Saffron (Columbia, SC) Report
Saffron is the new Moroccan/Mediterranean restaurant on Devine Street where Al-Amir used to be. The inside is very nicely decorated, including a bar in the back with small tables and an extra-long banquette strewn with cushions. Service needs work. While everyone was eager to please, not everyone was competent. People in my group received the wrong food, the wrong wine, and the food took a while between courses. And what about the food? Some of it is very good, especially the appetizers. The pitas come out warm from the oven in clay dishes, the hummus is delicious, and the falafel is now my favorite in Columbia (alas, the portion seemed quite small to me). Main courses varied in appeal. The lamb chops were okay. The vegetables with couscous were delicious. The chicken schwarma was just fine. The meatballs, which were tasty, seemed more like spicy Italian meatballs than what I'd expect at a Moroccan restaurant, but I am no expert in the cuisine. We passed on dessert, but did enjoy a reasonably priced decent Lebanese cinsault-grenache-cabernet (IIRC) with our dinner. It is worth trying. Just be armed with patience and a tolerance for service goofs.
Unfortunately, Saffron didn't last long. They closed a few months back. Almost immediately, a restaurant called Tabouli opened in the same space with no redecorating.
I tried Tabouli, figuring it might've just been a renamed Saffron, but to no avail. The schwarma was quite bland, the kufta my better half had was without anything to recommend it, and they served everything with cold, low quality pita bread.
I don't think Tabouli will even last as long as Saffron did, but I'm not too sad about that.
I think Tabouli is AMAZING! When I first went, I wasn't so impressed, but I was convinced to go again and I loved it. I've been back a few times now and have always been impressed since. I'm Lebanese, and this is the closest I can get to my grandma's cooking in Columbia. About the pita bread--just order some of the brick oven bread! You get a huge portion of it and its delicious. I recommend the lamb kabobs and the baba ghanouj. I think Tabouli just might make it :)