Until recently, if you wanted to eat Saffron's fresh, fast Indian food, you had to go downtown for a weekday lunch. Now Saffron has opened a second restaurant in Beverly Hills, where you can eat dinner as well as lunch any day of the week.
Is this important? Yes, if you're after quick casual Indian food to take out or eat there. No, if you're looking for a destination restaurant with sitar music, Indian art and an elaborate menu. Saffron is pared down and functional. Food comes in plastic trays and naan in a paper bag, which is sort of cute. Plastic cups of mango lassi, ready to go, line a refrigerated shelf on the way to the order counter. Chutneys and condiments are in a bin of ice for you to help yourself.
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The menu is small and focuses on Indian top hits such as tandoori chicken (there's a tandoor behind the order counter), chicken tikka masala, chicken curry, chicken with Indian lentils and vegetarian options such as tofu tikka masala, saag paneer (spinach with Indian cheese) and aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower). Prices are reasonable, $7.95 for combo plates, which include two main dishes and rice or salad, and $5.95 for a bowl of basmati rice topped with one of the entrees.
The menu and recipes were put together by executive chef Bhupender Singh, who commutes to Saffron from northern California, where he is co-owner of the Ambrosia India Bistros in Monterey and Aptos.
Singh put out special dishes including rack of lamb and grilled seabass for a party introducing the new location. Such food may be too upscale for Saffron, but Singh could think about opening an Ambrosia here.