Our date night at Saffron started with a sniff of an earthy spice blend and ended with two of the tastiest “doggie bags” we could possibly have asked for.
Saffron, in the Minneapolis Warehouse District, seems to give Chef Sameh Wadi an outlet to play with the flavors of the Mediterranean and Middle East — to great effect. K had been before (about two years ago), but this was my first visit to the terra cotta-colored/exposed brick space.
Service was very attentive at first and K suggested we order a bottle of wine. But after seeing the cocktail list, I nixed that idea in favor of a Saffron Rose drink. I “heart” saffron in cocktails after being introduced to the idea at a bar in Seattle. The bubbly rose was a sweet compliment to the piney gin and mild saffron taste. K ordered a rum-based Sand Storm with ginger beer, hibiscus and cardamom. It was distinct and a little bitter, but good!
We also ordered a starter — the beef kubbeh. Side note: This is not exclusive to Saffron, but I look to the menu to be a description of the dish I’m going to get. The menu told me beef kubbeh was … well, it didn’t say, but I knew it came with pine nuts, yogurt, cucumber and mint. Writers of menus: Be descriptive, but not overly descriptive, of the dish! If you need advice on how to do this, contact me, I will help you!
Turns out beef kubbeh are oblong “nuggets” of fried ground beef with fragrant Middle Eastern spices and a cool cucumber yogurt sauce for dipping and cooling off the fairly mild spice. Crispy, flavorful and delicious.
K ordered a small plate of (non-flaming) blue prawn saganaki and I couldn’t resist the chicken “bisteeya.” K’s prawns were accompanied by a savory and juicy pepper, tomato and ouzo sauce and the prawns had a crisp snap to them and a fresh-from-the ocean taste. My “bisteeya” was juicy ground chicken redolent with “dessert-like” spices, wrapped in buttery, crisp phyllo with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar on top. I could have eaten three of these wonderful little packages and been so, so happy.
We finished our small plates and our cocktails and decided to order a glass of wine with dinner and this is where service kind of fell off. Our waiter went MIA, but the gentleman filling our water glasses was there every time we took a sip. After we’d been waiting for quite a while at an empty table, he also brought us dessert menus before we’d received our entrees (which took seemingly forever).
Once we did get them, our main courses were fantastic. K ordered a special of lamb two ways — lamb belly and lamb … one other way that I can’t remember because I was focusing more on my food, sorry. His also had roasted brussels sprouts and brown butter orzo. The lamb belly was crisp and the fat melted in your mouth and that brown butter orzo was silky and each grain perfection. I ordered the duck breast coated in nine-spice blend (I believe), nicely “domino-ed” next to a carmelized onion goat cheese tartlet. The duck was lovely and the tartlet was buttery and the flavors warm and sweet and salty. Sadly, we were both too full about midway through this course to even think about eating any further.
After apologizing for jumping the gun on the dessert menu, our server boxed up our dinners for delicious enjoyment another day.
The food at Saffron is delicious and should definitely be experienced. It’s deep and layered. K said the menu is virtually the same as when he was there two years ago and I do wish they’d change it up a bit more often to explore the creativity I’m certain lives in the brain of Sameh Wadi. I also wish they’d invest just a bit of money in upgrading their bathrooms. The restaurant itself is nicely, if fairly simply, decorated and the food is top-notch so it’s weird when you walk into a fast food rest stop bathroom with a broken handle or a hole in the ceiling.
Aside from the sub-par bathrooms, well played Chef Wadi. In battle “Date Night,” you’re definitely a winner in our book!
Pingback: A Pozole Showdown and Noon-Hour Roundup | The Heavy Table - Minneapolis-St. Paul and Upper Midwest Food Magazine and Blog