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London gets Raw: review of SAF restaurant

Saf

Chef Charlie Wilson, a good friend of WLIR, recently visited Chad Sarno's SAF restaurant in London and wrote this review:

London gets Raw
Review of SAF restaurant
safrestaurant.co.uk

Light and airy with a stylish, modern décor, London’s new raw food restaurant creates a ‘buzzing’ atmosphere with its trendy sophisticated bar serving organic cocktails and biodynamic wines, and its comfortable restaurant, with a menu carefully designed by the raw food chef Chad Sarno.

In terms of the raw food movement, the UK is way behind the US, but the local, organic and environmental sector is seemingly more advanced giving the impression that London is ready to fully embrace the raw food lifestyle. And Londoners can be grateful they are being introduced to it by a company that knows what they are doing. With several restaurants and detox centers already in Europe they must be doing something right!

Situated in the up and coming trendy Shoreditch area, Saf is positioned well for attracting mainstream clientele curious about this new type of dining experience. And sure enough looking around the packed restaurant there was not one sandal wearing, long-haired, hippy dippy type! It was definitely more of the young trendy and professional crowd.

As you walk in you are greeted by Joe MaCanta and his team behind the bar. Joe is the front man, mixologist and the creator of the unique and intriguing botanical cocktail list all made with fresh organic ingredients and organic liquor. There were six of us dining so we each had a different one. I kept mine simple and went for the Mojito Rosa , which was Sour Cherry Infused Rum, fresh mint, fresh lime, agave and angostura. Delicious but went down a little too quickly!

Passing the open glass fronted kitchen I got a glimpse of Chad behind the line. I hadn’t actually met him yet, but I had seen his pictures and gave a quick nudge and a wink to my friends whispering ‘That’s the chef!’ We were seated on a large round table in the main restaurant, but there is also a patio out the back which will be great for summer months. It looks like it gets filled up quickly so if it’s a nice evening I suggest requesting an outside table when you book.

There are a few cooked items on the menu (I guess they have to ease the Londoners into it!), but we opted for the raw tasting menu, which was six dishes of Chad’s choice. Living in New York and being a huge fan (and former employee!) of Pure Food and Wine I was eager to see how Saf compared. Three of my friends had all visited me in New York and eaten at Pure Food and Wine so expectations were high.

We weren’t disappointed. We started with the Caviar which consisted of a very flavorsome sweet potato latke topped with a sour cream, apples and chive pearl caviar. I won’t give any secrets away but the way Chad created the caviar presented yet another unique technique proving that the possibilities with raw food are endless!

Next came our cheese course which was a cultured almond based cheese with thinly sliced fennel, fennel pollen, candied pecans and a cracker. The cheeses have become a big part of the menu at Pure Food and Wine and it seems Saf is following suit and rightly so. To any dairy eating person these nut cheeses taste surprisingly like real cheese and always seem to impress any skeptical carnivore.

The sushi plate followed, along with a seaweed salad. The sushi was made out of parsnip rice and we had three different types. I don’t know what Chad did but these were the best raw sushi rolls I have eaten and we were all literally drinking the sesame dipping sauce that came with them! The seaweed salad was equally delicious and was finished perfectly with a yuzu-orange dressing.
The beet ravioli was something everyone wanted to try and much to our relief this was served as our last entrée dish. Paper thin slices of marinated beets encased a cashew herb ricotta, with a shaved asparagus salad and balsamic marinated figs as the accompaniments on the plate.

I almost forgot the delicate salad of greens and flowers that we were served somewhere in the middle. This was a mix of butter lettuces, herbs, flowers, radishes and sprouts with a citrus dressing.

Moving onto dessert we were given the ‘Superfood’ which consisted of a lacuma cookie, maca ice cream and a goji syrup - a great way to introduce these superfoods to people unfamiliar! I was particularly intrigued by the maca ice cream as though I am a big fan of maca, it does have one of those tastes that you either like or don’t like. However everyone agreed that the taste in the ice cream was delicious.

The final course was a cherry sorbet with a lavender syrup and completed what was a fantastic experience that lived up to all my expectations. The two friends who had never tried any kind of raw food before and came with preconceived conceptions left with stories to tell and those that had experienced Pure Food and Wine with me in New York were grateful that they now had a restaurant of the same caliber in London.

Yes I think this restaurant will be a hit and just as Pure Food and Wine has done in New York it will set the standards high in London.

More from Charlie Wilson

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