Thursday, March 10, 2011

Saffron Flavors of India

I've been wanting to write about Saffron Flavors of India for awhile, despite the unfortunate name, but had been holding off since lunch buffets don't photograph very well. My horribly lit dinner pictures aren't anything to brag about either, but don't hold that against the food as this just might be our new favorite Indian restaurant in town.

Saffron Flavors of India, not to be confused with plain old Saffron on East DI, is the first Indian Chinese fusion restaurant I've seen. Though traditional dishes found on the menus of most Indian restaurants make up the bulk of the menu, some interesting plates catch your attention immediately. One dish that sounded particularly enticing to us was the Paneer Chili ($7), an appetizer of homemade, mild Indian cheese dressed in a sweet and sour sauce with green peppers and onions. I know it sounds strange, but it was actually quite successful. The sauce wasn't sickeningly sweet and artificial tasting as sweet and sour often can be, and we loved tasting Chinese flavors in a dish that actually had some heat.

Non-fusion dishes were just as successful. The sauce of the lamb rogan josh ($15) was a deep brick red and flavor-PACKED, letting you know someone loved it for awhile. My mushroom and sweet corn masala ($13) was served in a sauce that was equally complex and flavorful, yet I was disappointed to see that canned mushrooms were used. The sauce was so incredible, however, I really didn't mind at all. Anyone who can make canned mushrooms taste so good gets a big culinary thumbs up from me. I also enjoyed the addition of corn, which replaced the more common peas found in many Indian mushroom dishes.

Fun little extras included a superb raita with crunchy chunks of cucumber and crispy onion pakora. If you love onion rings, the latter is a must try. We also loved the bullet naan ($5), a flatbread stuffed with cheese, potatoes, chickpeas, onion, cilantro, and green chilies. It made me think this restaurant could do well as the first Indian pizza joint.

Sadly, I fear this restaurant may not survive due to it's location. It's actually fairly easy to get to as it is right off the 95 at Craig, but the new strip center it's in is dead with no signs of budding life. Max Jacobson, if you're reading, please add this to the list of Frugal Foodie spots you've subsequently reviewed in Seven Magazine. You reach a lot more people than I do and I hate seeing these mom and pop's dissolve - R.I.P Taqueria Los Parados and Vegas Cafe.

I hope I can entice my own readers to go by mentioning that is currently offering certificates valid for dinner only. Today they have 60% off for St. Patty's Day with the code LUCKY, but if you sign up for their updates they offer discounts just as deep nearly every week. You can also same money by taking advantage of their great lunch buffet. The number of items is limited, but it's a bargain at just $8.99.

Note: Saffron Flavors of India has a full bar, great service, and pleasant atmosphere, though the decor could use a little modernization.

Saffron Flavors of India
4450 N. Tenaya
Las Vegas, NV 89129
(702) 489-7900

Pictures: lamb rogan josh (above), paneer chili (below top), mushroom and sweet corn masala (below bottom)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

La Palapa

Greetings to my followers who haven't forgotten my blog despite my haitus of nearly one month! I apologize for the much overdue post, but I've been busy with the upcoming opening of our new dog boutique, and more importantly, I just haven't been inspired by any restaurants lately (that is, until now). I've dined at La Palapa twice this week because it is a perfect Frugal Foodie spot. This Mexican seafood restaurant offers incredibly fresh underwater fare at incredibly affordable prices. Yay!

I insist that you start with a Modelo Especial served michelada style, or 'preparado' ($4). This is a light Mexican beer laced with hot sauce and fresh lime juice, served ice cold in a massive salt rimmed goblet. Sounds strange, I know, but once you try it you'll be hooked. Ian and I actually had a similar drink served to us in a plastic cup at the HUGE Broadacres swap meet on the north end LVB, which I also recommend for delicious cheap eats, but this is the first time (and certainly not the last) I've had it in a restaurant.

Then, you should order the fish taco ($3). This was primarily desirable to me because of the price, but once it came to the table I knew I wouldn't be let down. It needed a shot of acidity (may I recommend their house salsa, a dash of Tapatio, and a squeeze of lemon?) but the beer battered fish was hot, crispy, and oh so good.

The entree of shrimp served "a la palapa" (I love saying their name, try it!) came to the table looking one note and blonde, and not in the appealing sort of way men like. I was amazed, however, after taking the first bite of snappy, sweet shrimp. It was flavored with bay leaves and some sort of dried pepper, and tasted fantastic, especially when bundled up in a warm tortilla with their great refried beans and rice.

I also very much enjoyed the combination tostada of octopus (pulpo) and shrimp (camaron) ($3.75). There aren't many places outside of the Mediterranean you can get great octopus (my screen saver is a picture of the cephalopod dish we had on our cruise last year), but this was fantastic considering our desert surroundings. It was tender, yet firm, and very fresh. In fact, none of the seafood I've had here has been anything but fresh, so if you like offerings of the sea but don't want to drown in debt, La Palapa should be on your 'must visit' restaurant list (I'm not the only one who has one of those, right?).

