Have you ever been to a restaurant and the appetizers look more appealing than the entrées? Well you’re certainly not alone in that regard. I am not sure what it is, but there is just a certain magnetic allure of those small tastes and samplings of food. Why play around with dense, heavy main courses, when you have the choice of light, delectable starters instead? I am certainly one to order several appetizers at a restaurant instead of entrees, and at Saffron Table in Big Sky, Montana I would urge you to do the same. There is nothing wrong with the main dishes at Saffron Table (www.saffrontable.com), they are actually quite delicious, but the appetizers are in a different league.
As our family piled into the car on a gorgeous Montana night, my mother and father began talking about Saffron Table, truly glowing about the restaurant. They had been a few weeks previous, and they absolutely adored it. So much so that they would not stop talking about it until we tried it for ourselves. Saffron Table opened fairly recently in 2014, but we had yet to try it until this summer. We were fairly skeptical that we would be able to find tasty Indian food in small town Montana, but after our meal there I felt that we had wasted that past three years sans delicious Indian food.
When we finally arrived, we decided to sit outside (as we were eating with our dog). Unfortunately, Montana’s celebrated moniker of “Big Sky Country” held true. Usually a sunny, beautiful evening would be celebrated among Montanans, but when sitting outside with the beating sun in your eyes nothing can be worse. Luckily for us, we didn’t focus on the sun for very long. Because when the food arrived, it seems that earth no long orbited the sun but instead our marvelous plates of food.
If you have been to Montana before, you know that the state quite possibly has the nicest people of all fifty states. I would even go as far to say that if you were to hold an Olympics-esque competition between the U.S. states measuring kindness, I am sure Montana would run away with the most medals. The utter aura of happiness and kindness that engulfs the state is one of the many reasons why I love it, and fortunately for us that aura holds strong at Saffron Table. Our waiter could have been one of the nicest servers that I have ever crossed paths with in my career as a food reviewer, and that is truly saying something. You know a waiter is doing his job well when it feels like you are the only table in the whole restaurant, and our server was to accomplish just that during our meal.
When we had settled into our table beneath the gargantuan sun, we began contemplating our appetizers order (we did have entrees, but I am going to focus on the appetizers). We decided on Vegetable Pakoras, Masala Fries, Local Mushroom Vindaloo Buns, Eggplant Chaat, and three orders of Naan (Plain, Garlic, and Cheese).
The Vegetable Pakoras were marvelous. These delightful Vegetable Pakoras were made up of fresh, clean kale, onions, and asparagus coated in a golden curried chickpea batter, fried until crusty, and served alongside a vivacious mint chutney.
If you are fan of French fries, which I imagine many of you are, your adoration for the dish will only grow after sampling the glory that is Masala Fries. If you are not familiar with masala, I will give you a brief run-down. Masala is a popular vivacious red spice which is used frequently in Indian cooking. The spice presents the consumer with a piquant, somewhat salty experience, and is tasty on almost every thing you can imagine. The fries at Saffron were fried to crispy, steamy perfection and were coated in sheets of the tasty masala seasoning. This wonderfully simple creation was served alongside spicy, silky catsup (ketchup’s strange brother).
I am not an incredibly huge fan of mushrooms, but when served in the right context they can be the perfect compliment (or in this case center-point) of a dish. I was slightly hesitant to give the local Mushroom Vindaloo Buns a try at first, but after I found my family raving about how delicious they were I found it necessary to give them a try. The dish was built on a base of a supple, pillowy steamed flour bun which was filled with oaky, rich locally procured shiitake mushrooms (which were stewed in a sweet vindaloo curry). The vindaloo curry was the ideal partner to the otherwise mild mushrooms and bun.
Eggplant is another food that I will rarely eat, but not unlike to the mushrooms, Saffron Table’s interpretation of the dish seemed to be the exception– it was wonderful. The Eggplant Chaat was suggested to us by our excellent waiter, and it certainly did not disappoint. Saffron fried the thinly sliced eggplant until they were crispy and proceeded to drizzle the slices with firm chickpeas, snappy chickpea noodles, roasted rice, creamy yogurt, a dusting of mild tamarind, and a hefty drizzle of refreshing mint chutney. Unlike any eggplant dish I have ever had before!
The three selections of Naan that we received were spot on. The Indian variation of a pita was soft, and delicate and the perfect vessel to sop up the excess sauce on each dish. The addition of garlic and melted cheese only heightened the tastiness of the breads. We also received one special Naan, which was created with the complimentary spices fenugreek and turmeric and oil. The special Naan was definitely the highlight of the Naan selection, but that is not to say the others were not delectable in their own regard.
Overall, Saffron Table certainly lived up to the hype that my parents had built up before the meal. I would most definitely return in the near future and this time will order more appetizers! I would give it ZZZZX- 4 1/4 Z’s.