Saffron at the Shangri La

On our first night in Bangalore, we were exhausted, but there was no way that we were going to stay home and overlook the fact that it was also our sixth wedding anniversary. This was a big day!

After a bit of confusion about where we were going (our intended celebration spot, Druid Garden, is closed on Mondays), our driver Marthi pulled up to the Shangri La, a beautiful, opulent, 5-star hotel. Before entering, we had to walk through a metal detector – this seemed odd at the time, but we now know that it’s a normal part of life here. In the lobby was a beautifully dressed woman who offered assistance. We told her that we wanted to have dinner and she told us about our five options there: a buffet on the first floor, a Chinese restaurant on a lower floor, or one of three restaurants  on the 18th floor.  Without choosing a restaurant, we knew we wanted a view so the 18th floor sounded right to us. She escorted us to the elevator and pushed the button for us.

When we got off, there were five women in stunning saris standing there in a line, asking where we wanted to go. We said that we were interested in seeing menus and one of them told us about our options including a Mediterranean restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, and Saffron, an Indian restaurant. We looked at each other silently agreed that was what we wanted for our first night in India. As she walked us down the long hall, we told her we’d just arrived in Bangalore at 3 am that morning and that it was our anniversary.

We were immediately seated in the beautiful dining room right next to a table covered in rose petals – a couple that had clearly planned ahead for their anniversary arrived shortly thereafter.

The meal was wonderful. We wanted only one glass of wine each, given that we were already struggling to keep our eyes fully opened, and we wanted it to be Indian wine. The waiter brought us tastes of a 2016 Cabernet-Shiraz from Grover Vineyards, about an hour north of us, and a 2015 Sangiovese from KRSMA in Hampi, quite a bit north of us, but still in the state of Karnataka. Both wines tasted young and had an unusual minerality, but the Sangiovese was a bit smoother and we both chose that one.

The menu was organized by regions of India, something you’d never see in the states. They had two different vegetarian prix fixe meals (oh, the joy of being a vegetarian in South India!) and we considered them, but decided that we really wanted to choose for ourselves. We started with a stuffed paneer appetizer unlike anything we’ve had before and incredibly delicious. It consisted of rounds of paneer sandwiching a spicy tomato chutney, coated in spices, and then cooked in the tandoor. Yum! Because we wanted to have something familiar, we selected the ghobi muttar and vegetable biryani which were both outstanding.  For the final dish, we wanted to try something local and our waiter suggested a Karnatakan vegetable stew in coconut milk. To round out the meal, we ordered one naan and one paratha. The waiter wanted to know what kind of paratha, the one from Kerala or another one. Not knowing the difference, we’re floundered and may have ended up with both. These breads were flakey and delicious enough to just eat by themselves.

We were far too full to finish and they offered to “parcel” our food. After declining dessert, our waiter returned with a lovely chocolatey anniversary cake and asked to take our picture with it. We could only manage one bite each before having that parceled as well, but we were really touched by the gesture.

While the restaurant was far from empty, Mondays are slow nights everywhere, and that was certainly the case here. Our service was very attentive and sometimes a bit intrusive, but generally charming. They clearly cared that we enjoy our meal.

I can easily imagine returning again for a special occasion.

On our way out, there was lots of hubbub in the lobby and outside. It seems that a Bollywood star was on the way and people were gathering for a glimpse! We didn’t see the actor, but did get to admire some gorgeous clothing. All of the women were wearing bright, embroidered, sequined works of art. I felt so drab in comparison in a simple floral dress which I had previously believed to be colorful.

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