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Dining Room: 5pm-9:30pm
*Lunch available for larger groups*
REVIEWS AND ARTICLES
Click on one of these links to jump to the appropriate item:
- Touches of Class Abound at Saffron
- 06/20/12 - New Hampshire.com - Our Gourmet
- Saffron Bistro earns the Platinum Plate
- 12/13/08 - NECN's TV Diner with Billy Costa
- Saffron Bistro serves fruit-infused vodka
- 8/27/08 - The Telegraph
- Cool drinks for warm summer evenings
- 8/1/08 - The Cabinet
- Get To Know More About Saffron Bistro's Drift…
- 3/12/08 - The Telegraph
- Warmth, elegance in Nashua
- 1/13/08 - The Boston Globe
- Saffron Bistro
- Winter 07-08 - Taste of The Seacoast
- We're Just Mad About the Saffron (Bistro)
- 10/4/07 - The Telegraph
- The Saffron Bistro Headed in the Right Direction
- 8/8/07 - NewHampshire.com
- Longtime Friends and a New Taste to Downtown
- 7/7/07 - The Telegraph
New Hampshire.com's Our Gourmet Review
Saffron Bistro is a classy little dinner restaurant on the lower end of Main Street where comfort meets style and the food delivers all the promise on the menu.
Our Gourmet: Saffron is one of those cozy spots that is pleasing to the senses. The aroma from the kitchen invites you in from the street; the sharp, gleaming lines of decor impress your eye as you enter; and the furniture and layout invite the patron to settle comfortably and enjoy what promises from the start to be a very pleasant dining experience. 10/10
The Dining Companion: The restaurant oozes fusion from front to back. High-backed upholstered chairs in stripes of red and silver contrast sharply with black tablecloths and white napkins. Dim lighting lets you slowly discover the pressed tin artwork that gleams on the walls, alongside muted dark watercolors. Saffron Bistro has a very cool look, smoothly backed by real jazz playing softy in the background as diners settle in at the 15 or so tables in the dining room. The tables are nicely spaced for privacy; the cocktail lounge is completely away from the dining room. A gleaming foyer with a desk and artwork is graced by high-polished hardwood floors. Attention to detail makes one feel pampered from the very start. 10/10
OG: Everything on Saffron's menu is gourmet, and a small menu eases the choices. We like small menus — where it's quality over quantity and each item is chef's suggestion. Try Steak & Eggs ($26), a 10-ounce grilled steak topped with a fried egg and roasted tomato and asparagus tips, served over a shredded potato cake. Or Plum Glazed Duck Breast ($24) with stir fried vegetables and sweet and spicy hoisin sauce. Or New Bedford Sea Scallops Au Gratin ($25) with applewood smoked bacon, tomato, scallions and a light cheese sauce, topped with sweet honey crumbs and served with sautéed spinach. 9/10
TDC: I love the choices of seafood and fresh salads, and creativity with vegetables adds a truly gourmet touch. Appetizers are dreamy, featuring a Bruschetta, Crab Wontons, Escargot, Calamari, Parmesan Meatballs, Sweet Coconut Shrimp and Goat Cheese Fritters. On the salad roster, a Caesar is dressed-up with white anchovies and a Boston Bibb comes with crumbled goat cheese and candied pecans. Yummy entrees include Lobster Risotto and a Lobster Salad on Soft Brioche, Grilled Swordfish with pineapple and mango Jasmine rice, Plum Glazed Duck Breast, and a Chipotle Rubbed Chicken Breast with cucumber salad. Outstanding choices. 10/10
OG: Crispy Calamari ($10) was a delightful start to a terrific meal. Nothing spectacular, except the attention to taste. A small plate full of lightly fried, tender calamari, tossed with cherry peppers and served with a slightly spicy Parmesan-ranch sauce. 9/10
TDC: My Sweet Coconut Shrimp ($12) were perfect. Large, succulent shrimp, lightly fried in crunchy, tasty coconut breading, with a sweet and tangy, mango and sweet chili dipping sauce. Absolutely delicious. 9/10
OG: My Lobster & Shrimp Sauté ($28) came highly recommended by our hostess and it did not disappoint. Jumbo shrimp and large chunks of fresh lobster meat, sautéed with garlic, lemon, cherry tomato, served over fresh linguini with a cream sauce so light and unobtrusive it not only did not mask any bit of the seafood flavor, it didn't even crowd the natural flavor of the pasta. That's thoughtful, talented preparation that does not go unnoticed. Each taste to its own, blended beautifully. 9/10
TDC: A great combination of seafood and vegetables arrived with my Potato Crusted Haddock ($25), which featured three large pieces of fresh, lightly battered fish on top of sauteed green beans and tomatoes, tossed in a fresh parmesan and herb sauce. Green beans and tomatoes underneath a serving of seafood had never occurred to me, but it's a winning combination. Great taste in a great dish. 9/10
All the rest: 18/20
OG: One of our very best dinners in a long while was made even more enjoyable by terrific service. Our waiter, Rob, was gracious, witty and accommodating, with a sense of timing and anticipation that led us, rather than followed us, through our meal. He never asked us how we were doing, he knew how we weredoing. Helookedaheadto what we might want next, and his casually cool and friendly manner made an impression. 9/10
TDC: A restaurant with a cocktail lounge almost as large as the dining room could easily create conflicting values, but the bar and the restaurant at Saffron are totally separate, divided by a wall between the rooms, and zero visibility between the two.
