Dining : Web Content : Article

There are places in the world that, upon arrival, you know that you will return to, in one form or another, again and again.

Take the Musée Carnavalet in Paris – a place where curios, sculpture, paintings, and general objects-of-envy sit with blasé elegance in two equally elegant mansions. The collections may not change, yet in the middle of the night, thousands of miles away, the ivy-lined garden will call you back – as if you have become a missing piece of its magic.

Or Swan Oyster Depot in San Fransisco. Less than 16-untrustworthy stools wait for you to take a seat-of-faith in front of a worn Carerra marble countertop.

Men, big men, daintily pour muscadet and shell coin-sized Olympia Oysters. You can get half a crab anywhere in San Francisco but it’s the memory of the way the white aprons shine in the light, the distinct narrowness of the room, and the bated breath of the people behind you that cheers the dourest days.

These places are perfect and not perfect. Perfect, because they glow with integrity and not perfect because they have heart. Things with heart are always not perfect.

This is not to say Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen is flawed. It's not one bit. The restaurant has a fierce and passionate heart and from that core steps a technically advanced menu and a wine list that elicits a jig. It’s a chef’s restaurant in the fact that the food is as elegant as it is simple. As simple as walking a tightrope with octopus and quail on the line.

Octopus served perfectly to a packed room? Dang amazing. Then add lamb, hot, crisp green beans, flatbreads, and that quail! In the hands of many, the breadth of finicky items would go awry. Timing is everything in a restaurant and the timing in the kitchen – just as it was on the floor – was precise and charismatic.

If you go to Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, I suggest that you put yourself in the mood to enjoy the whole experience. The walls will shimmer, the wine will flow, the food will lead you down the evening’s path. Place the experience of dining before all else and you will come out ahead.

After all the Musée de Carvalat is just an old house with dust collectors and Swan is a hole in the wall with no credit card machine and Saffron is just a little jewel box. But if you’re willing to pause and listen to the heartbeat that leaps off the menu you’ll be loathed to leave the room and dream of your return.