said, which gave them the confidence to reopen the buffet, especially since the buffet is only three days a week (the restaurant is open Monday through Saturday for dinner) and they are not opening up an additional side room during the lunch hour.

“Once we get more help, we’ll go back to our normal hours” of offering the lunch buffet six days a week, and reopening the side room to expand seating, she said.

The restaurant also does a brisk business at dinner, although the ratio of takeout orders to dine-in service has increased since the pandemic, Singh said.

The dinner menu consists of a range of cooked-to-order dishes, from appetizers such as samosa (savory Indian turnovers) and pakoras (a type of vegetable fritters) to an array of vegetarian, seafood, lamb and chicken dishes, plus a variety of Indian bread as well as full bar service.

Entree prices range from $13 for mutter also, a vegetarian dish made with peas and potatoes, to $17 for most of the lamb and seafood dishes. Entrees do not include rice, which must be purchased separately.

As for many restaurant owners, it has been a rough couple of years for the Singhs. But they give much credit to their loyal customers for pulling them through.

“If we had the same food, just as good, but we were in a bigger city like Chicago and not Kalamazoo, I’m sure we would have had to close down,” Sheetal Singh said. “We were able to stay in business because of all the community support that we have. We are very, very thankful for that.”

Saffron is located at 1710 W. Main St., a few doors down from Tiffany’s Wine and Spirit Shoppe. The lunch buffet is served from 11:30 a.M. To 2 p.M. Wednesday through Friday. A regular dinner menu is served from 5-9 p.M. Monday through Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.

For more information, go online to www.Saffronkzoo.Com or call 269-381-9898.

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A Food Writer Visits Five Indian States To Document Diverse Eating Practices And Culinary Histories

I grew up in London in the sixties and seventies with a mother who cooked because she had to, not because she wanted to, and a father who never entered the kitchen except to eat. They argued and bickered and my mother never forgave him for bringing her to ‘this cold country’ but they were completely united in one thing – their love for Indian food and the fact that they missed it.

My father talked endlessly of a hot, crusty bun with lashings of malai from the top of the milk, which he used to eat at Irani cafes in Bombay then. He drooled at the mere mention of ‘kheema gutli’ and ‘bun chop’, favorites at St Mary’s, the school he went to in Byculla. St Mary’s must have been one hell of a place if you can still remember what you ate there after forty years! He talked about the salt beef his mother used to make when he was a child, and of Christmas cake and the blessed batter which had to be stirred for hours in the days before mixers, food processors, and blenders. He missed kebabs and biryani and Falcao and bhel. He missed what he called ‘tart’ – raw mangoes at the onset of summer, imli from the street carts parked outside the school, and sour bora or dry ber – brown berries sprinkled with rock salt.

He had very clear ideas about the food he liked and disliked, the nostalgia made all the more potent by the lackluster English table then. He used to make sneak visits to Wembley for child and to an Indian butcher, Mr. Sheikh, for Indian mutton or goat. My parents disliked British lamb which they found smelly and insipid. My father would wait patiently for my mother to run out of Basmati rice or fresh coriander so that he could drive to Southall (which was quite a long way). Groceries were an excuse to stop at the mithai shop for chum chums, gulab jamuns, and chocolate barfi.

As children, we were well acquainted with a hotchpotch of Indian flavors but completely ignorant as to the background and history. My mother confused our culinary heritage further.

She grew up in a half-Parsi, half-Goan household in Bombay. You can imagine the chutney of cuisines and cultures there. But it was Bombay’s restaurants that made her eyes sparkle. Bombellis at Breach Candy and ‘Continental’ food at Gourdon somewhere near Churchgate, Chinese at Nanking behind the Taj, and Lobster Thermidor at The Little Hut at the top of The Ritz. She experienced Bombay in its heyday in the 1950s, walked to work from Breach Candy to Kemps Corner where she worked in a French company and had a snazzy wardrobe. Her tailor was her best friend and on an average day, she looked like a Hollywood star.

When she married my father, the fun continued. The cooks walked in and she never needed to step into the kitchen – not, that is, until she reached England. They were not only united in their love for the Indian table but their dislike of English food. They found it bland, boring, and tasteless. They thought the British idea of a sandwich for lunch was laughable and my poor mother, who I’m convinced never really liked to cook, ended up slaving over a hot stove every day.