Gourmet did not even know there was a cocktail lounge in the building until after our meal when meandering around. Bar noise is a distraction to diners who pay attention to the supper experience, and Saffron management deserves praise for knowing to keep it at a distance. 9/10
Total: 93/100♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
NECN's TV Diner with Billy Costa (Newton, MA) - originally aired on December 13, 2008
Saffron Bistro offers a revolving menu of American eclectic cuisine, The Saffron Bistro in Nashua, New Hampshire is put to the TV Diner culinary test!
Saffron Bistro in Nashua, New Hampshire offers an intimate lounge, with choices of a marbled bar, or a stunning dining area. And just as classy as the décor, the menu presented American eclectic touched with a French flair.
Our first starter was an organic mesclun greens salad, spotted with grape tomatoes and red onions. Creamy centered and lightly coated with crunch, the pan fried goat cheese amplified the taste of the raspberry pomegranate vinaigrette. It was brilliant!
The Baked Stuffed Top Neck Clams was filled with eight shells (with unusually tender clams) lean bacon bits and parmesan cheese in a bread crumb alliance - a traditional appetizer transformed delightfully!
Cutting as easily as butter, the Cider Soaked Berkshire Pork Tenderloin was so savory that we wanted the recipe for the glaze AND the sweet corn bread stuffing studded with dried cranberries---very impressive.
Perfectly seared to a golden color, the Caramelized New Bedford Sea Scallops united with a rich Maine lobster and asparagus risotto accenting the flavors of both seafood to make a remarkable dish.
With a delightfully different texture, the Pumpkin Cheesecake has a spectacular crust that redefined cheesecake.
Then, warmed on amber caramel and deep chocolate, the Chocolate Gateau a la mode was a star studded dessert.
Our waitress was vivacious and efficient with all food served piping hot. Prices were excellent for quality and quantity with appetizers eight to sixteen dollars, entrées nineteen to thirty-two dollars and desserts eight dollars.
Saffron Bistro is an elegant restaurant - attended by an apt, amiable and meticulously attired wait staff - who serve the sophisticated menu with a perfectly understated French touch.
It earns the Platinum Plate.♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
The Telegraph - Feast(Nashua, NH) - August 27, 2008
Written by Kathleen Pierce
We've had it up to here with martinis, written them off as the fad that won't go away. Anytime we hear the word "tini" now, the sound of nails drawing across a blackboard fills our head.
So when we came across the infused vodkas at Saffron Bistro, we breathed a sigh of relief – finally a libation not rimmed with sugar or augmented with rock candy.
You've probably seen the large jars of fruit and liquid behind the bar and thought, "How nice, aquatic decor." Chunks of golden pineapple, slices of watermelon and floating cherries in geometric jars do look nice, but they taste even better.
"It's become one of our icons," said co-owner Ben Mercuri, a Nashua native who opened this romantic bistro with his childhood friend Joseph Drift a year ago.
"We've done mixed melon, blood orange, if you can name the fruit we've pretty much done it," he said.
Every few weeks, a rotating cast of fruit, depending on what's in season, are marinated in Imperial Vodka, a top-selling Russian brand. Last week, pineapple, watermelon and a combination of bing cherries and pineapple (aka the Breetini) were on tap. We ordered a flight for $12 and three mini martini glasses of fruity bliss arrived.
The only similarity between infused vodka and the martini is the glass.
Because the fruit and vodka marry for weeks, you feel you are drinking the essence of the fruit with a hint of liquor – not the other way around. Its purity is what we loved, as well as the lack of cloying sugary syrup or funny emulsifiers. Just fruit meets potato juice, the way nature intended.
The first sip of the pineapple infused us into a tropical state as the soft jazz and low lights of the lounge helped smooth the rough edges of the day.
