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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

Saffron Road

Chicken Tikka Masala and Vegetable Pad Thai

Dr. Gourmet reviews the Chicken Tikka Masala from Saffron Road

This week we're revisiting dishes from Saffron Road.

In 2017 we found the Chicken Tikka Masala to be overly salty, with "a harsh, acrid flavor" and dry basmati rice. Then it had 310 calories, 690 milligrams of sodium, and 2 grams of fiber.

the Chicken Tikka Masala from Saffron Road, after cooking

Yes, some things have changed. The basmati rice is soft and tender - and unsalted. There are fewer calories - now 300 - and less fiber - just 1 gram. The chicken is still tender, but I still feel the best chicken for Tikka Masala is chicken thighs rather than breast - it's just more flavorful. But there's the same amount of sodium and it still shows every milligram.

The difference is in the sauce. Where before the sauce was thick and creamy, now it's just thin. It's as if they took the sauce off the stove 20 minutes too soon. It has a very slippery mouthfeel that's probably due to the cornstarch (look at that sheen), and the harshness that comes from not toasting the spices. Granted, I've eaten some of the best Chicken Tikka Masala in the country (at Mantra Masala in Las Vegas and Rasika in DC), but this is the third time we've tested this dish and Saffron Road has gotten it wrong every time.

The Vegetable Pad Thai, on the other hand, is (nearly) everything that vegan food should be.

Dr. Gourmet reviews the Vegetable Pad Thai from Saffron Road

We last reviewed this dish in 2015, and at the time it had 440 calories, 590 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of fiber.

Like the Chicken Tikka Masala, this has fewer calories - now 420 - but now there's slightly more salt at 600 milligrams to go with the 2 grams of fiber.

 the Vegetable Pad Thai from Saffron Road, after cooking

The dish comes out of the microwave smelling just great - a rich, slightly spicy peanut scent - and the flavor does not disappoint. Where before the sauce was almost too sweet, now its scent is carried through in the flavor and there's a tiny bit of heat at the back end that builds up as you continue to eat.

The rice noodles are again impressive: not overdone, not sticking together, and yes, they still taste fresh. The tofu is tender and doesn't have that awful spongy texture that overcooked tofu can have.

Certainly Saffron Road could cut the sodium by 150 milligrams and still have a great dish, and I could wish that the matchstick carrots were crunchier and there was more than 3 bits of green onion in the dish, but the truth is that I've had worse pad thai at Thai restaurants. This is the kind of gluten-free and vegan food that people want to eat.

Read all our reviews of Saffron Road products »

Posted: September 3, 2021