Visited on Saturday, January 26th
Ben's birthday present to me was tickets to Aida at the Pantages Theater, and dinner out. I'm not in love with any of the dining options immediately near the theater district downtown, so expanded my search to include the warehouse district. Saffron has been on our list since we started this blog, but for some reason has been passed by in favor of other options, but that obviously was a mistake because our meal at Saffron was amazing!
The owners of Saffron are the same people behind the ever beloved World Street Kitchen food truck. Now that I am working on the U of M campus, food trucks are the thing I will miss the most about working downtown (well, it's a tie between that and the skyways, especially right now... although this has caused me to probably already save hundreds of dollars due to not ever wanting to leave my building!). I know that food trucks occasionally come to the U - hopefully WSK makes a visit this summer!!
The few days before our visit to Saffron, I found a few reviews which definitely guided my menu choices. I quickly chose a reasonably priced bottle of red when we got there, and also ordered the hummus royale immediately because we were both ravenous. I really hate the awkward waiting for the server to open the wine right by your head, taking several minutes. This one was particularly bad, but that was the only service annoyance of the whole evening, so it wasn't that big of a deal. I really enjoyed this bottle of wine, but couldn't drink too much or else I would have been sure to fall asleep during the musical (as it was, I almost did anyway - probably more the fault of constant sleep deprivation of young children than the wine!).
The beef ham and manchego cheese croquettes were predictably delicious. As evidenced by all of our reviews, we love deep fried cheese filled things (or I do at least), so it was no surprise these hit the spot. The bastirma was something I read about in one of the reviews, and sounded intriguing. The beef was so tender it almost melted in your mouth, and along with the almonds it was a delicious combination.
After all of these appetizers, I wasn't exactly hungry anymore, but the Morrocan duck kefta tagine was still on it's way. I was very glad the server had advised us to order the smaller size, which was still pretty huge. I love the richness that the egg yolks provided, and this was just enough food to get me to the point of being pleasantly full.
Of course, I had to then put myself over the edge by ordering dessert, but that was a given after I'd seen the salted caramel trifle on the menu. I attempted to make something somewhat similar for Ben recently and failed miserably. It was nice to see how this dessert actually SHOULD taste! I also got decaf coffee, and appreciated them brewing a fresh batch for me.
We both LOVED everything about Saffron - the food, the service and the ambiance of the restaurant. We've been to a few other restaurants in this area, and this was my favorite of the bunch by far.
For Erin’s birthday I got her tickets to see Aida and dinner at a place of her choosing. Not a bad gift, since I get to enjoy it as well :) I arranged for my sister to babysit the kids and we left around 5:30 to Saffron in downtown Minneapolis.
I dropped Erin off at the door and found a parking spot around the corner by Sex World, glad to have found a meter so we didn’t have to pay at a ramp twice in one night. I walked back to the restaurant and Erin was already seated at a table in the middle of the room in front of the bar.
Saffron is not very large, but they don’t squeeze the tables together so you don’t feel like sardines, which I appreciated. The server came out soon to take our drink orders. Erin is the one who orders the wine, so she dealt with that while I also ordered a Manhattan. The server seemed a little confused, “Oh, so you’re going to have a cocktail first, and then have wine?”. To which Erin sarcastically replied, “Oh, no, the entire bottle of wine is for me!”. I think the server was judging me, though she claimed not to be :)
She left to get our drink orders in, as well as the Royale hummus that we ordered as we were starving. A few minutes later we had an awkward experience with the sommelier who spent an inordinate amount of time opening and pouring our wine. Erin tasted it, and it was fine, so we relieved him of duty.
My Manhattan came out a few minutes later with the hummus. Their cocktail glasses are small and curvy, but they give you the leftovers in a small glass on the side which I love. It just feels like you’re getting the full value of your cocktail. The Manhattan was delicious too.
The Royale hummus comes with spiced beef bits and it was excellent, especially given how hungry we were. We decided on a few more appetizers, the ham and manchego cheese croquettes and the bastirma, and one of the tagines, the Moroccan Duck Kefta, to share.
The croquettes and bastirma came out sooner than the tagine which made for a nice progression of food as we enjoyed each other’s company sans kids. I actually realized halfway through the meal that we hadn’t talked about our kids at all yet, which is rather impressive.
The croquettes were little balls of dough with ham and cheese inside and were freshly made and delicious. The bastirma is thin slices of cured beef with whole almonds. This was surprisingly good and lighter than I would have expected from a meat dish.
We saw a few tagines get served while we were waiting on ours, and it looked cool. They bring out the large tagine dish that comes with a heavy conical top. They set the whole thing down in front of you and then remove the top to a large waft of steam that comes out of the dish, it shows very nicely in a restaurant.
Our tagine was the Moroccan duck kefta, which had duck meatballs in a tomato sauce with two runny egg yolks dropped in the middle. We were told to break up the yolks and stir them into the dish to give it a little more richness.
Even though I was getting full, this was some awesome comfort food for a winter evening. We had wisely ordered the smaller size of the dish and we took the whole thing down. The meatballs were tender and the sauce was rich and flavorful.
Obviously we were getting dessert as well and Erin had already scoped that menu out before we arrived. I recently had a trifle for the first time when a coworker brought some into work one day and I fell in love with it. Erin noticed they had a salted caramel trifle on their current dessert menu and knew that we’d love it.
The trifle came out in a small glass that doesn’t appear to be much, but after you’ve had a full dinner, you don’t really need much dessert, especially one this sweet. It had caramel pudding with a cashew brittle, and a cookie layer towards the bottom. You really can’t go wrong with that list of ingredients, regardless of how you put it together.
We had to rush out to make it to Aida, but we absolutely loved going to Saffron, it lived up to it’s reputation. We got pretty tired during the show as well, likely due to the excessive amount of delicious food we had just ingested :)
123 N 3rd St