Infused vodkas have been a staple of the Italian cocktail scene for some time, and the addition at Saffron came about by accident.
"Someone gave the owners a infusion jar as a gift," said bartender Breanne Silvi. Then one became two and now three.
"We are thinking of adding more and making a whole wall of infused jars," said Silva.
We tried paring these diverse flavors with the escargot appetizer and corn and lobster chowder, and it wasn't a smash hit. This libation stands on its own.
Thank you, Saffron Bistro, for bringing vodka back.
Kathleen Pierce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Cabinet.com - we're your community newspaper - August 1, 2008
Written by Kathleen Palmer
If the thought of having another blender full of frozen margaritas or endlessly pummeling mint at the bottom of a mojito glass for your next summer party makes you moan "ay, caramba," allow our local purveyors of fine foods and spirits to share with you their favorite new cocktails, each designed to take the humdrum out of the humidity.
Alex LoVerme, owner of Elisha's Restaurant in Milford, is definitely switching things up on his summertime drink choices. To encourage folks to enjoy his outdoor lawn seating and live entertainment on these sultry nights, he's offering a mini-menu of six mini-drinks (only slightly smaller than a standard) for $1.50 each.
On the main menu, fruit-inspired cocktails are both refreshing and beautiful.
"Our most popular one is the Watermelon Martini," LoVerme says. "We use actual fresh watermelon, not flavored liqueur, and the muddled chunks give it a wonderful consistency."
Elisha's also boasts a peach Stoli cosmo, complete with a perfect peach slice floating atop it like a crescent moon. Bartender Erin Trubacz also whipped up a visually dazzling concoction she created for July Fourth.
"I call it Taste the Independence," she says. A parfait glass is filled with blended fresh blueberries, vodka, pineapple juice and simple syrup, then adorned with whipped cream and a skewer of red, white and blue fruit. Patriotism never looked so good.
- 3-4 large chunks of fresh watermelon
- 1.5 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce simple syrup (see note)
Muddle watermelon to desired consistency. Add other ingredients, shake and serve in chilled glass.
PRO TIP: Consider trying any summer cocktail recipe in a "frozen" version. "Just throw it in a blender with some crushed ice for a different take on it," suggests bartender Erin Trubacz.
NOTE: Simple syrup is made by combining equal amounts of sugar and water, bringing it to a boil so the sugar dissolves and allowing it to cool.
Wild about Saffron
Ben Mercuri, owner and general manager of Saffron Bistro in downtown Nashua, along with his partner, chef Joe Drift, have infused their menu with the tastes of summer – literally.
"Our signature drinks are our fruit-infused vodkas," Mercuri explains, gesturing to several large glass jugs behind the bar. Each is stuffed with a colorful fruit: Chilean and bing cherries in one, mandarin oranges in another and pineapple in a third.
Currently, the most popular choice is a "bretini," a combination of the cherry and pineapple.
"Every two weeks, we switch out with new fruits," he says of his award-winning cocktails. Melon, mango, whatever seasonal fruit catches their imagination.
The bistro also has a grown-up Raspberry Lemonade, with Cointreau and Stoli raspberry. Another hit with a seasonal name is the Bikini Martini, consisting of Bombay Sapphire gin, Blue Curacao, peach Schnapps and a little lime and sugar. It sounds perfect for your next pool party.
- 3 parts Bombay Sapphire gin
- 1 part Blue Curacao
- Splash peach Schnapps
- Lime juice to taste
- Pinch sugar
Combine and shake all ingredients. Serve in a chilled glass.
PRO TIP: Owner Ben Mercuri notes that a lot of people are trying their own hand at infusing. "You can now get infusers fairly easily," he says. "I just saw them at the Christmas-Tree Shop at the Nashua Mall."
I'll take Manhattan
Manhattan on Pearl, in the heart of Nashua, is a relaxing, upscale place to chill. So its summer offering of a Watermelon Chill seems infinitely appropriate. Owner Lisa Gendron is rightfully proud of this refresher, made with watermelon vodka and puree of the namesake fruit.
For those who like a little more oomph than the standard summer fare, consider a Lemonade Lifter. This robust drink is made from MoP's own homemade lemonade, which is mint-infused, and top-shelf bourbon. It's a sipper that makes you wish you were on a veranda watching fireflies and saying things like, "My, but it's powerful hot tonight" in a Southern drawl.
- 2-3 ounces bourbon
- 3 ounces lemonade
- Fresh mint to garnish
- Combine ingredients, and garnish.
