There is an interesting dichotomy in Taipei and Hong Kong during the summer... Outdoors is hot and humid. Indoors its like winter. Why? The air conditioning temp is set so low that a White Walker is perfectly comfortable. So naturally, my wife and I look to warm our bellies in midst of a cold dead of summer. Today, we went to Saffron 46.
Located on the 46th floor Nanshan Tower (The building that looks like Darth Vader’s fortress), this modern Indian fine dining restaurant is one of the best places to eat, drink and enjoy views of Taipei 101 and the Xinyi District.
The martinis are excellent, I recommend trying both the Vesper and the Vesper with a twist. My memory is fuzzy, but either Aki or Nicholas came up with the twist. Both are well-balanced refreshing on a hot day.
The food is excellent. Typically restaurants that have a magnificent view sacrifice on food quality. This is not the case at Saffron 46. Like its sister restaurant Saffron (in the Tienmu neighborhood) which has already earned Bib Gourmand status, Saffron 46 is well positioned to receive recognition in the Michelin guide.
When you have two hungry parents with a baby in tow, you tend to order a lot. We started with Saffron 46’s Gosht Samosa and Onion Bahiji. Usually the dough on samosas are rather thick and sometimes chewy because the dough was overworked. Here, Saffron 46’s minced lamb samosas satisfyingly crispy and fragrant on the inside. If you enjoy Japanese kakiagé, then you will enjoy the Indian version spiced to perfection. Instead of a heavy batter, you can see in the photo it is practically like tempura.
Pani Puri is something everyone can enjoy. This is one of the dishes that chefs can really experiment and have fun with. There are variations upon variations, so it is always a joy to have. Pani is the flavored water, in this case, some tamarind, mint and I believe a touch of cumin. The Puri os the crisp that has a filling of mashed potato and chickpeas. Pour a bit of flavored water into the Puri and then take a bite. It is a flavor and texture explosion in your mouth. Pure fun.
My daughter enjoyed Samudura Mahi, it was beautifully spiced and perfectly baked in the tandoor. It was tender and flaked perfectly that even my newborn daughter could enjoy it. We liked it so much we ordered the Kalmi Tikka. Kalmi refers to the upper thigh of the chicken, which is always juicy.
Being Taiwanese, I can never say no to fried rice. So we ordered the Dum Gosht Biryani. If you love cartelized onion with scented rice and minced lamb, this is the dish for you.
I don’t know whether it was my time in London that made me so partial to Murgh Tikka Masala, but I almost always order this dish. Now don’t think that Saffron 46’s version is heavy. It is not. The tomatoes are fresh, and the acidity gives the dish an immensely satisfying lightness. Confession, I took the leftover sauce back home (What? I’m Taiwanese!) and later warmed slices of yellowtail tuna in it. It was so good. We couldn’t help ourselves, we also ordered some Batak Lajawab. Duck in a sauce made from sweetness, peppercorns, and nutmeg is just heavenly.
While the portions are healthy at Saffron 46, we couldn’t go without some Baigan Bharta. Smoke eggplant is always refreshing and must be eaten with roti, nan or Lachihadar Paratha. Why? If you like scallion pancakes, you might as well have the Indian version made from whole wheat and butter. Think about it: roast eggplant, butter and yeasty goodness…mmmm.
Last of all is dessert. Personally I am a Gulab Jamun man. A doughnut made from powdered milk and flour soaked in a sweet syrup. Ever since the Shefali Sisters introduced me to it, I’ve been hooked. It’s something I will always order but alas Saffron46 didn’t have it. Instead, they had ice cream! Still...how can I say no to pistachio cardamon scented ice cream. It wasn’t too sweet and a perfect way to finish up lunch.
Final note: my wife and I were interviewed by a local TV station. When we get a clip from the station we’ll post it up. In the meantime, we stand by our statement, the stereotype of Indian food as being too heavy is a just that: a misconception. Indian food can be light and refreshing. Saffron46 has plenty of items on the menu that will make you forget a hot summers day.
As a strategic consultant, I manage chaos for a living. So travel is easy for me. Heh. I travel to understand people and culture more deeply than a newspaper or tv show could ever tell me. I break bread to build bridges across political and social boundaries. Travel inspires me, teaches me and humbles me such that I appreciate my part of the world more deeply.