Often, it is the simplest of dishes that have the highest impact: a plate of succulent Pani Puri, juicy Chenna or a zesty Rajasthani Raj Kachori. Saffron delivers something that goes to the very heart of the best restaurants - exquisitely good taste
By: Niyoshi Shah
Posted on: July 22, 2022
LF Says: ★★★★
Mumbai’s fine dining landscape has always been hard to navigate. With new restaurant and menu launches almost every fortnight, it is increasingly challenging to identify quality food over the clamor of fanfare.
However, Saffron’s simplistic output, superior flavours and refined experience sets it apart. It’s a place which can serve for both special occasions, but also for an impromptu lunch with a friend; where the food is indulgent and diverting without being look-at-me showy or pretentious. The restaurant, with its rapport-ready staff, hands-on chef and elegant interiors is a must-visit for authentic Awadhi, Mughlai cuisine lovers in suburban Mumbai at the plush JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu hotel.
This Indian specialty restaurant is rightfully named after the world’s most precious spice, serving handcrafted, passed-down and reimagined flavors. Here the prices, while not exactly cheap, won’t make you gasp, and the amiable staff will look after you in the most genial way.
The menu, curated by Chef Ajay Jain and his team, follows the ethos of telling compelling stories through their dishes and bringing local, organic produce to the forefront. No small feat in a city where organic farming is relatively unconventional. Being vegetarian, while my options were limited, the food was rich, flavorful and authentic for my local palate.
I found the service quietly professional, quick and attentive on the restaurant’s opening night, with my Asparagus Galouti Kebabs arriving within just a few minutes of ordering (pan-grilled with the Lucknowi potli spice) along with a scrumptious serving of the Kashmiri Gucchi (cottage cheese stuffed morels, khoya, cashewnuts, red chilies). The chef recommended that I try their famous Rajasthani Raj Kachori (filled with masala guacamole, hing aloo sprouts and sweetened curd) and it’s safe to say I did not regret ordering the third appetizer that evening. It was mouthwateringly piquant with just the right amount of crunch.
Their Truffle Kulcha and the refreshing Watermelon and Guac Chaat were the highlights of my evening along with Saffron’s take on a local and my personal favorite Pani Puri – served with chili-coriander water, sweet tamarind water and pineapple water. The menu is ingenious and the dishes even more delectable.
For the main course, I opted for a stir-fried Uttaranchal Saag and spicy, velvety chole kulcha. To offset the heat, a sweet, cooling chutney made of grated coconut was served. I turned to listen to the couple next to me swoon over a plate of Gondhoraj Tandoori Prawns.
Their dessert menu includes Berry & Brioche Tukda (Saffron’s take on the Shahi Tukda), Gold Jamun (anjeer and gulab jamun), Chenna (stuffed cottage cheese, sweetened milk, rose and saffron) and 64% Cocoa Mousse (almond, sea salt and berries). After such a heavy meal I could only muster an appetite for a small helping of the Chenna and the Cocoa Mousse, and the soft, mouthwatering texture of both the desserts reminded one of a warm hug by a loved one. It was blissfully decadent, supple and prepared to perfection.
The restaurant uses locally-sourced ingredients including organically harvested turmeric from the foothills of the Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya and Basmati rice from Karnal, Haryana. Gucchi morels are foraged from the high-altitude forest ranges of Anantnag, Kupwara and Kangan in the Himalayas. The best of cinnamon comes from Sri Lankan forests, Sharbati wheat from the Malwa region in Madhya Pradesh and organic green elaichi from the pristine Western Ghats of Kerala. Deep red in colour and bold in flavor, our Mongra saffron comes from Pulwama, Kashmir.
The décor is simple yet stylish, intimate yet classic. Statement dramatic metal mesh curtains complement the ceiling dressed in a rattan patchwork of Indian motifs. The design approach is intrinsically Indian, colorful yet somber.
The Chef has successfully adapted novel culinary trends, mixing them with local recipes with nuanced artistry to prepare food that explodes with flavour, using seasoning to enhance nearly every dish. The experience was truly enjoyable, authentic and the preparations are rich in local flavours. A winner through and through.
LF Says: ★★★★