Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Modern American Saffron in Baltimore

Mrs. Yi and I dined at Saffron, at 802 North Charles Street on a recent Monday night, and we loved it. Of the items served that for me were to die for, one was "seared white tuna new style sashimi miso reduction, truffle oil and carpaccio" as pictured above at left. Pictured at right was one that I liked just as much, the "fried Virginia oysters in Cajun seasoning with wakame seaweed salad and spiced tobiko in remoulade sauce." Both dishes tasted a lot better than the pictures look. Bear with me please. I simply need to become a bit more proficient at shooting on the sly in restaurants with my new 3.2 megapixel Samsung SCHa990 cell phone camera. It's the reason why no photos accompanied Unique Culinary Adventures previous post about Mezze.

We hadn't been to Saffron since its past "Indian Fusion" incarnation. The space still looks pretty much the same, but the menu is of a different genre. Modestly presented, presumably in Microsoft Word on an 8 1/2 x 14 inch sheet of computer paper is the restaurant's own very apt description "MODERN AMERICAN," which personally I like better than "NEW AMERICAN." Either way, particularly amongst the starters, aka small plates, the choices run a gamut from international to fusion. "Quattro formaggi and porcini ravioli, porcini broth, and truffle oil," at $8.00 is quite Italian. For fusion, I like the way Saffron has included tobiko (think Japanese caviar) in a remoulade sauce, such as accompanied my fried Virginia oysters, which were $12. The closest thing to a remnant of Indian influence suggested by the menu was the orange coconut curry in a "grilled stuffed squid with crab and shrimp mix" for $9.00.

The other side of the menu offers nine main courses. Least expensive and furthest removed from straight ahead Continental/American was the $16 "fresh udon noodles in dashi broth with shittake mushrooms, napa cabbage, fried tofu, and poached egg."At the higher end, for $27 is "grilled New Zealand rack of lamb with sauted butternut squash fettucini, pan braised savoy cabbage, and onion confit,with a pomegranate demiglaze. "Similarly priced is the "pan seared whole bronzino with sauted garlic, Swiss chard, cranberries, and basil-balsamic vinaigrette." New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni recently referred to bronzino as "the fish that ate New York " when he described its ubiquity on upscale menus as "going beyond anything a braised short rib ever achieved." No problem yet, I say. This is Baltimore.

Saffron doesn't have a cocktail menu although cocktails are available, and there is a wine list as well as a dessert menu.

Although I'd heard good things about the new Saffron, my expectations were far surpassed. Considering we were there on a Monday night and that things were quite busy without offering any Monday night specials, it's caught on well with a lot of other discerning diners. The space is attractive, soothing, and well-appointed, and I can't name another restaurant in Baltimore where the fare pleased me any more.