PRO TIP: Bartender Cynthia McInnis-Wallace encourages the use of top-shelf bourbon for this cocktail. "You'll really notice the difference," she asserts. She recommends Woodford Reserve, Maker's Mark or another quality name.
Do try this at home
Why not try some of these special summer cocktails the next time you get together with friends? Perhaps they will inspire you to create your own versions that will become your own signature drink.
Kathleen Palmer can be reached at email@example.com.♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Top ↑ Get To Know More About Saffron Bistro's Drift… - So You're A Chef. You Want to be Featured Here.
The Telegraph(Nashua, NH) - March 12, 2008
Chef's Corner is an occasional feature in Feast where we take a closer look at local chefs. It is meant for all chefs who work in the immediate Nashua area, whether they work at a five-star restaurant or are known for their $5 meals.
If you are a chef who would like to be profiled here, e-mail Feast Editor Deidre Ashe at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
NAME: Joe Drift.
OCCUPATION AND LOCATION: Executive chef, The Saffron Bistro , Nashua.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED THERE: The restaurant opened in June.
TRAINING: Associate's degree in culinary arts from Southern New Hampshire University, as well as a baking certificate.
SIGNATURE DISH: All kinds of seafood and desserts, as well as game meats.
FAVORITE FOODS TO EAT: Seafood and chocolate.
KITCHEN TOOL YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT: Chef's knife.
SHARE A FOOD TIP WITH READERS: When creating a dish, be confident in what you're doing and always taste your food to see if it is properly seasoned. Also, always practice good sanitation skills in the kitchen.
SHARE AN EASY RECIPE:
FRENCH CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE TART
- 22 ounces dark chocolate
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup Chambord
- 10 whole eggs
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Melt chocolate, butter and sugar over double boiler.
- Add liqueur.
- Whisk eggs with flour.
- Once chocolate is melted, add to egg mixture and whisk together well until batter is all incorporated.
- Prepare two Springform pans by spraying or greasing the bottoms. Line pans with aluminum foil, and then pour batter in equally.
- Place pans into a deep hotel pan and pour water in till it comes up half way.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until tarts are stiff, take out of water bath and let cool for 1 hour then remove from pan and slice. You can dust with powdered sugar for decoration.
Makes two tarts; serves 20.
Executive chef Joe Drift works in the kitchen of his restaurant, The Saffron Bistro.
Section: Food and Drink
Copyright, 2008, The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H. All Rights Reserved.
The Boston Globe
January 13, 2008
It's a joy to reconnect with an old friend at an elegant restaurant on a snowy evening. When we arrived for our 7:15 p.m. reservation at the Saffron Bistro on a recent Friday, we were greeted warmly just before we were led to a table near the front window and the server pulled out our chairs.
The foul weather had compelled us to wear jeans and sensible shoes. While casual dress is acceptable at the Saffron Bistro, dressy attire would have been more in keeping with the atmosphere. There was a small crystal vase with a red rose on each linen-covered table. Gold-framed mirrors and paintings graced the muted yellow walls.
The acoustics were superb, as we could watch passersby on Nashua's main drag, without hearing the cars or pedestrians. There was also a large table next to us with a big party and the strains of a live jazz piano across the room, yet we conversed easily.
A series of classy touches surprised us throughout our meal. First, the waiter asked whether plain water would suffice. Moments later, he returned with a gratis appetizer to whet our appetites - two cucumber rings filled with a mélange of duck, kalamata olives, and finely diced tomato. (When I mentioned that I couldn't quite identify the seasonings, our waiter made a point of finding out and reporting back to us later: They were cilantro with mango spice.)
My companion asked if the waiter could recommend a red wine that would be suitable with most of the entrées. He recommended a petite sirah ($8) from the Fleur de California winery, and my friend came to agree with his choice.
The menu fits on a single page, and each item appears to have been selected with great care. My eyes homed in on the panko-crusted lobster tail ($15), delicately breaded and fried oh-so-lightly, on a bed of crisp cucumber salad, harissa aioli, and black-truffle shavings. I can't imagine any way to improve on this tasty dish.
My companion ordered the goat cheese tartelette ($10). The base of this appetizer was a generous toasted pastry shell, encasing creamy herb-whipped goat cheese topped by roasted tomatoes, eggplant caviar, basil coulis, and fresh frisée salad. She noted that roasted tomatoes were a better choice than fresh would have been, as a bolder contrast to the subtle cheese, without overpowering the other ingredients.
We were pleased by the warm Asiago cheese rolls that our waiter provided using tongs from a basket, accompanied by a swirl of herb butter.