Consequently, we were brought up on a strange mix of European-looking dishes which tasted Indian and Indian ‘curries’ which began with onion, ginger-garlic, and Italian tomato puree. Don’t get me wrong, everything tasted good. It just all tasted the same.

There was no distinction between, say the punch of a Rogan Josh or the subtlety of a fish cold. It was mutton curry, beef curry, prawn, or chicken curry. My mother rarely made fish curry in England because she said the fish had no taste. She opened packets of coconut cream with great finesse, and she soon discovered a miracle marriage-saver called ‘Kashmiri masala’ made by the pickle people, Pataks. This was the answer to all her problems, the cure-all and the ultimate ‘must’ in every one of her Indian dishes, whether it was dal, vegetable, or pork chops. My father learned to cook in his sixties when my mother began to spend a lot of time playing grandmother to my two boys in India, with much the same repertoire.

Hence, my early memories of Indian food were not very defined and certainly not based on any real knowledge in the intellectual sense. My mother had a great ‘hand’. She made very authentic batata vadas and excellent puris. She always cooked rice in a handi with a tight-fitting lid and placed a tea towel between the lid and the utensil at the end of cooking to absorb any condensation. I have copied her. The rice always comes out perfect. She could never roll a roti to save her life. Neither can I. But she put things together in a matter of minutes and could set an extraordinary table (mainly courtesy of Marks and Spencer’s). That’s my British Asian heritage.

After I finished school, I went to Paris for a year to ostensibly master the language. By day I attended the Sorbonne but I really woke up in the evenings and was out meeting friends every night of the week. ‘Cuisine’ was a heavy part of my syllabus and I had excellent teachers – a wonderful and dedicated nanny from Lyon who cooked in the style of Bocuse – classic, traditional French; a photojournalist with a penchant for quick, quality dishes which usually translated into a perfectly grilled lamb chop and a salad; and a host of student friends, all of whom had at least one specialty each.

I also discovered that men cooked quite happily in France, as opposed to the men and boys I knew from the Indian subcontinent who did well to find their way to the kitchen. There was no discrimination between the sexes across the Channel and specifically in the kitchen. Men took pride in cooking and showing off about it. They chose the wine and cheese with awareness. Not surprising since their fathers had probably done the same thing. I had some of the best meals at the homes of some of my male friends who opened oysters by the dozen and served perfectly chilled Muscadet along with them. Not very creative, but it took a lot of devotion to open a hundred oysters in one evening. The same bunch prepared excellent onion tart, and cabbage stuffed with baby pigeon, and could select magnificent cheese.

I was once asked to cook ‘Indian’ in Paris and concocted something which looked like koftas in a masala gravy or what my mother called ‘ball curry’. I had found the famous Kashmiri masala in a grubby Indian grocer near St Denis. It met with great applause.

I became a pretty good cook churning out a handful of Indian dishes, but my culinary education was from the French school of gastronomy. I learned the meaning of the word ‘quality’, how to shop, where to shop, how to avoid supermarkets like the plague, how to pick a perfect Brie, which dressing went with which salad, and why and how to handle a leg of lamb. I learned which cut of meat to use for each dish and why the age of the animal was so important to cooking. I was taught well and I was an eager and willing student. When I returned to University in England, the country had become much more cosmopolitan and wiser in matters of food. The British began drinking wine like they were born to it and eating quiche-like it was their national dish. I approached all this trendy hype with my nose firmly in the air. I was beyond all the fluff. I had lived in Paris. Nothing could better that.

Excerpted with permission from Masala Memsahib: Recipes and Stories from My Culinary Adventures in India’, Karen Anand, Macmillan.

The Best Indian Food In Seattle And On The Eastside

 

1022 Annapurna Amber

The Seattle area’s stronghold of great Indian restaurants lies not in the city, but to the east, serving the population of residents that emigrated from India to join our tech ecosystem. (King County’s Indian American population is so significant, we even have our own professional cricket team on the way.) In recent years, a few notable destinations have established a critical mass within Seattle proper.

Our range of South Asian restaurants exhibits nearly as much variety as the nation’s wealth of regional cuisines. Options range from balmy coconut and seafood flavors of Kerala to Pakistani food trucks, classic curries—even Indian pizza. Here are our favorites.

