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Saagar Indian Cuisine, In The Former Bombay Dhaba Space in Firstfield Shopping Center, Gaithersburg - Closed

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While picking up some take-out from Madras Palace in Gaitherburg, Gubeen noticed that Saagar is having its grand opening tonight, replacing Bombay Dhaba in the shopping center that faces Rt 124.

We missed the opening night madness, but stopped in the following evening for dinner. The dinner menu is now up on their website; lunch is a fixed-price buffet, but the dinner menu is available on request. The menu is lengthy for a neighborhood Indian restaurant, and includes both northern and southern specialties, as well as a short list of Indian-style Chinese dishes.

Gubeen went straight for her beloved saag paneer, whereas I took the easy way out and tried the non-vegetarian thali for a range of tastes. The chef previously worked at the Fairfax location of Minerva, and you'll see a lot of similarities in the food, with sauces and curries tending towards rich consistencies. The saag was pretty creamy, but light on the spinach for my taste. The tomato soup (generally in the style of a rasam but listed as "tomato soup") was curiously thick and had slightly skinned on top; I don't know if it was housemade, but it reminded me a lot of a can of Campbell's that had been kicked up with some spices. I realized later that my daal was missing. Those were our only real food disappointments. Good chicken tikka masala (the proper one, not a mislabeled chicken makhani), good lamb curry, good masala aloo gobi. Papadum in the thicker, cracked-pepper northern style. Fresh naan, still a bit oily and with a nice bit of char. Pretty straightforward kheer. Spicing levels weren't too dumbed down...closer to authentic than to Americanized. It's too early to draw conclusions, but I suspect this one will be a solid second-tier player, comparable to the Rockville Bombay Bistro on a good day, and better than most of the mid-county places (which are inexplicably awful). If the lunch buffet is solid, this could be the best non-vegetarian Indian option west of Bethesda.

Next time, I need to check out their chat options, and some tandoor action. We talked briefly with the GM, who indicated that the chef is more at home making the northern dishes.

Service is haphazard at the moment, with a lot of the staff hanging around the counter and talking, and sorting out their roles on-the-job. I'm not sure that the guy who bussed our table has stacked dishes before. Still, it's a promising step up from the Bombay Dhaba that used to occupy that space.

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I ordered off the menu (take out) for lunch today. Had the chicken tikka archari and the lamb biriyani. The chicken tikka archari is boneless chicken breast with pickle sauce, cooked in the tandoor. I really don't think I've EVER had such dry chicken before. The pickle (achar) flavour was barely there. VERY disappointing. They should switch to using boneless thigh meat if they're going to cook it that long.

The lamb biriyani had a pleasant taste and aroma (I love the smell of cardamom) and the lamb was very tender. Not the best biriyani I've ever had but certainly above average.

While the entrees are advertised as coming with rice or naan, they don't ask you what you want and just give you plain white rice as a default. So make sure you specifically ask for naan (if that's what you want).

The service was a little uneven. I think a total of three people were involved in handing over my take out order.

It's worth another shot. I especially want to try the hakka food. Hopefully a $20 Tuesday will give us a chance to sample a wide variety of dishes.

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Went for the lunch buffet. Decent selection of veg and meat dishes, including a good assortment of south indian food (dosa, idli, sambar, utthapam) and even a couple of hakka dishes (veg noodles and chili chicken).

To be brief - the vegetable dishes are most note worthy. The meat dishes are a little listless. I really like the chickpeas (chana masala), okra (bhindi masala), and lentils (tadka dal). The owner generously gave me a dish of pickles (achar) on request. I should've stopped right there. That would have been an excellent meal (for a strip mall buffet).

But no...I had to go on and try the dosa. Never never never eat dosa from a buffet. There's no it's going to stay crisp. It was like eating paper mache. The vegetarian noodles and vegetable biriyani weren't bad, but weren't good. Tasted like noodles/rice that had been stir fried with jarred generic Indian curry sauce and then tossed with sauteed vegetables. Obligatory tandoori chicken was dry. Goat curry managed to taste bland.

The naan was hit and miss - some were thick and underdone, but most were acceptable.

I'm seriously considering nixing this place for a $20 Tuesday. If you really must have meat, then I'd suggest Minerva down the road. If you're happy with vegetarian then stick with Madras Palace next door. Better still, go 15 mins down I-270 and to Passage to India for Chef Seth's masterful food. Saagar is an acceptable place for locals needing a quick fix but that appears to be it.

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We stopped by Saagar the other night...here are my thoughts.

The menu as DonRocks said is very big and we ordered a variety of dishes, but all of the food was very good. I've been to Minerva a bunch of times and the food is almost identical in presentation and taste, but if I had to pick one over the other, I'd say that Saagar's was better (at least on this one trip).

There seemed to be one person that was taking all the orders, and he wasn't writing anything down which resulted in our order and just about everyone else's getting screwed up. I wanted to hand him one of my son's crayons and the pad of paper he was drawing on the help him out.

I liked that they have a kids menu, although the "mini" dosa that we ordered for our son was larger than my forearm and there was no way in hell he was ever going to finish it. I had the malai kofta which I liked but I found the sauce to be more of a Korma sauce than a typical tomato based curry that you normally see in this dish -- still very good though. The dosa's come with the same soup accompaniment that the dosa's at Minerva, except it's a little spicier.

I'll probably give them some time to settle in before heading back. Hopefully the service is better next time, because we really liked everything we had to eat.

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Nothing on this place for a while but had lunch here today, thanks to Groupon.

Service was a bit odd and we ordered from menu (Groupon restrictions) but I definitely liked the food. Samosas, dosas and naan - and in typing that just realized how much starch I ate. But it all tasted good and the waitress said everything, even all the sauces, are made from scratch. I particularly liked the naan - straight from the oven & just baked.

Almost forgot that we had chai tea too - will never order at Starbucks again after this stuff - what a difference.


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Saagar closed in 2014, and is now a Jimmy John's.

Firstfield Shopping Center once also contained Peking Cheers, but now has Einstein Bros. Bagels, Jimmy John's, Jerry's Subs, JDS Shanghai Famous, and Starbucks as its restaurant tenants.

It also, very briefly, had a Rita's.  It was sort of carved out of the Jerry's.   The best thing I can say about the shopping center, having not tried JDS yet, is that it has a drive thru Starbucks.  That was such an important thing when BL-2nd grader was a tiny baby.

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