The overall pacing of the meal was leisurely, so we asked the server a few details about the establishment itself. The location was chosen in part because the owners are from Nashua. The bistro has been open for six months, in a building that used to contain the Harbor House homeless shelter.
It amazed us to learn that there were only three chefs in the kitchen, providing meals for up to 60 patrons. There are also no specials on any given night. Rather, the menu is changed every four to six weeks.
For the main course, I opted for the Australian rack of lamb ($28), which the waiter said was his favorite item. Two portions of four chops each were roasted in a piquant coating of tarragon mustard vinaigrette. The meat was accompanied by layers of sweet and russet potatoes au gratin, along with bright green and slightly bitter sautéed broccoli rabe. I was barely able to finish two of the chops, much to the delight of my teenager back home, who fairly inhaled the leftovers.
My companion ordered the caramelized local sea scallops ($24). Six plump scallops were placed evenly around a bed of creamy risotto, garnished with pea tendrils and roasted tomato aioli. A moat of orange sauce circled the edges of this entrée. The tops of the scallops were seared evenly to a golden brown, while retaining incredible tenderness.
We couldn't resist sampling the desserts. I chose the pumpkin eggnog créme brûlée ($8) and was thrilled with the smooth consistency and holiday flavorings. The top had been gently toasted to form a paper-thin crust, sprinkled with powdered sugar and punctuated by almond tuile (a crisp sugary cookie), and a sprig of fresh mint. Decorative splashes of red raspberry coulis had been meticulously spaced along one edge of the dish. The first half of this cool treat was delicious, though the sugary crust eventually proved too sweet for my taste.
My companion ordered the poached pear in brandy ($8), coated in a dark brown glaze. The pear was firm yet cooked, imbued with cinnamon flavor. The platter included a small cup of vanilla-bean ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream.
NANCY V. BURNS
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
Written by Crystal Ward Kent
Over in Nashua, New Hampshire, Saffron Bistro offers a touch of French elegance. The bistro opened on June 7, 2007, realizing the five-year goal of the two 27-year-old co-owners-Benjamin Mercuri and Joe Drift, who is also the chef.
"It has been hard to get our own place started at such a young age, but we were determined," Drift says. "We both already have a lot of experience. I've been working for fourteen years, many of those in fine-dining establishments. We wanted to create a place that was really nice. Elegant dining is something new for Nashua, yet we feel that people are ready and looking for this kind of venue. The city is going places, and we want to ride that wave."
The décor conveys an air of refinement in every detail. Deep pile carpet cushions your step in the dining room. The walls are rich with artwork, chandeliers glitter overhead, and soft piano music emanates from the baby grand in the corner. The bar is equally elegant, with a Brazilian hardwood floor, full padded stools, and a bar top of imported marble.
Drift describes the restaurant's theme as more American French than classic French, although he uses a lot of French techniques in his cooking and some classic bistro dishes are on the menu.
"We wanted to be different, to put a spin on some items," he says. "We didn't want to be locked in to one approach."
Among the innovative offerings are the Lobster-Infused Shrimp Cocktail, which is shrimp infused with lobster, cilantro, and vinegar, and served cold. Diners are also fans of the Caesar Salad, which is prepared tableside in the traditional manner. "The chef comes out in his big hat and chops and layers the ingredients right in front of you," Drift says. "People love it."
The Pâté de Campagne is prepared in true French fashion. "We use ground organic pork and chicken livers, with marinated baby onions, and serve it with grapes, croutons, and whole grain mustard," Drift says.
Among Saffron Bistro's signature dishes are the Saffron Mussels-which are poached in a white wine and saffron broth with fresh chorizo, cherry tomatoes, and cilantro-and their Chilean Sea Bass, which Drift says "flies out the door." "We serve the sea bass with locally grown Peruvian potatoes, with their rich purple color, and fresh asparagus. We bathe the fish in a citron marinade, which is like a lemon sauce, very light and fresh. This is a very healthy dish, not heavy or rich."
The Herb-Encrusted Australian Rack of Lamb is given the French touch, served with chick pea frites, braised savory cabbage, and a pinot rosemary vinaigrette. "The chick pea frites are cooked like polenta on top of the stove, cooled on a sheet pan, then cut like polenta," Drift explains. "They are very big in the south of France. The finished product isn't grainy like polenta, but crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. With the lamb, I opted for the vinaigrette because it is very light and refreshing, and we just drizzle it over the top. A lot of people use a heavy sauce on lamb, but this lets the flavor of the meat come out."
