The wait is finally over: Safta opens its doors inside the Source Hotel & Market Hall tomorrow. Kicking off the modern Israeli trend in the Mile High City, chef-owner Alon Shaya and chef de cuisine Jessica Nowicki will share the convivial, multi-dish dining style of the Middle East, anchored by Shaya’s exquisite hummus and wood-fired pita.
First though, a warning: It will be nearly impossible to stop yourself from eating too much of that hummus and pita. The former is so silky and rich, and the latter so hot and fresh, you will surely run out of capacity for other dishes. But since friends don’t let friends get too full too early on, please, try not to.
You see, the other items on Safta’s menu—the communal “salatim” (salads and spreads), small and large plates, desserts—deliver treasures that are equally satisfying in their simple perfection. “We love for people to come in and share,” says Shaya. “This is how food is eaten in Israel, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. You get a lot of unique bites, exploring different flavors by tasting dozens of things in one meal.”
Here’s how to do it: Go with a group so you can order more. Round one will be a mix-and-match adventure of salatim, hummus, and pita. Don’t miss the “lutenitsa,” a deeply caramelized spread of roasted tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and garlic that is shockingly delicious, and also happens to be the first dish Shaya ever cooked. The summertime watermelon-feta salad with harissa and walnuts won’t be on the menu forever, so get that while you can, too. Feel free to choose any hummus on the list, each one perfect in its own right, but consider the buttery blue crab version with its toasty notes from roasted sweet corn.
Next, move into the small plates section. Shaya is particularly fond of the crispy eggplant with goat cheese and caramelized tomato and the “kibbeh nayeh,” a standout dish of lamb tartare (kibbeh) that’s scooped up with pieces of buttery, flaky Yemenite flatbread (nayeh).
Round three finds you in the land of large plates, featuring meats, seafood, and vegetables cooked as close to whole as possible. An entire head of cauliflower, roasted in the wood oven, sits on a bed of airy whipped feta tinged with Aleppo pepper. Gorgeous, crispy-skinned rockfish fillets are paired with a rich Moroccan tomato-pepper stew, the whole drizzled with tahini that’s been spiked with cilantro, parsley, and lime. And lamb shank, all shiny and lacquered with pomegranate glaze, comes with more whipped feta and juicy Palisade peaches.
For dessert (you saved room, right?), pastry chef Liliana Myers (a Bouchon Bakery and Frasca Food and Wine alum), is doing beautiful things with custards and babkas and cake. Try the “malabi,” a wobbly milk custard garnished with strawberries, rose syrup, and pistachios that Shaya accurately describes as “super creamy and very delicate.” It’s a gorgeous dessert.
As if that all wasn’t enough, Safta also has a Market Hall counter where you can order breakfast items (think: pastrami-egg-and-cheese on sesame challah, sweet and savory pastries, and coffee drinks) from 7 to 11 a.m., and hummus, salatim, and caviar service (with Zapps!) thereafter. The full restaurant—a bright, comfortable space with mountain views and a massive open kitchen and bar—will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but the Market Hall menu will be available 7 days a week as of early September when the hotel is fully up and running.
The Source Hotel & Market Hall, 3330 Brighton Blvd., Suite 201, 720-408-2444