Kathakali Kirkland

Chef Ajay Panicker’s destination-worthy food stays true to the seafood- and vegetable-rich cuisine of South India’s Kerala region rather than balancing the menu with more familiar Indian dishes. This might mean a whole fish with spices wrapped in a banana leaf, or the rice noodles known as idiyappam, or string hoppers. Pay special attention to menu items highlighted with stars, and the entire “Dosas and Kerala Specials” section. The best meals finish with an order of housemade jackfruit ice cream.

Kricket Club Ravenna

Meesha’s newer sibling restaurant is slightly more upscale. But for Indians, the food is nostalgia—with a fresh take. The pan-Indian menu reads like owner Preeti Agarwal dug deep into grandma’s cookbooks, then got original, making kofta curry with jackfruit and filling tiffin lunchboxes with Bengali lamb curry and house dal to unpack tableside. The Indian national cricket team’s former jersey inspired the dramatic color scheme, and cocktails and wine get the same emphasis as at Meesha.

KricketClub Amber Fouts MB 6642 combo dqg0yg Foody Moody Renton

Buckle up for Pakistani kebabs and the most amazing zinger burger in the Pacific Northwest. The zinger, a spicy fried chicken sandwich, started as an immensely popular menu offering at KFC chains in Pakistan, then took on a life of its own. To find this impressive local version, you’ll have to track down Foody Moody’s nondescript location near some homes across from a McLendon Hardware garden center. This place lacks fanfare, but the menu of paratha rolls, burgers, and pulao rice (all halal) is spot on.

Chaat House Bellevue, Bothell

The chaat houses of Northern India specialize in that broad category of savory—often crunchy or deep-fried—street food snacks. This functional counter-service version makes a standout papdi chaat (crispy chips with toppings like chickpeas, yogurt, chutney, and masala) and chole bhature (chickpeas and fried bread). Chaat House’s all-vegetarian menu includes an extensive lineup of Indo-Chinese dishes, including some excellent Hakka noodles.

The Roll Pod Bellevue, White Center, Food Truck

Hands down, the best Kathi rolls in the region come from this fast-casual chainlet that includes two stores and a pair of food trucks. Each location layers flaky roti with a fried egg, filling (10 options, meat or vegetarian, mostly curried), plus shredded lettuce, onion, and cilantro-mint chutney. The results nail the Kathi roll’s essential blend of flavor, freshness, and texture. Roll Pod’s menu has tons of combos and lets you order items as a bowl, with rice and tomato gravy in place of the roti wrap.

1022 Roll Pod Amber Honest Restaurant Bellevue/Overlake

Most U.S. Versions of dishes like vada pav and pav bhaji rely on a sweeter, softer bread roll than what you’ll find in India. This chain—based in Ahmedabad in Gujarat—makes it’s own and gets the texture exactly right. Honest has a large, entirely vegetarian menu that includes the best vada pav around. If you’re really hungry, the Bahubali sandwich—a quadruple decker stuffed with vegetables, curry, and even jam in the middle—is weird, but it works. Order at the counter; the ambiance is great for takeout.

Rasai Fremont

At first, it’s easy to miss the Indian aspects of a menu that might include lamb osso buco and watermelon and goat cheese salad. But executive chef Gaurav Raj’s modern dishes blend Indian traditions with great success; the kitchen pulls off memorable plates like chipotle paneer and a fig kofta. This isn’t the place to scratch an itch for curries and dal, but it is memorable fare, served in a dramatic dining room.

Annapurna Cafe Capitol Hill

This spot in the thick of Broadway will serve you standard naan and masala dishes, but Himalayan specialties are the draw here, especially since so few restaurants serve Nepalese and Tibetan food locally. The Nepalese-style curries are worth exploring, and no meal is complete without the small stuffed dumplings known as momos.

1022 Annapurna Amber Fouts 57A9531 combo2 hnut99 Lari Adda Bellevue

Dishes from Pakistan often get subsumed into more extensive Indian menus. This lively food truck next to a Lake Hills gas station is one of the few spots that emphasize Pakistani food, serving meaty street fares like the boti to my roti and beef Bihari paratha rolls or a calm chapli burger topped with green chutney. A special Saturday brunch menu rolls out favorites like puris with chickpea curry and sweet halwa or Monday holiday (a chickpea and egg curry). The nihari, or mutton stew, has its own fan base and often sells out. Owners Sheraz Malik and Saira Bano are a welcome sight for Pakistan natives, but also happy to explain the food to visitors who aren’t familiar.