Desserts are made daily, and Drift avoids having a set menu so he can be as creative as he wants. Previous highlights include a Passion Fruit Crème Brûlée and a super-rich chocolate version; warm chocolate cake; and a trio of fresh sorbets, including blood orange, passion fruit, and pineapple. "We also do desserts for two, which are very popular," Drift notes. "We will do a little tasting of a pot de crème or a key lime torte dipped in white chocolate with fresh berries. It is the perfect finish to a meal."
Best Kept Secrets: Winter 2007-08♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
The Telegraph Article
Telegraph, The (Nashua, NH) - October 4, 2007
EDITOR'S NOTE: The regular Table for Twos are off this week, so a fill-in reviewer stopped by Saffron Bistro .
The spirit of Saffron Bistro might be captured on a little green takeout box decorated with images of grape clusters and leaves.
The box has a fortune of sorts printed on its side: "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
Those words from Virginia Woolf are so true, and dining well is clearly a focus at this little downtown bistro , which used to be a hangout for the city's homeless.
This neatly folded box was filled with a few leftovers from a roasted duck breast served with polenta, green peppercorn sauce, caramelized peaches and a tomato confit.
It sounds fancy because it was. Here, presentation is as much of a priority as the ensemble of ingredients, including locally grown violet potatoes with the Chilean sea bass and organic baby carrots to accompany the filet mignon.
There is a lot packed into the single-page menu that changes every four to five weeks. There's certainly too much for a table of two to try in one sitting.
Alas, the lobster bisque, grilled infused shrimp, Saffron mussels and pate remained unsampled, and those are just the appetizers. Instead, the summer greens ($9) - local organic greens served with pan-fried goat cheese, roasted white beets and a champagne vinaigrette - and the bistro beef - rare beef tenderloin with a big garlic crouton and watercress salad - were promptly brought to the table.
Any garden salad on the planet aspires to one day come close to these summer greens. Too bad. It's not going to happen. Did I already say fried goat cheese?
The bistro beef ($12) was a similarly impressive appetizer and a nice complement to the greens.
A nearby table of six ordered a Caeser salad. The dressing - Dijon mustard, garlic, lemon, oil and a few other sundry items - was prepared tableside by the waitress in a large wooden bowl. It looked impressive from afar.
Before each table ordered even a bottle of wine, the wait staff brought over a light complement from the chef - a kind of duck salsa, mixed with cucumbers, apple and a balsamic vinegar reduction. Another nice touch.
The wine list was broken down among reds and whites and higher-priced reserve bottles. You can pick a bottle between $25 and $100, and there are not so many choices that you need a sommelier to navigate your way. Pairings of wine and food should be fairly obvious, and if not, the wait staff seems knowledgeable enough to offer some culinary advice. We chose the Fleur de California petit syrah for $29, vintage 2005. Decent, but for a few bucks more, there are bigger bottles to be had.
In addition to the duck entrée ($25), which was a little on the tough side, we ordered the caramelized sea scallops, served with sweet corn risotto, carnival micro greens and " Saffron Beurre Blanc." Five fat scallops on one plate never tasted so sweet. Mixed in one bite with the risotto, greens and white sauce, "succulent" was a word that came to mind.
At other tables, the filet mignon (served with truffled lobster potato galette and organic with a blackberry glaze - $30), and Australian rack of lamb (served with chick pea frites, braised leeks, savoy cabbage with a pinot rosemary vinaigrette - $27) seemed quite popular.
In the background, light jazz alternated with piano solos or a big-band number, adding an air of not-too-stuffy sophistication. Patrons wore suits and dresses at one table, jeans and golf shirts at another.
Inside, the decor includes neatly framed paintings, gold-framed mirrors and chandeliers to rave about, according to my dining partner.
Despite the atmosphere, this is still downtown Nashua, which includes the occasional shirtless male pedestrian wandering by on warm nights.
The restaurant, which opened in June, is a venture between old friends Joe Drift, the chef, and Ben Mercuri, the manager.
They succeeded in their vision of renovating the old Harbor Homes "Gathering Place" into a distinctive, upscale dining venue.
Yet, if you are looking for cheap eats in downtown Nashua, the Saffron Bistro should not be among your destinations. In fact, there's a pizza place right across the street.
If you are looking for a fine dining experience in the city - gourmet food, thoughtful presentation, pleasant ambiance and a healthy wine list - consider calling ahead to reserve a table at the bistro at 80 Main St. Memo: Do you have a restaurant you would like to see reviewed? Send suggestions to email@example.com. If your pick was reviewed in the last three years, we'll hold off to make room for newer entries. If you found a great place that just opened its doors, we will give it a three-month window to work out kinks.
Copyright, 2007, The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H. All Rights Reserved.
Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2007
◊ Rating: 3 stars out of 4 (worth a detour)
Visit the Dining section of NewHampshire.com to read previous Our Gourmet reviews listed by town.
A serene and lovely building on Nashua's bustling main thoroughfare, a restaurateur who greets with grace and — surprise — wearing a suit, a tasteful and elegantly appointed dining room — the Saffron Bistro has all the makings of a great upscale in-town restaurant. There's even a great bar and lounge for fancy cocktail sipping and live jazz piano on the weekends. Yet Saffron Bistro is an enigma, a mystery that took me until about halfway through my meal to solve. The food is good, the space delightful, but the two don't quite match. Still, given that it's been open for less than two months, there's plenty of time to figure all that out.
We were greeted at the door by the dapper Ben Mercuri, who co-owns the restaurant with Joe Drift. Both have restaurant experience including at Cassis in Andover — and they'll need it because this is one ambitious venture. We were early for our reservation so we moved into the bar to check out that scene, and a lovely one it is with a cool marble top and some small tables. The piano is in the dining room, but you can still see it from the lounge.
The cocktail list is the now ubiquitous array of creative and refreshing martinis and we had a nice chat with the young bartender who aspires to be an actress. She also mixes a good cocktail.
Mercuri showed us into the large dining room, one that made me say to my companion, They spent a whole lot of dough on this place. It's decidedly upscale with elegant lines, serene colors, fine linens, elegant upholstery on high backed chairs and tasteful landscape paintings on the walls — not a hint of the usual Creative American Bistro funky and whimsical quirkiness that I'm used to, which made me look forward to something more luxe in the cuisine, especially since they bill it as a kind of French meets American style.
After being presented with a canapé of soft bread with lobster, a gift of the chef, we started with the bistro beef, described as thinly sliced rare beef tenderloin with warm garlic croustade, harissa aioli and fresh watercress salad ($12). I asked our waiter, Marc, if that meant it was carpaccio style and he said that the beef was not that thin and it certainly was not. While tasty and tender, it was like a sliced brochette of beef and far too heavy and inelegant for an appetizer. I loved the hot harissa aioli, however — harissa is a spicy red chili paste used in Middle Eastern cuisine, here mixed with a mayo to mellow it out. The greens were very fresh and tasty as well.
A goat cheese tart was indeed a nod to more country French cuisine. The large flaky puff pastry was filled with ripe red tomatoes and a creamy goat cheese along with more tangy greens, this time a peppery arugula with a citrus dressing ($9).
We also ordered a Caesar salad prepared tableside for two ($14). Marc rolled a cart over and mixed our dressing with fresh egg yolk, oil, lemon juice, garlic, romano cheese and white anchovies, which he mashed up in the mix. I saw a jar of Dijon mustard on the table but he didn't put any in the large wooden bowl with the rest of the ingredients. He tossed chopped Romaine lettuce into the bowl topped it with croutons and served it to us on two small plates. I enjoy the whole tableside preparation thing and the salad was very good, the dressing fresh and rich with garlic. I also thought the presentation fit the fancier ambience of the room. That started me thinking about the rest of the dishes we'd tried so far, which weren't nearly as upscale in feel or preparation.
For entrées I tried the rack of lamb, three ribs on the rack served with some very tasty and creative chick pea fries, hot and tender inside and crispy outside ($25) I found the dish too expensive for the amount of meat served, although nicely cooked and flavorful with a pinot rosemary vinaigrette. Braised leeks and Savoy cabbage were a nice side dish. My companion tried the caramelized sea scallops on a sweet corn risotto ($22). The scallops were large, tender and sweet and the risotto came out like a more robust creamed corn, both rich and tasty. The dish was topped with some more terrific greens, this time the unusual amaranth, with gorgeous reddish purple leaves. A saffron beurre blanc was a flavorful, but actually unnecessary, sauce.
The wine list is small and inexpensive with a few bottles on a reserve list. Again, I was actually surprised at how ordinary the list was given the upscale ambience of the restaurant. I assume the list will expand and they'll try some more out-of-the-ordinary bottles. Desserts are good here with a creamy and perfectly executed vanilla rum crème brulee, the rum adding some more interesting flavors than the usual ($7). A chocolate gateau was also good, a thick slice of dense, but still remarkably light dark chocolate cake with a crème anglaise to moisten it up a bit ($8). Despite some incongruities in food vs. ambience, I like what Saffron Bistro is doing. The cuisine does have some French influences, a goat cheese tart here, some truffle oil there, but there's also polenta and risotto on the menu that doesn't fit into what they say they're trying to do here. The menu is really what we've come to know as creative American cuisine, one that uses fresh primarily seasonal and local ingredients and that draws on a variety of culinary cultural influences.
