It takes nearly 5,000 crocus flowers to produce an ounce of saffron, giving this aromatic, musky-tasting spice unrivaled mystique. Used in such traditional Indian dishes as pilaus (pilaf), raans (marinated, slow-roasted leg of mutton or lamb) and creamy korma (a type of curry), its pungent flavor adds depth while its cooling qualities mellow hotter seasonings. Its exotic nature also makes it a fitting namesake for Saffron Kitchen, Bala Cynwyd’s newest ethnic eatery.
Saffron’s vibrant beeswax-yellow and lime-green walls shimmer in the natural light streaming from a bank of windows. Similarly hued linens and furnishings, a deep-black ceiling, contemporary lighting and upbeat music round out this petite BYO’s modern feel. Service can be aloof—which, for lunch meetings at least, can be a good thing. Weekend evenings tend to bring long waits, but takeout is an option.
The limited lunch menu is a good deal, with all but one dish in the $7-$9 range. Other than the generous mounds of saffron basmati rice, the portions seemed smaller than average, but the rich sauces—especially when combined with thin, crispy, nicely warmed garlic naan—fill you up quickly.
The “extra-spicy” (by request) lamb rogan josh was tender and slathered in a tangy sauce, though it wasn’t particularly hot. Better was the jalapeño-curry-spiced chilli kadai chicken, which had a more distinct flavor than the lamb. Forkfuls of coriander-infused chickpea punjabi and aloo gobhi-seasoned cauliflower and potatoes made a tasty topping for the naan, convincing me to stop back for dinner, when menu options are more plentiful.
For a liquid pick-me-up, try the fruity, rich and creamy mango lassi or the iced tea, with its unexpected chai seasoning.
145 Montgomery Ave., Bala Cynwyd; (484) 278-4112, saffronofphilly.com