I ventured into the former India Palace, now Saffron Tiger for lunch today. I did recognize one of the waiters, but he confirmed that the place has changed hands. And apparently the new owners are Vietnamese?
I was a big fan of India Palace at this location, and I haven't been to any other Saffron Tigers, but I have to admit to really liking the new restaurant -- in fact, I think it's improved in many ways. The food is good -- actually much more fresh-tasting and flavorful, with a decent variety of dishes. The mint chutney looks and tastes like it's made from scratch, and the desserts are excellent (the mango custard actually tastes like custard).
The new owners renovated and redecorated the place, so the decor is lovely, with a relaxing vibe. The sketchy restrooms have also been redone.
Going in, I feared the worst, this being a chain, but was pleasantly surprised. Again, I was a fan of the old India Palace, but I have to admit that it had gotten a little ho-hum over the past few months. I'm glad to know that there's still an Indian restaurant at this location, and that it's as good as or better than the restaurant it replaced.
Interesting, I have not ever had an interest to try a panda express. The concept seems to be better suited for shopping mall food court environments. Then again I do not frequent many places where you use a tray to collect your meal. I generally try to steer away from them.
That being said I have tried the Saffron Tiger near Paseo two occasions the first time out of curiosity and the second as I was seeking a healthier alternative to 5 Guys.
On my first trip to Saffron Tiger they had only been open about a few weeks and it was all all hands on deck. One of the primary's was there overseeing operations and the experience was new and different. I had recommended the place to a few people that were seeking something new. The food was ok.
My second trip a few months later was a completely opposite, there was no primary on site, the new staff seemed a bit bothered that I went in as they seemed to be focusing on prep. The counter person was curt, no smile and kept stating "that will cost extra" each time I requested an item. The focus was to get me through that line and out of their way as fast as possible. The food quality had decreased and I have not been back.
Namaste in Rio Rancho is my choice for Indian style cuisine, the service is wonderful and there is a general concern that each guest enjoys the food and experience.
I heard read a new term a while back "sheeple" (sheep-people). For Saffron Tiger it seems to me that their focus may be serving sheeple. My opinion... Saffron Tiger is a step down from the full service independent restaurant it has replaced. There are many choices when you go out to eat, I am still amazed that any time I drive by the local Taco Bell/ Pizza Hut the drive through is loaded with cars.
I haven't visited the Paseo location, but have read about the Panda Express model there. I didn't see that at the Alameda location -- it looks more or less like it did when it was India Palace: a sit-down restaurant with a row of steam tables along one wall.
If Saffron Tiger isn't a chain in the sense of Panda Express or other franchise chains where you have to follow a certain model, then maybe the people who own/run the individual locations have the freedom to operate in different ways.
Wonder of they retained the Tandoori oven with the Alameda location that would be grand? Naan is one of the wonderful things about a sit down Indian restaurant that many enjoy.
Time will tell of this concept will last. There is another Indian style quick serve that opened in far north Rio Rancho as well. It is called Tiger India Express. http://www.dukecityfix.com/group/chowdown/forum/topics/tiger-india-...