I ordered from the new Falls Church Saffron (they deliver through GrubHub), and unfortunately, can only find two positive things to say. However, do note that this could easily have been the primary chef’s night off, so don’t draw any universal conclusion from this little disaster.
Saffron has a plug-and-play curry menu where you pick your meat and pick your sauce. With thoughts of KN Vinod dancing around in the back of my mind, I ordered the Chicken Chettinad ($14). Since it was my first time eating here, I got one of my Indian standards, Palak Panner ($13, and yes that’s how they spell it), and completed my order with a Paneer Kulcha ($4).
Let me start with a couple of compliements: the Kulcha was properly baked, and I suspect they might have gotten Curry Mantra 2’s tandoor when they took over the restaurant. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was correct (these breads can also be made on a griddle or a tawa, and I don’t know for a fact that it’s done in a tandoor, but it was pretty evenly (and properly) charred.
More importantly, the quality of the chicken meat was fantastic. The Chettinad came with a generous portion of boneless, dark meat, and I wonder if this might be Halal based on the quality of the chicken. Meat-wise, you just can’t ask for anything more than this.
Okay, that said, the overriding characteristic of this meal was oil. Oil, oil, and more oil. The Chettinad was the most oily dish that I’ve had in a long, long time, and I ended up just picking the pieces of chicken out, and discarding the rest. Although the Palak Paneer wasn’t “oily” per se, the menu said it was made with spinach, tomato, ginger, and garlic, and maybe it was, but if so, it was ridden with ginger, and had an off-putting taste as well as the impression of cheap, frozen greens. I don’t know that this was frozen, but I’ve had several frozen versions of Palak Paneer that are much better than this (you’d be surprised how good frozen Palak Paneer can be).
The bread, while fine, seemed like more of a Naan than a Kulcha – I just couldn’t find any Paneer in it at all. There may have been a sprinkling, but I looked pretty thoroughly, and didn’t detect any.
Well-made Indian food is a sublime experience; poorly made Indian food is nauseating, and this meal makes me not want to have Indian anytime soon. Although I’m hoping (and assuming) that this was simply an off night for Saffron, it’s going to be very difficult for me to order from here a second time – but if I do, I’m going to search the menu for a more simple recipe that uses their wonderful chicken.