I was dubious…afterall, I have such yawnful food memories tied into that dump of a building that housed the Canary Café for all those years that I wasn’t sure anything culinary could grow out of its ashes. The Saffron Café however seems to be growing like a well tended flower.
The place was packed with people and the wonderful odor of braised meats with garlic and onions made it almost impossible not to say “yum” as you walked up to the entrance. Inside and spilling out onto the patio were large tables full of families with children, small two toppers of otherwise romantic couples, lots of locals and a ton of foreigners looking for something different. We ran into friends from the Philippines, Australia and South Africa and the people at the table next to us were from England and France….all this in the space of my living room!
I ordered a Alhambra beer and started off with plates of Hummus, Zaalouk (a Moroccan style eggplant spread) and Bakoula (a classic spinach spread) served with feta cheese, kalamata olives, tomato, cucumber, artichoke hearts and warm pita. The hummus was beautifully smooth and the Zaalouk perfectly chunky. Good olive oil everywhere and just enough lemon to zing it up. The Zaalouk could have used a splash of chili oil and they were skimpy on the artichoke hearts.
The lamb tagine was perfect home-style cooking. The portion was large and the beautifully braised chunks of leg of lamb floated in a dark unctous gravy with peas, artichoke hearts and pickled lemon. It was wonderful. I devoured every last drop and soaked the beautiful sauce up with hot crusted bread. Chef Sentissi on one of his many rounds through the house was honored with my accolade of the food being “serious home cooking!”
All of the desserts are made on location and while the Tiramisu was ok (I prefer the Sienese style which has a harder custard and a stronger coffee and liquor taste) the baklava was top notch. next time? The Harrira smelled wonderful and the Kafta Kabbab looked delicious.