Finding a great restaurant — not just "good" or "not bad," but "great" — in the NE Heights would seemingly be an easy thing to do considering the demographics and the expansive real estate. However, arguably and with a few outstanding exceptions, the dining scene in the Northeast quadrant of the city is far from exemplary.
The first thing diners notice as they walk in to Savoy Bar & Grill
is the decor. Utilizing subtle Asian-influences, each of the numerous and labyrinthine dining, tasting, lounge, patio and bar areas is a mix of either dark or light woods contrasted by rich earthtones, stonework and tables draped with stark white tablecloths and adorned with tasteful fresh flower arrangements. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find another restaurant in town that rivals Savoy's tasteful decor.
The best compliment to such and elegant atmosphere, is an equally tasteful menu. In this category, Savoy again comes through, which my dining companion and I agreed upon wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, with such a great match between atmosphere and menu items, the chilly temperature of the room we were seated in (despite the adjacent fireplace or repeated requests to crank the heat) was far from a match.
PHOTO BY WES NAMAN
Regardless, we dove into the menu and promptly ordered a selection of fresh oysters ($2 each), served simply with a slightly sweet mignonette sauce and a less appealing cocktail sauce. All were delicious, but one particular oyster (from Rhode Island) made our knees weak. It was a perfect start to more starters, including a truffle oil-laced portobello mushroom tart ($8.50) that, on its own, proved far too rich for my tastes. But cleverly, this dish is served alongside a bed of fresh greens that was far too tart by itself. After adding two plus two, my companion realized that when the tart greens were combined with the richness of the mushrooms, it equaled bliss.
I chose a warm spinach and escarole salad with pears, bacon and blue cheese ($7). For my tastes, the spinach could have been a tad bit warmer, but not much. Tossed with a port wine vinaigrette, it was a nice palate cleanser for the main course.
Not being born with the gene that allows her to pass up a filet mignon, my companion ordered a filet mignon. Faced with mouth-watering entrées like Colorado lamb rack ($28), pork porterhouse ($22), cedar planked salmon ($21) and pancetta wrapped scallops ($24) — along with the obligatory Seared Ahi Tuna ($23) — I chose the pan roasted duck breast ($21), served with winter squash and mushroom risotto. Served by one of the Roessler brothers (not sure if it was Keith or Kevin as they are twins), he was kind enough to warn me that the duck did not appear to be medium rare. Since they still looked delicious and I didn't want to bother the chefs, I went ahead and accepted the dish, finding out not only that the duck was indeed not medium rare, but the risotto was undercooked. I sent back the dish and didn't mind digging into the lush, thick and evenly-cooked filet, served with a simple red wine sauce and black truffle butter alongside a not-too-buttery, not-too-creamy side of mashed potatoes and braised winter greens. It was, and my companion agreed with a satisfying smile, one of the better filets this town has to offer.
After the kitchen returned with my decidedly medium rare duck, I was overwhelmed with the restaurant's service, attention to detail and food quality. I was happy, I was dining and I was in the NE Heights. This city can only hope that more restaurants like Savoy will begin to populate all parts of the city — a good West Side comparison is Whisque Mesquite Grill & Bar.
Our desserts, creme brulée ($6) and warm apple strudel ($6) were comparable to some of the town's better sweet selections. Paired with a dessert wine and our meal was complete, despite the still frigid room temperature.
PHOTO BY WES NAMAN