On a road-food trip, I generally like down and dirty. You know, cheap, tasty, brimming with character. But every so often, it’s nice to splurge on a high-end feast, perhaps topping $100 for two (especially if someone else is paying).
Such is the case at Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen in downtown Walla Walla, Washington. It’s maybe one of those “best 10 meals I’ve ever eaten”, where the chef (perennial James Beard Foundation nominee Chris Ainsworth) kills it on every detail.
Like the grilled asparagus salad, with a crumbled, hard-boiled duck egg, shaved hard cheese and a perfectly balanced vinaigrette. Or a Turkish flatbread featuring grilled chicken and house-made yogurt. Or a 20-ingredient spiced cauliflower, the best damn cauliflower I’ve ever tasted, perhaps outpointing the excellent leg of lamb it shares a platter with. Then there’s the sourdough bread, from a 95-year-old starter, to sop up all the leftover gravy.
One reaches a point with such a meal where the cost becomes immaterial. You just want to keep on being amazed. Sure, let’s have another glass of that velvety Walla Walla Valley Syrah to help savour those final mouthfuls.
Part of you realizes the experience is ephemeral, the exquisite complexity of flavours but a lingering imprint on the taste buds, impossible to adequately describe. But this type of meal never quite vanishes from memory. It’s a reminder of why we celebrate food, when it’s elevated from meal to artistry.
Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen
125 West Alder Street, Walla Walla, Washington
Tuesday to Sunday 2 pm-10 pm except 9 pm Sunday
509-525-2112 (Reservations recommended)