Safran brings something unusual and welcome to Chelsea: decent Asian food. This stylish two-month-old restaurant serves slightly dressed-up Vietnamese dishes with a few Western accents and presentations–and avoids the common pitfall of over-sweetening for American palates. The food is billed as “French Vietnamese,” but the French influence appears to surface only in a handful of dishes, like duck confit in red wine-citrus sauce and duck consomme with foie gras dumplings.

“I was very pleasantly surprised, as I’m not usually a big fan of anything that seems too Asian-fusiony,” says lchang, who reports standout green papaya salad with grilled beef and delicious, authentic-tasting crispy egg noodles, topped with beef, seafood, and vegetables. Dandel recommends sate (grilled shrimp, chicken, and vegetable skewers), cha dum (gingery steamed beef-vermicelli balls), and sauteed chive flowers with lily bulb and oyster mushroom. Other winners: bo loc lac (marinated beef cubes), bamboo soup (with gingko, snow fungus, and mushrooms), and sumptuous, elegantly presented banana cake with coconut sauce, strawberries, and green tea ice cream.

Lunch boxes are a good deal. For $9, Chelsea Pearl scored two tender, smoky lemongrass-honey-marinated pork chops plus rice, salad, spring or summer roll, and pan-fried noodles with peanuts, onions, and egg. Pearl’s verdict: “Chelsea needs this place.”

Safran [Chelsea]
formerly Raymond’s Cafe
88 7th Ave., between W. 15th and 16th Sts., Manhattan

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Restaurant Safran in Chelsea

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