Dinner at Saffron (msp)
Thanks to the posters who gave me suggestions for dinner in Minneapolis earlier this week. Saffron got the nod, and we had a very enjoyable experience. The restaurant itself was a lovely space - muted colors, comfortable well spaced seating and tuneful N.African (I assume) music in the background. Service was pleasant and helpful but unobtrusive. We chose a number of selections from the mezze and small plate sections and shared them. From the mezze's, the giant beans (fava type in a lemon dill vinagrette) and braised greens (more lemon, with aleppo pepper) were standouts. From the small plates, the cauliflower soup was terrific - creamy but not too rich, with a beautiful garnish of dollops of cilantro puree and charmoula sauce, which also lent wonderful flavor. The squash and sweet potato 'bisteeya' was 'to die for'; roasted squash and s.p's enclosed in an incredibly flaky phyllo dough, baked and dusted with cinnamon. I'd happily eat that any night! I myself didnt taste the meat dishes. My husband enjoyed the meatballs and kubbeh, although he thought the harissa could have had a bit more of a kick, and generally preferred the vegetable dishes. There was a small but tasty wine list, and an interesting drink menu. Overall this was a terrific dining experience which we would definately recommend.
Thanks for the great review! I gotta get back there. I hope the bisteeya stays on the menu for a while, because it sounds divine. And I've been craving their Saffron martini - I tried to make my own, but it wasn't even close.
thanks for taking the time to report back-- i love saffron! you didn't mention desserts-- did you skip them? i only ask because i was so impressed with the dessert we shared a few weeks ago there.
Sounds awesome! I've wanted to go there since it first opened, and I think I'm going to try to do my externship (I'm in culinary school) there. I really admire Chef Sameh Wadi. He sounds like he must be pretty brilliant.
We had a terrific dinner at Saffron last night. The service was personable and outstanding. The room is just beautifully designed. We had six of the small plates & mezzes. The server asked if we'd like them all at once or paced out over time in combinations that worked well together. We chose the latter and wisely trusted his judgement.
The eggplant dip with pomegranate molasses was candy-sweet, a great new spread for the perfect little slices of bread that accompany the meal. (Excellent homemade hummus is provided gratis.) Tangles of vinegary roasted red peppers and capers form the base for a thick, salty square of fried haloumi cheese. These flavors balanced each other perfectly.
Next up was perfectly seared, paper-thin beef carpaccio with roasted hazelnuts and truffle vinaigrette. This reminded me of the carpaccio at La Belle Vie, where Tim McKee paired the soft, cool meat with warm, crunchy prosciutto chips. There's a definite knack for combining contrasting flavors, textures, and temperatures at Saffron. We also had the deviled eggs, with the yolks whipped into a lemon aioli and "preserved tuna" (something like a tuna confit, something like dried tuna) mixed with bits of black olive and fresh tarragon. Unique, artful, thoughtfully prepared.
Finally, we had the green salad with banyuls vinaigrette, toasted pine nuts, and goat cheese fritters. Again, the combination of temperatures impressed me -- the salad was slightly cool, the fritters slightly warm. And the bisteeya, as mentioned before, which has a laundry list of spices (crystallized ginger, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, garlic, ras al hanout, possibly cayenne) that combined to be so much more than we expected. It was sweet, spicy, and hot, all at once, with the great contrast of incredibly flaky, crispy phyllo.
The cocktail menu had a lot of unique interesting options, including non-alcoholic drinks. I had a juice drink that included mango, orange water, and hibiscus. My wife had the Saffron Rose cocktail, which quite impressed her. She also thought the wine list was very nicely put together and organized by flavor profile, not nationality or color.
We really enjoyed Saffron. The chef is not afraid to offer aggressive, unusual flavors, and his creativity is remarkable. This is not like any place you have ever been to.
sameh wadi is actually getting quite a bit of buzz. he was on the long list (20 u.s. chefs under 30) in the "rising star chef of the year" category of the james beard awards this year but did not make the cut to the final ballot. he has an amazing command of a huge palette of ingredients and his compositions are just generally fantastic. there is always something extra on the plate that is a surprise, yet it enhances everything about the dish.
If everyone hasn't already seen it today, the big story in the Taste section of the Strib this week includes Sameh Wadi's recipe for Chicken Bisteeya.