Affare & Savoy at 21c
The tag line for the brilliant restaurant Affare is “honestly crafted food with a seriously German Twist.” After a recent meal there, I’d say they are spot on. The food at Affare, under the direction of chef and co-owner Martin Heuser, focuses on locally sourced products, seasonal menus, and straightforward preparation where the cuisine is not manipulated but enhanced.
“What you get is from right here in the city,” Heuser told me as he described a delicious salad I’d just consumed. The salad, part of a four-course tasting menu Affare offers on Thursday nights for just $44, consisted of golden beets, radishes, greens, and some Black Forest ham. It was fantastic-a great example of Affare’s cuisine and Heuser’s philosophy in the kitchen. “The farmers I chose don’t use any chemicals. They go out in the morning and squeeze the bugs by hand, taking them off the beets or whatever produce you’re talking about,” Heuser shared. “That’s important for my wife and me.”
Heuser’s wife, Katrin, is the co-owner and sommelier at Affare. Her wine pairings for my four-course dinner, not a healthy dine find, I realize, were terrific. Katrin’s wine selections enhanced her husband’s cuisine, matching their weight and bringing out subtleties in the cooking I might have otherwise missed.
Because of the local and fresh sourcing of his food, nearly all of the items on Affare’s menu are healthy, or at least heathier. When I visited in the summertime, he featured a number of lobster-based dishes. It’s definitely not local, but Heuser says he loves featuring lobster.
“I mean, hello, there’s no fat there, just great protein. And, it’s so delicious,” Heuser said. “It comes in from tanks overnight from Chicago, so it’s super-fresh and very lean.” My wife had the lobster salad, which was great, and the lobster risotto, which couldn’t have been any fresher. The second and third courses of my meal consisted of a grilled salmon and a pork tenderloin, both heathy and tasty. It had been quite some time since I had dined at Affare. That’s my mistake – one I won’t make again!
Our next stop brought us to the newly remodeled and reopened Savoy at 21c. All locals remember the original Savoy, one of the city’s most iconic restaurants. Much of the original Savoy has been preserved: the dark-paneled walls, large oak bar, even Harry Truman’s favorite booth. All of those elements can be found in the lounge. What you’ll find in the dining room, however, is much different from the old Savoy. Considered an art museum as well as a restaurant, the dining room exudes a very modern feel from modern art and photos on the walls to lighting panels that change colors from brighter earlier in the evening to darker later on.
What you will also find in the dining room is Executive Chef Joe West’s take on “classic Americana.” That includes the return of the restaurant’s famous prime rib, West’s take on duck, which is in the style of l’Orange, or his lamb chops accompanied by a fresh mint sauce. Whatever he calls his cuisine at the new Savoy at 21c, West’s food there is delicious.
“It’s just a genuine, thoughtful process. There’s a lot of French and Italian influence with fresh, local ingredients,” West told me. “It’s really about the development of flavor.” West points specifically to the braises and sauces the restaurant uses, which not only take time and care, but feature natural and high-quality ingredients. That doesn’t always result in low calorie, low fat dishes, but like Affare before it, starting with the best local ingredients always results in healthier dishes.
“We will always have seasonal vegetables, and since all of our entrees are ala carte you’re not forced toward a heavier starch. You can have those honey roasted carrots with a tangerine glaze. We can always leave the butter out,” West said. “When you first look at the menu it seems heavy, but when you get into it you realize there are a lot of options with greens and just a lot of choice.”
I’ll take Joe West’s take on “classic Americana” anytime!