Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saffron Cafe

FLOE felt a little late to the ball having seen lots of great reviews flow in on Saffron Cafe.  But this week we finally had a chance to give it a whirl.

As they have their menu online, we'd given it a bit of thought before we arrived.  We knew that the antipasto plate was right up our alley.  Hummus, Zaalouk (Morrocan eggplant spread) & Bakoula (Morrocan spinach spread) served with a tasty warmed pita.  The only question was how we'd keep Ozzy away from the pita basket!  

Careful to limit the boy's carb consumption, we dug in.  Fred found the spinach to be captivating; far outshining the hummus, which was a real surprise to us.  Neither of us could place a single ingredient past the spinach, but were consistently commenting on how flavorful it was.  The eggplant was also high on Libby's list, reminding us heavily of babaganush.   Even when the pita ran out, the serving spoon made for a satisfactory delivery device.  All in all, a great start to the meal.

Always excited about new and exotic ways of cooking, both of us chose Tajines for the main courses.   A Tajine is a traditional Moroccan stew cooked and served in a decorative ceramic pot.  Think of individual little crock pots that've been cooking all day and bursting with spices.  yum!

After ordering an Alhambra Negro (a wonderful, dark Moroccan lager), Fred chose the Ginger Chicken Tajine.  Half a chicken slow-cooked with ginger, garlic, peas & carrots with a healthy dose of saffron and a most unique flavor addition:  pickled lemon. We're not sure if they intend for you to actually eat the pickled lemon wedges, but WOW talk about a flavor bomb in your mouth!  It was intense, in a good way.  Aside from the lemon, the dish was very mild, floral with a pleasant flavor.  However we both agreed that this was not the best choice of dish.  Due to the slow, wet cooking method, the skin was unappetizing.  That combined with a large amount of bones made for a less than stellar overall experience.  The flavor was spot-on, but with so many other amazing options, you should consider them instead. 

Libby chose the Tajine Lamberel. Presented in the beautiful Tajine dish, it was a sight to behold....stewed leg of lamb, resting in a brown sauce that contained eggplant in some capcity(yum) and the aroma...absolutely wonderful!  The LesTrois Domanes Rouge,(a mild red table wine from Geurouane, Morocco) paired perfectly. Definitely not a dish heavy on spice.  Richness was the word that came to mind.  The lamb was beyond fork tender.  The table bread, special in it's own way with heavy tones of beer, was perfect for sopping up the goodness.  When craving a lamb dish, this is exactly what comes to mind...tender, rich, depth of flavor...comfort food. 

Ozzy made due with half the pita from the appetizer.  We had ordered him a side of roasted red potatoes, which mommy and daddy both agreed were quite tasty.  Ozzy on the other hand was much more interested in another boy's toy police helmet and had no time for food.  One of these days, boy, we'll turn you into a foodie.  You can't hold out forever!

For dessert, the choices were a tiramisu, a baklava, and a marscapone cheesecake.  Ozzy heard the word "cake" and quickly declared his, the marscapone cheesecake it was!  This was not cheesecake in the usual sense of the was really more like a strawberry shortcake...and wow!  It was the best strawberry shortcake we have ever had!  A huge piece layered with marscapone cheesecake and the shortcake, covered with whipped cream and strawberry sauce...just fabulous!  Light and heavy at the same time.  How did they pull that off?!

Wrap Up
Price-$$$-$$$$, Pricey but with a wow factor.  The couple on a first date in the corner certainly had the right idea!
Atmosphere-***, Small, but beautifully decorated with comfortable seating.  An open concept with a very affable and ever-present owner.
Service-****, We had a very early reservation and there were few other tables, but the waitstaff was attentive and personable without being overbearing.  

Fred - B+, I'm sure a different tajine would only improve this rating.  But you have to call it as you see it.
Libby - A,  My experience was excellent.  I look forward to coming back for more.  I appreciate their openness to allow accommodating young children.  We saw another table made a fast-food run for their youngster which was simply joked about by the owner as he brought out a complimentary appetizer for the large family to share.
Ozzy- C+, No kids menu whatsoever, but Ozzy actually fork-blocked mommy for the dessert!
Estelle- A, Stella's personal, very private dining experience was not looked upon with shock and dismay by the staff, but rather seemed welcome and natural in the setting.

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