Attentive spot: Savor's chic with some purple surprises
Formerly the Hong Kong Buffet on Emmet, Savour is a fine dining establishment with an eclectic menu. The restaurant has earthy terra cotta and sage walls and contemporary chic d©cor, with beaded chrome sconces, cushy leather chairs and white tablecloths. A tiled fireplace in the center of the room casts a luxurious yet relaxing glow across the room.
Both lunch and dinner begin with a basket of warm, crusty bread. Soft, whipped butter, piped into a rosette, melted nicely into the bread.
Dinner entrees (called appetites) are priced at $19, but for $30, can include appetizer (a bite) and dessert. Ordered separately, appetizers and desserts are each $7. A bite, the beef baguettini sounded cute from the name. Thick slices of baguette arrived filled with a shredded beef filling seasoned with garlic. Jus and horseradish came on the side for dipping.
I ordered the chicken and prawns in a piquant sauce with garlic, tomato, jalapeno, lime, cilantro and tequila. The chicken breast was topped by two butterflied prawns. Both were a little on the tough side. Avocado topped the dish but the heat of the cooked food made it mushy and it fell apart in the sauce.
The entrees came accompanied by grilled vegetables including long strips of zucchini, red peppers and charred broccoli draped artfully in a section of onion. A generous cube of potato gratin was light and rich at the same time.
Our waitress listed a surprising array of specials each with some interesting twist. I had forgotten what my partner ordered and was surprised that the fish rested in a pool of creamy purple sauce. Tasting it, I couldn’t put my figure on the flavor. In inquired with the waitress, who couldn’t herself remember. After checking with the kitchen, I think we were all surprised to learn that it was a hibiscus cream sauce. It had an herbal twang that was almost citrusy.
During dinner, the chef ambled around the restaurant in his white coat and checkered pants, greeting guests, shaking hands and asking about the food. On our way out, he was actually at the door and shook our hands as we left. It was a nice touch that I haven’t experienced before in Charlottesville.
Vegetarians won’t find any main dinner offerings on the menu at Savour but could possibly make a meal out of a cheese sampling, a green salad or “tomato sushi.” Lunch is a little more hospitable with quiche or rollatini or possibly soup and salad depending on what’s in the soup.
Lunch at Savour might be one of the best-kept secrets in town. Al lunch entrees are priced at just $9. I arrived around noon on a Tuesday. Diners, mostly with silver hair, were spaced throughout the large room. Expansive windows displayed the green hill across the street and I could barely see the tops of the cars whiz by. It was easy to forget we were on 29. The beef pie, a chic take on a homey classic, with purple mashed potatoes on top, was a comforting blend of large cubes of tender beef, with onion, celery, and carrot, and a very light gravy. I appreciated the simplicity of the dish. Although the purple topping stood out, the flavors were mellow. This type of dish is easy to overdue with herbs and I liked that it was unfussy and kept true to the flavors of the ingredients although some bites of the beef were on the fatty side.
I observed an older gentleman nearby digging into the chicken salad (with pecans, Stilton and apple). Piercing an orchid with his fork, he brought it to his mouth before realizing it was a flower. He gingerly discarded it and carefully ate the remainder of his salad around the flower.
Shrimp Benedict, a brunchy item on the lunch menu, was elegant. A toasted, (very) buttered wheat English muffin came layered with shrimp, a poached egg, and a creamy lobster sauce accompanied by potatoes. The dish gave me the impression that Savour could be an excellent brunch spot. I can visualize huge dining room brimming with diners in their Sunday best, sipping mimosas and tucking into brioche French toast, smoked salmon platters and the like.
For me, dessert was a nice surprise. On my first visit, I enjoyed the apple galllette. The apple tart was far from rustic as the menu describes. It came adorned with vanilla ice cream, a handmade caramel sauce and a thick slice of bruled apple. The thin apple slices of the tart were fanned out over a pastry cream imbedded on a flakey crust. It had a nice balance of textures and flavors. Chai caramel, a spiced custard in a caramel sauce garnished with red grapes, mint and a bruled slice of starfruit, was pretty, light, and not too sweet. A thin wafer cookie shaped like a butterfly topped each dessert. It was a thoughtful touch with a tasty result.
Savour is a good place to go for a celebration meal, a quiet dessert with a date or, maybe, someday, a Mother’s Day brunch.
Review by Sarah Jacobson