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Sep 1, 2009 06:20 AM

Jfood eats at Saffron (MSP) - Over the Top Great

Jfood decided to forgo the MSP Fair last night after a long day and head to Saffron at the recommendations of many MSP Hounds. And he was extremely disappointed that he waited so long to enjoy what Jfood will call one of the best meals he has ever eaten. The idea that he has parked in front of this restaurant, only to be disappointed not to obtain a seat at 112, and drive elsewhere wants to make him want to beat his dumb head against a wall.

And if you read his review a few weeks ago when he mentioned that there is a theory that says if a restaurant is empty leave, because it is probably not that good, was totally without merit after Jfood's most enjoyable meal. When he arrived at 7PM on a Monday night (a usual off night in MSP) there were two ladies at one of the far tables and no one else. Jfood sat at one of the high tables near the door, received the menu and a description of the three-course tasting menu and was asked for his drink order.

Since Jfood was in a hurry and with one glance at the tasting menu he knew that was the perfect choice, he did not even look at the regular menu but went with the tasting menu. Although it was August 31, the chef decided to start the September Tasting Menu a day early. It consisted of Salmon with crab croquette, sweet corn curry and shellfish jus, Beef Hangar Steak with potato gratin, blue cheese, roasted black olives and heirloom tomatoes and finished with a Peach and Goat Cheese Tart with cherry-black pepper sorbet. All three courses were priced at $30.

The server brought over a breadbasket (two types of nicely warmed choices) plus a plate of hummus. One bite of the hummus told Jfood that the chef had a great hand, was not afraid of flavors and was willing to go bold. He was not afraid to add a fair amount of garlic and it also tasted as if the chef used a fair amount of Tahini to obtain a great rich flavor to the beans. A light olive oil was drizzled over the top. It was a great way to start the meal.

The salmon arrived and it was beautifully presented. From bottom to top. A wonderful green curry with small kernels of sweet corn, a 2” square piece of salmon and balanced on top was a round crab croquette, slightly smaller in size than a golf ball. Jfood's first bite was the corn-curry. Wow, this was great, full of flavor of a smooth curry, balanced with the sweetness and crunch of the corn. Then Jfood decided to try the crab and he was not disappointed. It was crispy on the outside, moist and warm on the inside with great flavors of crab coming through. If Jfood had one criticism of the dish it was that he thought the crab was a tad salty, and Jfood likes salt. Now onto the main event and the salmon. The chef cooked this perfectly in Jfood's opinion, just to warm through the fish, not to cook it. It was still translucent and a darker shade of pink, moist and flavorful without the loss of flavor from overcooking. Absolutely perfect. Now Jfood decided on the tri-fecta. He placed all of the elements carefully on the fork and took a bite. Everything worked great together. You can tell that Jfood really liked this dish.

The Hangar steak arrived and it was a long horizontal presentation versus the vertical presentation of the appetizer. From left to right were 6 small slices of hangar steak cooked very rare (just a head’s up to people who like it cooked more), a mound of heirloom tomatoes, red and yellow, with some roasted olives on top with crumbled blue cheese, and on the right were two gratin logs. Jfood made an heirloom tomato panzenella this weekend so the tomatoes were his first bit. Jfood loves tomatoes and blue cheese and the addition of the roasted olives made this element even better. Next was the gratin. The chef was very light with anything other than the potatoes and it worked well with the boldness of the blue cheese from the tomatoes, no fighting going on and the gratin was cooked perfectly. As Jfood moved to the beef he was a little concerned about the doneness, but one bite allayed his fears. The meat was almost a cooked carpaccio, still very rare/raw in the middle. It sat atop a very mild cheese sauce (think ½ teaspoon for all the pieces), which gave the meat a great balance. Jfood will also say this was one of the best dishes he has eaten.

The dish was cleared and the dessert arrived. The tart was about a 2” round, not very large and the cherry sorbet sat on the other side of the plate. Jfood's first bite was the sorbet. Now he understands that this is a new hot thing in cooking, adding spices to sorbets, but it is just not Jfood's thing. He wants the sweetness of the fruit in the sorbet to come through and the pepper was a turn-off to Jfood. The tart was fantastic. Four nice slices of peaches in a sweet pastry, it was just enough to satisfy Jfood's sweet tooth.

