Insider Guide: Chef Sameh Wadi

Sameh Wadi, Chef and owner of Saffron Restaurant & Lounge is getting major (zagat-rated) props in the cooking world. The restaurant is the brain child Sameh and his brother, Saed. Opened in 2007, it specializes in contemporary Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Here's Sameh's take on the Minneapolis food scene.

Describe Saffron for us. 
The delicacy of our cuisine is in the details of the craft; curing lamb bacon, grinding aromatic spices and making ice creams and sorbets daily is what we take pride in. The bar at Saffron is an ideal location to sit and relax while enjoying unique, hand-crafted cocktails, a perfectly adapted wine list with selections from around the world and delectable mezzes from the Mediterranean. The space itself boasts a vibrant, warm and inviting atmosphere that makes it a perfect location for dinner with family and friends, business associates or an intimate night out. 

You’re known for your seared scallops and slow-cooked lamb. What’s your favorite thing to cook at Saffron? 

Our seasonal menu allows us to display the best of the season. I love cooking light in the spring using spring vegetables, asparagus, ramps, fava beans, morel mushrooms and such. In the summer time we wait for corn and heirloom tomatoes, winter and fall are all about slow cooked meats and braises. We are also known for cooking lamb; we cook many different parts of the animal and like to present some new items that are made in-house such as our lamb bacon which is used in making a modern interpretation of a BLT with tomato jam and arugula.

Favorite place in Minneapolis to…

Get a Drink: I don’t drink alcohol, so I appreciate restaurants and bars that have non-alcoholic drinks available, both La Belle Vie and Bradstreet Craftshouse offer a great selection of non alcoholic drinks.

Feel Stuffed: Caspian on University, they serve some of the best comfort food (if comfort food is rice and grilled meats, aka if you are from the Middle East) I love the ground lamb kebobs, with basmati rice, grilled tomatoes & onions and a side of butter…. YUM!

Do Happy Hour: When I can get away from the restaurant; I like going to different places for happy hour, one place that I frequent is Solera, I think I’m addicted to those shrimp croquettes. Also late night happy hour at Sushi Tango, those guys are a lot of fun.

Get Take Out (or Eat Sans Frills):
 Chicken Shawarma from Holy Land deli in NE. (only of Friday and Saturdays) The only bad thing is that I have to wait a week to indulge, such a great sandwich, spit-roasted chicken, sliced very thin, wrapped in lovash with Turkish pickles and garlic sauce.

Grab a Dessert: I’m a huge dessert fan, I love the cookies and cupcakes at The Salty Tart—Midtown Global Market (especially the sour cherry/chocolate cookies) for a more formal setting I like what the ladies at Soleraand La Belle Vie are doing, super cool ladies making some killer desserts.

And, some non-food related questions:

What’s your favorite Minneapolis neighborhood?
Warehouse district for sure. I spend most of my days (and nights) here, there are a lot of great establishments. And that is where my restaurant is!

Where do you go to relax?
This question is not applicable to people like me! But thanks for the harsh reminder.

What’s your favorite time of year in Minneapolis?
Spring/ summer, every spring for the morel mushroom forging, summer for the sun!

What’s Minneapolis’s best-kept secret? 

Some super talented chefs that live and cook in this city, they cook on the same caliber as nationally recognized chefs but they don’t get any of the recognition they deserve.

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