Berks County Eats crosses the county line to bring you some of the best dining both near and far. This edition takes us an hour east of Reading to Ambler, PA.
Every day I make the trek from my home in Wyomissing to my job in King of Prussia, a 50-mile journey down the Morgantown Expressway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
While I wish that I could work closer to home, my job affords me the opportunity to experience some great places—and great restaurants—in Montgomery County.
A recent outing with some of my colleagues took us to one of Montgomery County’s coolest small towns, Ambler. And it’s there that we found Saffron Indian Kitchen.
Ambler is a lot like West Reading. The main street, Butler Avenue, is lined with independent shops and enough restaurants to keep a blogger busy for months.
Parking is scarce, especially on Friday or Saturday evening when it seems like everyone comes to town for dinner. But if you are lucky enough to find a parking space (and thankfully, I was), the metered lots are free after 6 p.m.
Saffron has the look and feel of a traditional bistro. A handful of tables and chairs are set up on the sidewalk in front of the building it shares with Caffe Maida. The yellow walls and yellow tablecloths added brightness to our seats in the back of the room, away from the large front window.
Indian food is something that I don’t get to eat very often. There are only a couple authentic Indian restaurants in Berks, and my only taste so far as been a sampling of Aashiyana’s delicious chicken tiki masala at the Centre Park Gourmet Garden tour.
The trip to Saffron was a chance to broaden my horizons, and being with three other people, it meant a chance to share several appetizers, starting with onion bhajai.
Bhajai could be best described as an Indian version of the blooming onion. What made this different was the use of chickpea batter for deep frying. Amazing on their own, they were even better dipped in one of the two sauces. It was hard to choose a favorite between the two: the green sauce tasted like fresh salsa while the red reminded me of a sweet chili sauce. Though very different, both sauces worked beautifully with the fried onions.
Our second appetizer, spinach and feta cheese samosas, was from the “Saffron Blue” monthly menu. The large turnovers were stuffed full. One of my fellow diners said it reminded them of spanakopita. The main difference between this and the Greek dish is that the samosas had fried dough instead of filo, which gave it a little different flavor and made it feel more like an appetizer.
The final appetizer on our table was a basket of naan. Saffron offers eight different flavors of the Indian leavened bread, and I would have loved to have tried them all. Instead, we just tried rogini naan, the traditional version. Lightly buttered, I found the bread was best used for soaking up the sauce from my goat korma.
Goat korma was another offering on the monthly menu. I had planned on ordering the chicken tiki masala (which came highly recommended), but changed my mind when I read about the goat dish served in cashew cream sauce.
Saffron will make the dish to your desired spice level—mild, medium or spicy. I went with the medium, and it offered plenty of kick. The sauce was thick and rich, with just a hint of sweetness to go with the nutty flavor of the cashew. I happily ladled all of the sauce atop my bed of rice, which we served ourselves out of communal bowls.
Goat is a very tender and flavorful meat, but the one problem with it is that there are a lot of bones. But there was still plenty of meat to pick at, and with the help of a couple slices of naan, I cleaned my plate.
My meal was one of the more expensive items on the menu at $20, which brought our total check to $90 for the four of us. That included four entrees, two appetizers, a double-order of naan and a bottle of Pellegrino (not my choice).
Walking from my car to Saffron, I passed about a dozen restaurants and bars, all of which looked welcoming and intriguing.
I have no doubt that I will find myself in Ambler again. I just hope all of the restaurants are as good as Saffron.
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