Thursday, November 13, 2008


5100 S Dawson St Suite 100

Writing restaurant reviews is hard fucking work. “Cry me a river, asshole,” you might be thinking, and in a way you might be right, but in another, more accurate, way you'd be a dumbass. Common frustrations include not getting into the place (or having to wait in line with thousands of colostomy bag wearers and Rascal riders), the prices being too fucking expensive, getting too drunk to finish on deadline (this actually happened when I wrote the review of the Steelhead Diner) and spell checking software that thinks that when I'm trying to type the word “prix fixe” I actually mean “prig five.” Actually “Prig 5” sounds like a great name for one of those genetically engineered, wholesome, sexually nonthreatening teen pop bands Disney continues to manufacture. Bands like Prig 5 make Keith Richards roll over in his leathery, debauched, cocaine- dusted grave. Keith Richards isn't dead, you say? Oh yes he is: where I come from, disheveled, dessicated, shambling, mumbling cadavers are called zombies and they eat your brains. And then they wash down a hearty serving of your brains with the perennially popular Chinese restaurant drink which bears their name. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the hurdles one must jump when writing reviews.

I encountered many of these hurdles when we went to Saffron. They don't have a website. Why not? EVERYONE has a website, even people who think that cameras steal their souls. Even shemales have websites, and I should know because 95% of those are bookmarked on this very laptop upon which I'm typing this review. “What about the other 5% of the shemale websites?” you may ask. Those are actually Jesus-y websites that try to lure you in with hot pictures of sweet Thai ladyboys that eventually blink away to be replaced by an image of a scowling Jerry Fallwell. Even your mom has a website, if you count her profile page on Yet Saffron hasn't joined the rest of us in the year 1995, for some reason.

Saffron's location is also rather difficult. I didn't drive there, so I have no FUCKING CLUE where it is. It's at a weird 5- way intersection, across the street from an abandoned laundromat, in one of those rich neighborhoods where a lady can jog, standard poodle at her side, with no fear of being gunned by paint- ball happy hooligans or pelted with McDonald's bags filled with used tampons. In fact, US Census statistics indicate that Saffron's ritzy neighborhood has a much lower bandit population than my own 'hood. We also have a high percentage of outlaws, footpads, confidence men, brigands, highwaymen, and the occasional scofflaw. That's why, despite the economic downturn, local sales of black masks, black and white striped shirts, and bags marked with dollar signs continue to be robust.

Also, they don't take reservations. I don't think I need to expound here because my disdain of this is well documented. In this case, however, it didn't matter because even at 7:30 on a Saturday, we were able to walk right in and sit down.

So we sat right down and started with the Saffron Prawns. For $12 you get 6 prawns in an orange butter sauce, garnished with basil leaves and orange slices. The prawns were juicy and yielding to the bite, but the sauce was rather bland, without very much of the distinctive saffron flavor. You could definitely taste a bright hint of orange juice in the sauce, but it could have been spicier, or saltier, or something.

The lentil salad ($8) was much better. A compact pile of green lentils was topped with razor thin shreds of red bell pepper and crispy fried lardons. A small pool of bright green olive oil seeped out from beneath the lentils. This was really fucking tasty. The lentils weren't dusty tasting, like they sometimes are. The lardons gave up a salty crunch which was a great contrast to the mild creaminess of the lentils, and the pepper shards provided a sweet top note.

A cup of the soup of the day was $8. It was a potato and carrot cream soup. It was rich and hearty without being too heavy, and the carrots made it subtly sweet. A little swirl of pesto on top was pretty, but basil is such an ephemeral flavor that I really wasn't able to taste it against the rest of the soup's earthy creaminess. Still, as far as potato cream soup goes, it was fucking awesome.

The Cassoulet de Poulet ($19) was damn tasty. Saffron's version of this classic Basque casserole included succulent shredded chicken breast and creamy white beans in a red bell pepper and tomato sauce. The secret weapon was slices of grilled chorizo, which was just smoky and spicy enough to make the cassoulet interesting without dominating the flavor. I can easily say it was the second best cassoulet I've eaten: the best, of course, was at a wedding I attended in St. Jean de Luz which featured duck confit, sausage, and ground beef in addition to white beans, peppers, and zucchini. That Basque wedding cassoulet, about which I have wet dreams to this day, basically gives a culinary nut- check to the one I had at Saffron, though Saffron's cassoulet is very good.

Beef tenderloin medallions ($22) were amazingly tender and so soft you really didn't need a knife to cut it. I know, I know, numerous jackasses love to brag about steaks they've had that were tender enough to cut with a spoon, but those jerks are usually lying. THIS steak actually WAS tender enough to cut, maybe not with a spoon, but with a spork for sure. I'm just not ready to commit yet to being one of those douchebags who like to say that you could cut something with a spoon. As an aside, how come sportscasters never make spork analogies? When two teams are playing, and it's a clear blowout, they'll typically say something about the losing team like “Stick a fork in them; they're done.” But what if the score is pretty close? They should say “Gently prod them with a SPORK because they MIGHT be done.” So when I finally ascend to the director of NBC Sports, I'll probably order all of the commentators to say that. The tenderloin medallions were well seasoned all the way through and glossed with an extremely tasty demi- glace. Accompanying the steak were a few slivers of steamed carrot and green beans which were still crispy and fresh tasting.

The crème brulee ($6) was very unusual: it was devastatingly creamy. I've never had a more unctuous crème brulee, and I've eaten a lot of them. It was more like ice cream that they'd somehow managed to keep solid at room temperature than custard. The crème brulee was mild, not too sweet, and utterly delicious. I really have never had one quite like it. The raspberry sorbet, on the other hand, wasn't quite as awesome. For $5 you got 2 HUGE scoops of the sorbet, which was smooth, sweet, and without a trace of iciness. The problem I had with it was that it hadn't been strained, and while I appreciate the chunks of real raspberry, all the fucking seeds in it were way too distracting. If I had dentures I would've been one pissed off geezer for sure.

Saffron is a difficult restaurant to review. The food seems to be too good for how deserted it was, but maybe it's because they don't have a website, so no one knows about it, and plus there's no way to find it without a GPS, or at least a sextant (Note: if you don't know what a sextant is, I'll have to break the news to you that it isn't actually as sexy as you would think a word that contains the word “sex” should be. You might think it's a masturbation device for sailors on lonely nights at sea, but it's not, though if I wrote the dictionary it would be). Maybe Saffron wasn't crowded because of the economic downturn, since all of the pensioners who would usually pack a place like this to the rafters just got to experience the unique despair of seeing their 401K plans decline 40% in value last month. I heard that it's owned by the same owners as Dulce's, but it's definitely not as swank as that place. It's really more of a neighborhood joint. The prices are maybe a little steep, but the food is solidly prepared. The flavor combinations they use at Saffron are mature, and by that I mean confident and bold without being flashy or trendy. It's cool, the wine list is extensive and pretty cheap, the service is prompt and knowledgeable, and as soon as I figure out how to extract my cock from this sextant, I'll go back.

Rating: 7 sporks out of 10

Saffron on Urbanspoon