I posted this review on my blog as a trailer to a piece on a really disappointing NY Indian fusion restaurant:
I learned recently that you cant dismiss all fusion cuisine out of hand, as I was quite pleased by the food at Saffron, in Baltimore. I had scoped out Saffron on a menu-browsing walk during a prior trip to Baltimore, but my time was limited and I already had a dinner date with a bevy of crabs and a mallet. The next time I got to Baltimore I made sure to give Saffron a try. The restaurant is on a tony strip of North Charles Street. Its menu is so audacious that I figured the food would be either really good or really bad. I feared really bad, but I was intrigued enough to hope for really good. It was very good. Granted the menu is more than a bit precious, with sections titled Liquid Spice (soups), Green Dreams (salads), Wings (poultry), etc. The descriptions of the dishes are pretty wild: Curried Spinach Gratin, Roasted Garlic and Pickled Lotus Root; Foie Gras and Brown Lentils, Cardamom Truffle Confit; Sandalwood Smoked Quails Moroccan Saffron Flavored Couscous; Stuffed Acorn Squash with Beef Cubes, Indian Cheese and Olives in Riesling Almond Sauce. I ordered the Crab Triangle Pastry with Cumin Scented Tomato Coulis for a starter because a New Yorker in Baltimore for a day must eat crab. It was pretty good, but my main course was spectacular: Tandoor Smoked Baby Lamb Racks - Spiced Blackberry, Ginger. Baby rack of lamb is way at the top of my meat pantheon. These had a sticky blackberry-ginger glaze which along with the smokiness gave it some of the earthiness of bbq ribs without sacrificing the essential lamb flavor. In short, it worked. The owners and staff at Saffron are all Indian, and I believe it grew out of a more traditional Indian restaurant. As over-the-top as some of the dishes are, they seem to be grounded in Indian cuisine, and maybe for me thats a better recipe than adding Indian accoutrements to European cuisine.