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Published December 04, 2012, 11:35 PM

Halgrimson: Minneapolis’ Saffron restaurant magnificent

During a recent visit to the Twin Cities, our dinner plans took us to a restaurant called Saffron. The food was excellent beyond belief, and I sure don’t want to wait for next year’s trip to eat there again. It would be worth an overnight stay just to sample their magnificent meals.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

During a recent visit to the Twin Cities, our dinner plans took us to a restaurant called Saffron. The food was excellent beyond belief, and I sure don’t want to wait for next year’s trip to eat there again. It would be worth an overnight stay just to sample their magnificent meals.

The restaurant is owned by brothers Sameh and Saed Wadi who were born in Palestine. Sameh is the gifted chef and Saed takes care of the front of the house. From what I’ve read about the chef, his training began in his mother’s kitchen. She must have been an extraordinary cook.

The restaurant seats 65 to 70 diners, and the interior is lively yet relaxed with a variety of seating arrangements.

I’ve enjoyed the fairly recent increase in appetizer choices and find that two or three dishes satisfy my appetite and I don’t end up with food to take home.

Four of us shared the meal, and we sampled the following dishes which I’ve copied from Saffron’s menu:

  • Octopus “A La Plancha,” cooked on a hot plate with toasted garlic, smoked paprika and sherry

  • White Anchovies “Pintxo” (Skewer) with green olives, radish and harissa

  • Foie Gras with mejdool date-almond birouat and bitter orange

  • Chicken “Bisteeya” and aromatic saffron stewed chicken and almond pie wrapped in phyllo pastry with cinnamon sugar

  • Coriander Potatoes with roasted tomatoes and caramelized paprika butter

  • Grilled Kofta Meatballs with a slightly spicy tomato sauce

  • Tuna “Brik,” a modern variation on the classic Tunisian dish with raw tuna, quail egg yolk, harissa and black garlic

  • Fried Beef Kubbeh, bulgur shell stuffed with spiced beef and pine nuts served with cucumber yogurt

  • Rapini

  • Lamb & Quince Tagine, lamb shank with quince cooked in fall spices with white beans, sesame seeds and preserved lemon

  • For dessert we divided the Shredded Phyllo & Sweet Cheese Pie (Kunafa) with cardamom-saffron syrup and pistachios.

Prices range from $5 to $10 for the mezze and tapas, $7 to $14 for the salads and sides, $19 to $30 for the entrees and $18 to $27 for the tagine.

The chef’s repertoire stretches from his native Middle East to include the Mediterranean countries from the west end to Spain and Morocco. And he never seems to put together any combination of spices that misses the mark.

The variety of flavors was astounding, some familiar, others not so well-known – at least to me. But the meal made me sure that the guy in the kitchen is a genius.

The serving staff was extremely well trained and knowledgeable about the dishes on the menu. The service was impeccable.

As we were leaving, Saed Wadi came in to visit with his guests as I understand he does every night, and we had a chance to meet him. He was warm and friendly and as I told him how fabulous our meal was, he nodded his head and smiled.

For some people meeting a movie star is thrilling. For me meeting someone who is involved in a restaurant like Saffron is pure ecstasy, and I am filled with admiration.

Saffron is located at 123 N. 3rd St., Minneapolis. Reservations are a must. Call (612) 746-5533.

Readers can reach Forum Food Columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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