Zaffran is special. It's the kind of place where you'd want to celebrate special occasions in life like birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and may be even a hot new date because you want to ensure that the food doesn't let you down.
Sometimes it's the small things that make all the difference. Small things like say, visiting a restaurant on its second day of its operations and being treated to impeccable service and fabulous food. It's nothing less than a pleasant surprise, for the standard excuse for shoddy service in every other new restaurant in town is, well, the fact that they are 'new.'
Tandoori Mushroom Cheese Melt Pics/ Nikita Nagesh
Zaffran is eight years old in Mumbai, but it opened doors to Bangalore last Thursday. And we just had to sample their much revered fare not later than Friday. Not that they need any numerology-induced miracle, but they spell their name with a double F. And it forms an interesting pattern on the regal looking menu card.
But there's much else to absorb before you get to the menu card. The golden seating with paisley printed back rests, the wine bottles on the walls (which, frankly, is not exactly novel, but oozes chicness) and cage-shaped lamp shades in wrought iron lend it a decadent look. The cemented bricks for walls and jharokas in glass beads separating the tables are suitably old world.
Those who are familiar with Zaffran in Mumbai know that they specialise in North West Frontier cuisine and what they are also noted for are their modern Indian specialities. The 24/7 coffee shop however does fries, burgers, a few Continental dishes and will soon include Lebanese cuisine.
We started with the Tandoori Mushroom Cheese Melt (Rs 295) - monstrous button mushrooms with cheddar cheese and what a treat it was! The cheddar was the right pick for the mushrooms and like all good things, it came to an end, really soon.
The next appetizer had to be the Murg Hariyali Tikka (Rs 295) that literally called out to us. Seasoned with a spunky chili cilantro sauce and garnished with bellpeppers , the meat was fresh making the kabab succulent and flawless.
The last entree for the meal was the Chili Cheese Pakodas (Rs 250) and they were fabulous too, the chili quotient subtle and the cheese the sort that oozes out of the besan shell. It can actually be had as a great chai time snack.
For the mains, we had Murg Anarkali(Rs 350). If only the famed slave girl from Pakistan knew that an entire dish is named after her! Truth be told, the name did tilt our decision in favour of the dish. To go with it, we ordered Cheese Naan(Rs 90), which turned out to be exemplary as it were.
The Anarkali felt completely neglected in the presence of the Cheese Naan, which was undisputedly the best we have had so far. Laden with generous shreds of mozzarella, it was a dish by itself. One big bite of the cheesy naan after the other, and we suddenly realised that the chicken was lying unattended.
So we turned our attention to the Anarkali which came with a dense reddish gravy, but was a tad disappointed with it. From a restaurant like Zaffran, you expect a winner in each dish, and this, sadly was just average. And like the legendary designer John Galliano, we too hate averages.
The desserts had to be chosen carefully. Not that we ever count calories, but in an Indian fusion fine dining restaurant, does one go for the desi stuff or the Western desserts?
We decided to try both - a Phirni and the Chocolate Mud Pie. The phirni didn't come in the traditional clay pot that it usually does and we were told that they soon would get them. And perhaps because of that, it wasn't taut enough. It lacked concentration and even some amount of flavour. And the Mud Pie wasn't a Mud Pie at all, but a hot chocolate brownie, made impeccably, but nowhere near a mudpie. Faulty labeling on the menu card, we're guessing, something one doesn't quite expect from a restaurant of this stature.
But the faux pas hasn't left a bitter taste in our mouth for the flavour of the Cheese Naan still lingers. Zaffran is easily the most promising contemporary Indian restaurant in town. Our only suggestion to them would be to go easy on the taxes; if the taxes are nearly 30 per cent of the food bill, it does pinch one quite a bit!
The best thing about Zaffran is that it lures you back to Indian cuisine if the greasy, heavy and condiment-rich Indian food served in most places have made you swear off Indian food while eating out. We are going back to Zaffran. Pay them a visit and you'll know why.
Where: No. 8, Pappana Street Off St Mark's Road
For: Rs 2000 for a meal for two Zaffran didn't know we were there. The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals.