Saffron Anyone? -MSP
Just drove by it today as I left downtown, and it looks ready to open (if it isn't already???)...that's a really tough space to make a go of it. My googling came up with:
Good evening everyone, I thought I should finally join this place as I have lurked here for a month or so now, its great to see local people discussing food...I just wanted to let everyone know about Saffron as I had dinner there tonight...
First, I really like the inside - very nice contemporay design with a nice looking bar - plenty of windows, and a nicely spaced out dining room (fairly important in my opinion, especially for what this restaurant is trying to be - fine dining) - the building is quite old so its nice to see some exposed brick throughout, overall, a very nice place.
As for the menu, there are 3 categories, about 6-8 appetizers, 6-8 "mezze" - think like spanish tapas, and about 6 entrees. The food is priced well - apps run about 10 bucks, the mezze run anywhere from 3.5 to 8.50 (for some foie torchon) - and entrees from 19 to 29...
Myself and a dining friend had the:
Veal and Tuna Carpaccio
Quail with Sunchoke Puree
Chilled Rare Tuna with Tabbouleh
Scallops with artichokes and saffron aioli
Blue Crab Salad
The Foie Torchon
Boquerones and Harissa
Beef Kubbeh with Cucumber/Mint/Yogurt Sauce
Veggie Fritters with Herb yogurt and Harrisa
And for entrees, we had the Braised Lamb Shoulder with tomato and chickpea and the Sea Bass with Lentils, smoked onions, and pine nuts.
Overall, considering how this is their 2nd week open and obviously still refining some things - the overall meal was pretty great - all the dishes are nicely composed, simple, and had good balance. All seemed very fresh (a lot of fresh herb sauces are used) and really clean. Some of the memorable dishes included the sausage (the texture was like pork butter - house made with a nice red pepper confit and red pepper syrup, Really simple, but really nice. The Veal and Tuna Carpaccio - Perfect balance of creamy texture (of both the veal and tuna) and nuttiness with some hazelnuts and a brown butter vinaigrette - balanced nicely with some preserved lemons. Simple ideas executed nicely. The scallop dish was beautiful. 3 beautifully seared scallops (probably about 3 oz. worth) with perfectly cooked artichoke deep fried much like tempura. With some sauteed clams, and a nicely acidic saffron aioli - again, simple ideas executed perfectly. The foie torchon was much like a typical foie dish anywhere in the city - a beautiful 2 oz piece of torchon (its only 8.50 mind you) with a rose petal jam (no real distinct flavor), the torchon rolled in pistachios, and there was a pistachio emulsion and some sauteed toast. In my opinion, a lot of people do the foie-sweet jam/puree-nut component-sauteed toast component, but thats all I need with foie - I love it. The boquerones/harissa dish was simple and nice - some nice white anchovies (boquerones are usually white anchovies preserved in oil and vinagar - making for some tasty tart treats) with a spicy harissa emulsion and cilantro oil - nice, fresh, simple, cheap. Boquerones can be expensive, so for 5 bucks, I wasnt expecting many, but maybe 1 or 2 more would have been nice - 3 left me wanting more - quite addicting in its simplicity.
To wrap up the dishes, 2 really nice fried items, the beef kubbeh (extremely moist) and the vegetable fritters - both cheap and again - simple flavors executed perfectly - the kubbeh with a simple cucumber/mint/yogurt sauce with chili oil and the fritters with a herb aioli and harissa puree.
I really liked the menu - I really loved the middle eastern influenced aspects of the menu - it reminds me of my grandmothers food so very much - those last 2 dishes best shows this and really made me smile during the meal.
The meal was great, the dining room half empty, but if you were to get a nice corner table, a real nice place for a romantic dinner - lit much like its neighbor, the 112 in terms of darkness makes everyone beautiful (but doesnt everybody say that? :) )
Well, I think that is enough for a first post, I hope to be posting more - currently working in the back of the house at a local restaurant, seeing places like this is beautiful thing for the industry - after the January collapse of fine dining in Minneapolis (and having worked at one of those 3 establishments for over 2 years) makes it refreshing to see there are people that care about great dining whether cheap or expensive and are here to discuss such a topic in these forums....
Ill be around....
Reviews are starting to come in for Saffron … good thing, since these guys deserve to thrive because 1) the cooking is top notch, 2) innovative without scaring the average Midwesterner, and 3) we don’t get too many North African inspired flavors around these parts. The owner brothers (the younger being the chef) are friendly, welcoming and warm people. They try their best to make sure everyone’s happy, and it’s obviously genuine.
My big favorites have to be their house cured lamb BLT … yes, lamb bacon … out of this world (lunch and happy hour only). Look for their lunch frittata to change almost daily; had the one with braised short ribs and tomatoe concasse. Super light and mild (thanks to cream and some serious whipping), playing off the short ribs and tangy tomatoes very nicely indeed. Their main dishes shine equally well … flavors are clean, well defined and not drowning under heavy sauces. The braised lamb is a sure bet, as is the chicken. Haven’t had their salmon, but have heard nothing but raves. I’m not a big dessert eater, but apparently these are also not to be missed.
They have a nicely varied happy hour menu, with half-price bottles of wine on Mon-Wed. Let’s not lose this place.
dinner w/ party of 5...food was fantastic, table service excellent, wine list perfect in re the menu...could have done without the 45 minute wait for a reserved table without any consolation other than "they are taking longer to get up than we thought"...if you guarantee an 8:30 table to a hungry group, a 9:15 seating is really not acceptable. Hopefully this will be ironed out with some FOH experience, but a comp wine bottle or appetizer in lieu of continued,"it'll only be a few more minutes", would go a long way in this sort of instance. Granted, I didn't mind, as I had a feeling this might happen (4+ diners at 8:30 is usually a bad idea as the 7:30 tables will likely take their time) but my co-diners were fit to be tied by the time we were finally seated. Thankfully they were (somewhat) soothed by the food...
menu is sorted into 3 categories
mezze...2 or 3 bites per plate
small plates...large appetizer portions
entree...6ish oz protein portions.
foie gras--torchon of foie rolled in crushed pistachio with toast points layered in some sort of rose petal sauce...decadent but nuanced.
haloumi--sauteed chunk of haloumi cheese w/ tomato jam & black onion seed...nice, nothing to write home about.
quail w/ mirqaz sausage...so much flavor, in such a small package. first off, the "sweet potato cous cous" seemed like a combo of brown lentils & sweet potatoes with micro basil, but I'm not going to split hairs because it was flavor packed and it's natural sweetness and toothiness was the perfect foil for the super-rich and tender flavor packed quail. They put a slice of the mirqaz sausage between the skin and meat of the quail breast before sauteeing and it imbues the quail meat with a rich and deep spiciness that really defies description. I could have (an would have...gladly) eaten 40+ of these quail breasts and not put my finger on the precise flavor profile.
Vegetable "Bisteeya"--Fantabulous for your veggie friends, but given the perfect prep of the fauna I tried on this night, why bother?
Lamb Shoulder--this dish is a miracle of layered flavors. Starts with the tart sweetness of roast tomatoes, followed by the mild kick of their harissa, into the charred exterior of the lamb shoulder and then into a long finish of pure lamby goodness. I've been cooking different lamb cuts in different styles for 20 years and I've never been able to approach this sort of nuance.
forgot to mention that the hummus-ish spread with the bread is excellent as well.
wines were a great wide mix of varietals ranging from $26-$46 per. something for every taste.
sorry for the disjointed review...would give it highest possible marks if not for the introductory reservations gaffe. this place has the potential to be very very special, and hopefully that was just a hiccup along the way.
re: g rote
I liked that you reviewed as the menu is laid out - not disjointed at all.
This is exactly the kind of menu where the tab will shrink by my veggieness and I think it sad for all involved. I'd pay good money, nay top dollar for a well conceived vegetarian entree judging by the rest of the menu. So, I may traipse in and order those menu items available but I might call ahead to find out if more can be prepared. Probably the latter thanks to reports here.
So we made it to Saffron a few nights ago. Delicious and delightful. The small mezze are truly small, much smaller than I've had elsewhere. But they were interesting and creative - more of a mezze fusion. Service was very attentive and efficient.
1. cauliflower flan - a wonderfully delicate flan with roasted cauliflower florets on top. Delicious, subtle, sublime.
2. Deviled eggs - where else besides Minneapolis would you find deviled eggs on a mezze menu? But they were topped with Spanish tuna in olive oil. Fabulous.
3. White anchovy and harissa - very tasty, and I'm not exactly an anchovy fan
4. Leek and feta tart - less of a tart and more of a crostini, slightly too salty but still delicious.
5. Yogurt cheese - served baked, wonderful taste and texture.
I'm glad these folks are here.
Incidentally, the stuff they bring out first is not technically hummus because it's made without tahine. According to a Lebanese friend, it's called belila.
i had an insane dinner at saffron last night!! we had almost every single item on the menu, and even one item that was not on the menu (an extremely delicious plate of beef carpaccio topped with liberally spiced beef tartare, with a brown butter sauce and fried chickpeas). i must say i was fairly blown away by the quality of the food... everything was absolutely fresh, simply yet beautifully presented, always expertly cooked and with clear, balanced flavors. considering the sheer quantity of food we sampled, i find that this rate of success is pretty staggering. my favorites: the deviled eggs with olive oil tuna, capers and tarragon; the lively beef carpaccio/tartare; the rich housemade mirqaz with tender, sweet red pepper confit; the tender kubbeh with flavorful and not watery cucumber-yogurt; the delicate sweet-savory vegetable bisteeya. service was friendly, efficient and for the most part well-informed. i'm guessing that uninformed (minnesotan) diners may find the prices high for the portion size, but make no mistake: the quality and overall dining experience at saffron are very well worth the price. also, it was one of their 1/2 price wine nights, and we had a nice chablis followed by a tasty oregon pinot noir. now get out there and support them! <A HREF="http://juliettesclog.blogspot.com/200... all my photos and review here.</A>
After reading this site for awhile, but never posting, I've decided to write about the fantastic experience we had at Saffron. We (party of 6) had an amazing dinner last Sat. We tried many of the mezze, small plates, and entrees and we were impressed by all. I personally tried the cauliflower flan, haloumi cheese, leek and sheep's feta tart (my favorite - the roasted tomatoes had a kick), and vegetable tagine - all were wonderful, fresh, and nicely presented. I was pleased with the high quality, interesting vegetarian options. The chicken entree was a huge hit - the 4 people who sampled it all said it was the best chicken they had ever had and would return just to get that again (and these are people who do not typcially order chicken). Lamb shoulder, scallops, veal & tuna carpaccio, beef strip loin, and baby crab salad were also rated highly.
The service was fantastic - we had a friendly and knowledgable server, and the bus boys were very attentive (filling water, removing dishes promptly, etc.). The manager/owner(??) made the rounds to chat with guests and seemed genuinely interested in whether we had a nice dinner. We will definitely return.
re: g rote
re: g rote
Thank everyone for the postings. I have been back twice now with the same great results.
I think I read in the paper that these guys are a relative (cousin or something) of the Holy Land people.
I had a great lunch at Saffron last week. A great daily soup with curried cauliflower (mmm...) and a schwarma for the main course. It lived up to all that I have heard of my friends who traveled through the middle east.
Next I must return for the bisteeya.
More to come soon. S2H
OK, so if I"m adding a places link, I figure I ought to try the place. Went for dinner this evening and ate at the bar. Pretty quiet, but it's Monday night.
Had four of the Mezze and one Small Plate. With a glass of wine, the bill was $42 before tip.
Beef Kubbeh. I was expecting a raw kibbeh. This was cooked. Very pleasant with mild seasoning in a breaded(?) coating.
Cauliflower flan: My favorite Mezze. The rich creamy flavor of the flan was perfectly contrasted by the smoky, earthy flavor of a charmoula sauce.
White anchovy and fennel. This was very pleasant but a little bit of a let down. The anchovy or the fennel salad had a vinegar based dressing that overpowered the charmoula a little.
And finally - lamb brain. I ordered it because, hey, how often do I get the chance to order lamb brain? Having never eaten brain before, I wasn't sure what to expect. Actually it was pretty tasty. Fried with a crumb topping on it. It may have been the preparation, but he main thing it made me think of was soft shell crabs. You get a taste that's not quite meat - but pleasant and rich. Served with a "confit" of cherry tomatoes and preserved garlic cloves. - If you don't like the brains, the confit will make you forget about the flavor.
My small plate was the quail. It's a small portion but very tasty. The mirqaz sausage really plays well against the quail. The acompaniment is lovely - seasoned pearl couscous with micro-diced pieces of sweet potato.
The cauliflower and the quail were the outstanding dishes to me. I'll be back to explore some more.