It's also a cuisine that fits into a more casual atmosphere and if I were running the show, I'd take a chance and make the food fit the room by going more elegant in the cuisine. Everyone likes to dress up, go out and have a fine meal and this might just be the perfect place to do that in Nashua.♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Telegraph, The (Nashua, NH) - June 7, 2007
Author: DEAN SHALHOUP ; Telegraph Staff
Downtown Nashua's newest restaurant, the Saffron Bistro at 80 Main St., is scheduled to open tonight after months of preparation by owners Joe Drift and Ben Mercuri.
CUISINE: French-inspired, gourmet entrées of beef, chicken, lamb, duck and seafood.
CAPACITY: 55 in dining room, 85 including lounge and outdoor patio.
CONTACT: 883-2100, www.thesaffronbistro.com.
The road to success is rarely a smooth straightaway made for cruise control and tilt seats, nor does it always follow the same route.
Few know that better than Joe Drift.
A short decade ago, Drift, now 27, was embarking on a path that appeared doubtful at best. With his sights set on becoming a chef and eventually owning a restaurant, he suffered a huge setback before he even got started when he was denied entry into the Nashua High culinary arts program.
hen his dad died unexpectedly. Devastated, Drift quit school midway through his junior year.
Fast forward to today.
With childhood friend-turned-business partner Ben Mercuri, Drift is now putting the finishing touches on his decade-long dream of opening a fine dining restaurant, which will be the newest addition to Nashua's culinary-friendly downtown.
They're calling it Saffron Bistro, a 55-seat restaurant, 85 including the lounge and outdoor patio. It's in the former Harbor Homes building at 80 Main St., which Drift and Mercuri spent months renovating into a cozy, relaxing eatery where diners are encouraged to dawdle awhile over cocktails and several courses while soaking up the pleasant atmosphere.
Assuming all the details are in place, Saffron will officially open tonight, with an expected full house - reservations have assured that, Drift said recently.
"We've been taking calls and making reservations since early May," he said. "Ben and I know a lot of people from previous jobs and word has been spreading fast."
Drift and Mercuri have been friends since they were in second grade together at Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, where Mercuri enrolled after coming to Nashua from Ohio with his family.
With Drift as the food guru ("back of the house," in restaurant lingo) and Mercuri experienced in the business and management part ("front of the house"), the two always hoped to do just what they're doing with Saffron .
"It's been a dream, always, for both of us," Drift said. "We've known each other so long, the trust factor is there - that's one of the most important things in business."
"It's been just a matter of location for a long time," added Mercuri. "Then we found this place - it's perfect, right here on Main Street."
So what's on the menu at Saffron? Or more curiously, why the name Saffron?
First, the name: " Saffron is exotic, elegant, associated with fine dining, which is what we plan for our restaurant," said Mercuri, adding that the spice, derived from the crocus plant, is still hand picked. Very little is needed for a full, aromatic flavor, he said.
Saffron will, of course, be on the menu in appropriate dishes. Drift says that generally, his creations will bend toward healthy dishes with organic vegetables and meats, from chicken and beef up to the more gourmet lamb and duck. He also said something about mussels from Prince Edward Island.
"My focus is top-notch quality," Drift said. "That's what people are paying for."
As is the custom of gourmet restaurants, Drift says, the menu will be concise, featuring about 8 appetizers and 8 entrées, and will change every five weeks or so. The format was used at the four-star Andover (Mass.) Inn, where both Drift and Mercuri once worked, and at Drift's most recent eatery, Cassis Bistro , a small, French restaurant also in Andover that was a 2005 Best of Boston winner.
"I liked the way things were done there . . . we changed the menu all the time. It also taught me that food can be better in smaller restaurants," Drift said.
Diners will be greeted by a maitre' d stationed in the elegantly-appointed foyer just inside the Main Street entrance, the owners said. They plan on having a pianist play a baby grand on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
With Saffron , Drift and Mercuri said they are looking to do their part to enhance a strong, and growing, downtown dining community.
"The city is getting better and better, there are a lot of great restaurants in Nashua now, especially downtown," Drift said.
"There's no doubt there are enough people here to keep them all going strong."
"We want everyone to know they can stay in Nashua for fine dining," he added. "We don't want people to feel they need to go to Boston anymore."
Ben Mercuri, left, and Joe Drift are the owners of the SaffronBistro, a high-end French restaurant on Main Street in Nashua, which is set to open today.
Memo: Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6523 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright, 2007, The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H. All Rights Reserved.