Samburna Bothell

True to the Tamilian background of its owners, Samburna does standout dosas—the spotlight-hogging poster child of South Indian food. But venture deeper into Tamilian cuisine here with excellent versions of fish fry, Malabar chicken, peppery kozhi curry, chicken 65, and goat curry. Order flaky Malabar parotta to sop up the curries. The menu elumbu Saru (goat bone broth) is a standout. Service can be leisurely, so takeout is a great option.

Rajdhani Thali Restaurant Issaquah

At Rajdhani, there are no menus. This Bombay-based chain, which draws on the Rajasthani and Gujarati traditions of thali restaurants, is essentially an all-you-can-eat buffet that comes to you. Once diners are seated at tables—each one gleaming with massive shiny steel plates, each with 4–5 bowls—servers start showing up to the table to fill it with all manner of curries, chutneys, sweet dishes, flatbreads, even drinks on the side. Refills and more refills follow until you say stop. The food (all vegetarian) has hits and misses, but the experience is unforgettable. Come very hungry.

Meesha Fremont

Preeti Agarwal’s first restaurant established her formula: Gathering dishes from across India’s regions (Rajasthani kofta might sit on the table next to a Goan prawn curry). Serve it in an inviting dining room with cocktails and a good wine program. Diners with restrictions appreciate the separate menus for vegan dishes and non-alcoholic drinks.

Spice Waala Capitol Hill, Ballard

A pair of popular street food shops make sturdy Kathi rolls filled with marinated and grilled meats (plus vegetarian options) and snacks like aloo Tikki chaat, bhel puri, and masala aloo—aka masala fries with chutney to dip. Spice Waala’s new rotating soft serve, in flavors like pistachio cardamom, is a nice, cool counterpoint to the main meal.

Aahaar Snoqualmie

Even after a decade, Ajay Panicker’s original South Indian restaurant remains a standout. Dosas and idlis (savory rice cakes) are favorites on the menu, which is more compact than its sibling restaurant, Kathakali. Other good bets include the fish fry, flaky, multilayered Malabar parotta flatbread to eat with curry, and the Amaravati chicken—a spin on chicken 65 with a few extra fireworks. The badam halwa dessert is an expert spin on the comforting pudding of stewed almonds.

DSC 7853 gkriwq Naan-N-Curry Issaquah, Renton

As the name implies, this pair of family-owned spots is the place to go for naan and curry. Not to mention flavorful kebabs, tikkas, and the best dum biryani on the West Coast. The Pakistani roots of the owners come through in hard-to-find traditional dishes like haleem, nihari, and paya (a trotter curry, sometimes available at the Renton outpost). This place is not for the faint-hearted—the curries are extremely rich—and it’s currently only open for takeout.

Nirmal’s Pioneer Square

Indian food has a split personality—what you eat in Indian restaurants is miles away from the dishes you’re likely to find in an Indian home. The food at Nirmal’s comes closest to bridging that gap. Delve into misal pav, sooji chicken races, Nizami goat curry, and more, in a historic building in Pioneer Square with tons of brick-walled charm.

Can-Am Pizza Redmond, Bothell, Kent, Federal Way

A well-known secret among the Indian population in Seattle, Can Am’s mainstay is their Indian pizzas (parked under the puzzlingly named ‘East Indian’ section of the menu). Ignore the rest of the Domino’s-like pies and pick between the butter chicken, tandoori chicken, and karahi chicken (or get all three). It’s a creamy, spicy, curry-tastic spin on the classic mozzarella and tomato sauce landscape, not to mention a good pizza crust. It works. And it’s great for takeout. Pies come in vegetarian versions too, with paneer subbed for chicken.

Rupee Bar Ballard

For purists, the South Indian and Sri Lankan menu in this tiny peacock-colored dining room invites skepticism. Bhel puri with snap peas and yogurt? Naan (itself a North Indian bread) offered as a starter rather than with a dish? But chef Liz Kenyon makes it work, from an admirable version of Sri Lanka’s beloved mutton roll to well-spiced Kerala fried chicken. Even the puri, rife with cherries and crunchy hazelnuts, will win over doubters and enthrall people who are new to the cuisine.

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