PS. Do you like flan? Then don't pass on dessert. La Palapa's version is as creamy as cheesecake. I'm generally a poster child for self-restraint when it comes to over-indulging in foods that are very bad for you (I'm part foodie, part health nut), but I can only attribute that to my strict evaluation of whether or not something is worth the calories. The flan here most certainly is, so I left only a token bite.

La Palapa
1515 N. Eastern
Las Vegas, NV 89101
(702) 642-0699

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thai Style Noodle House

I just love Chinatown, even for the Thai food. My latest discovery, or Ian's rather, is the discreet Thai Style Noodle House located adjacent to the large Chinatown plaza on Wynn Road (a second location on Ft. Apache and Trop opened last year). Not only does it offer some of the best Thai food in Vegas, but the prices are unbeatable.

There isn't much of an ambience, but I like that quality in my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants. And hole in the wall this is. They aren't bringing in drive by traffic, the signage isn't great, and you park in the delivery alley, but the crowd packed in (and sometimes waiting) at lunch speaks volumes of the food and value.

The chicken larb, Ian's favorite, is top notch ($6.95, pictured above). It wan't served traditionally with a cabbage wedge, but rather with chopped iceberg. Though this is a little unconventional, I liked the salad quality of the dish. The green curry fried rice ($7.95) is filled with fresh veggies and tender slices of pork, and has a slightly creamy quality. If there was risotto in Thailand, this would be it. I also enjoyed the Choo Chee Shrimp ($8.95) and Spicy Green Beans with silky chicken ($6.75). The Beef Noodle Soup ($6.50) had an exotic favor sweetened by spices, though the beef itself wasn't as tender as I would have liked.

Everything on the menu is so inexpensive you won't worry about looking at the lunch special menu, but if you are dining alone or just not a "sharing" kind of eater, these options will allow you to try several different item combinations for under $7.

Downside: If the place is very busy, it takes awhile to get your food. The servers are attentive and polite, however, so there is comfort in knowing it isn't taking forever because the staff is slacking off. My suggestion is to avoid peak times, or order take-out.

Thai Style Noodle House
3516 Wynn Road
Las Vegas, NV 89103

5135 S. Ft. Apache #125
Las Vegas, NV 89147

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Forte: A truly European tapas place

Upon entering Forte on my initial visit, my first thought was that it was very European. This wasn't just because it was dead at lunch, as most restaurants in Europe are, but also because of the eccentric decor, dark lounge-like feel, off-the-beaten-path location, and genuine hospitality. That, and the fully stocked bar featuring very cheap glasses of delicious European wines (this I would find out later).

I've over-ordered Forte at twice now, and though I can't say everything on the small plates menu is a winner, I can say I will keep coming back due to the aforementioned charming qualities and a few unique, inexpensive food highlights (sadly, my pictures don't do them justice).

The menu is broken down by European country (mostly Eastern) and their corresponding regional specialties. Under Russia, you won't find any caviar or borscht, but you will find adjarkski kachapurri, which goes down the hatch more easily than it rolls off the tongue ($6.99). This consists of a freshly baked bread loaf akin to a short, fat French baquette, that is hollowed in the center and stuffed with cheese, butter, and a raw egg. If I lost you at 'raw egg' then let me elaborate. The egg is mixed in table-side and is cooked by the heat of the bread, turning the dish into a protein-filled vegetarian friendly dish that will change your mind about Russian food. The flavor of the crusty bread combined with the egg and cheese reminded me of a quiche, yet this was unlike anything I've ever had. Extra (yet unnecessary) points for that!

The section from Spain features a variety of chorizo sausages, amongst other items. We had the chistora and bilbao (each $2.50) which were fantastically charred and of fantastic value. These rivaled the Polish links at Costco as far as sausage bargains go, and were much better in my opinion (sorry, mom).

One note selections included the chicken skewers ($3.25 each), sauteed shrimp ($6.50), and the Bulgarian shopski served in an adorable clay pot ($6.99, and much better at another place I'll review soon). Though there are a few minor flops, the thing I love most about this place is that you can try a lot of different foods you've probably never heard of, and, if you don't like them, you haven't spent enough to regret having given them a whirl.

Coming back to the wine, I ordered a glass of Spanish Cosechero Blanco, which I was told is located nowhere else in Vegas. Guess how much? $4.50!! The owner of the restaurant, who was our waitress on my second visit, and a gem in and of herself, offered to sell me a bottle at wholesale cost when I mentioned I liked it. So, I got a bottle for later that cost me just $8.20. That pretty much sealed the deal for me!

This is a place you have to be experimental and open-minded to go to, but if you appreciate other cultures and want to join me on my mission to support the mom and pops in Vegas, then you'll have no trouble mustering the strength to go to Forte.

4180 Rainbow. Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89103
(702) 220-3876