THE SAFFRON TREE (91 Gerrard West, at Elizabeth, 416-850-3179) Complete dinners for $40 per person ($18 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a bottle of $4.50 Kingfisher beer. Average main: $11. Open daily 11:30 am to 10:30 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier free. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Excellent indian take-away is one of the England's premier pleasures, and it's a mystery why it hasn't caught on in our multicultural city. The Saffron Tree tries hard with an extensive menu of northern Indian fare, free delivery within a limited radius and a 10 per cent discount on pickup orders. Nonetheless, with a growing population of hospital workers in the vicinity, it's likely the $8.99 lunch buffet that will determine its survival.
The 35-item feast, available seven days a week, is a glutton's dream at $8.99. From channa masala to butter chicken, everything is fresh and spiced mild to medium, with mixed pickle and a bowl of liquid fire for enhancement.
Start with Pyaz Ka Pakoras (also à la carte $3.95), perfectly executed and grease-free onion fritters in a chickpea batter, served with a sweet-and-sour chutney. The small black lentils in the Daal Bhukhara (à la carte $6.95) are an excellent change from the watery yellow mush found in many buffets.
Even the tandoori chicken (à la carte half $7.95/whole $14.95) is moist, and the curried lamb, stewed in a rich gravy with green peppers and fresh tomato wedges, is tender and boneless.
The à la carte menu features dishes from Kashmir, Madras and Goa, with a few nods to Portuguese influence. Kebabs of chicken, prawns, salmon and lamb come in a variety of styles. Served with a cooling minted yogurt sauce, Mint Tikka Kebab ($9.95) - seven large chunks of yogurt-marinated chicken with fresh mint, ginger, green peppers and onion - complements hotter, richer dishes.
Lamb Vindaloo ($10.95), one of the most incendiary of curries, is prepared with large pieces of potato, chilies and green bell peppers. As a takeout dish, it improves significantly overnight.