So in conclusion Jfood adds Saffron to the “A” List of restaurants in MSP. The meal last night rivaled Alma as Jfood's #1 choice in MSP. He cannot say enough about Saffron.

Thank You MSP Hounds.

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  1. You're welcome! Glad you enjoyed it. When you go back, I highly recommend the beef carpaccio, if it's on the menu. One of the most addictive dishes I've ever had. There's also a chocolate-pistachio dessert which sounds dull but is incredible.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jordan

      I still have dreams about the beef carpaccio. Incredible. Three words: browned truffle butter. How soon can you get there???

    2. As always, thanks for the excellent review.

      I'm so glad you finally checked out Saffron and liked it. It's sad to see a relatively empty restaurant there while 112 is always packed to the gills. I wish more people would just make the walk across the street to try out one of the real underrated and under appreciated spots in MSP.

      1. Hangar steak should be extremely rare. The "cooking" consists of marinating.

        It's a pity you don't drink (not generally, but in this instance). The cocktails are pitch perfect.

        1. Whew - what relief! I'm so glad you liked Saffron. Thanks for the great report!


          1. I had my first meal at Saffron on Friday. We had an early dinner (6:00), right before our concert and the place was very quiet, but by the time we left (7:30), the place was filling up. Our server, Eric, was very attentive, and very knowledgeable about the menu and food in general.

            The meal started off with bread (ours was not warmed) and a wonderful hummus. This was flavorful and smooth with bright lemony note, topped with an olive oil that was light and did not overwhelm the dip. I, as others noted, noticed the pronounced taste of tahini (in a good, but different way). When we mentioned it to our server, he mentioned that they make their tahini in house, and suggested that they probably do not use more tahini, but because it is so fresh, it may have a deeper flavor than we are used to. I couldn’t get over how smooth and creamy it was, almost like a whipped cream. I’ve tried making hummus at home and was not even close to achieving the smoothness of this hummus.

            We then had Baba Ghanoush, haloumi cheese and meatballs. Neither of us had had Baba Ghanoush before, so I was not sure what the flavors should be. This was also very smooth and creamy and the taste of tahini was everpresent. Not terrible, but not our favorite dish either. The Haloumi cheese was also new to us. The cheese was grilled and served with watermelon and mint. Our server mentioned that the cheese comes from Cypress and has a very high melting point. Even though the cheese was grilled, as I could see the grill marks on it, it was not melted, just warm. The cheese has a very interesting texture. It squeaked as we chewed on it like styrofoam and had a similiarly light, dry texture which was surprisingly enjoyable. It was also subtly salty. It paired beautifully with the sweetness and the moisture of the watermelon which created a great balance of flavors. We enjoyed this flavor combination. The meatballs were made of lamb and beef and were very light. They were paired with a tomato sauce with harissa to add some heat. I thought the level of heat was present, but not overwhelming, my boyfriend , and the table next to us , thought it was noticeably spicy. This was a nice dish, but would try other things before having this again.

            We then had the croquettes, deviled eggs, and carpaccio. The croquettes were delicious little mouthfuls that were crunchy on the outside and filled with goat cheese. The romesco and sherry vinegar helped balance out the richness of the cheese. The deviled eggs were filled with preserved tuna (reminded me of Spanish tuna escabeche), capers and olives and came with mustard alioli. They were nice, but again, not something I would seek out. My favorite dish of the night was the beef carpaccio. It is seasoned with truffled browned butter vinaigrette and hazelnuts. I think the beef might be just slightly seared, as the meat has a slight brown ring around them (about 1/8”). I knew it was going to be amazing as our server approached and the smell of truffles wafted over. The thinly sliced meat was melt in your mouth tender and the flavors were intoxicating. I was like a cat with catnip. This was the highlight of the night and would gladly return to Saffron for this addictive plate alone.

            We ended our meal with the Chocolate “Napoleon.” It was made of chocolate phyllo, chocolate custard spiced chocolate ice cream. I am not a huge dessert fan, but had a taste. The contrasting textures of the phyllo, custard, and ice cream worked well. My SO enjoyed it very much.

            So thanks to those who championed Saffron. We had a great meal and would not hesitate to return.