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Quality persists at Savoy: Each element on every plate adds something to the dish

Togarashi seared tuna at Savoy is served over seaweed salad and coated with a chile-based spice mix popular in Japan. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

After more than a decade in operation, Savoy Bar & Grill has established itself as the place in the Northeast Heights to mark special occasions. It’s where you go to celebrate birthdays, graduations and anniversaries, a high-end setting where the wine helps the food go down and takes the edge off the anxiety you feel upon opening the check at the end of the meal.

Set just feet from the traffic speeding down Montgomery, Savoy’s dining room is a serene space stretched across two levels and decked out in pale yellow with dark wood trim. Despite the high price tag of its entrees, it’s hardly a stuffy atmosphere. The kitchen is open, the staff is youthful, the dress casual.

Savoy has survived through some lean years in the local economy since it opened in 2006 by relying on the quality of its ingredients and the composition of its plates. At its best, it delivers multi-faceted dishes whose elements complement each other, making the whole greater than a sum of its parts.

Exhibit A: The togarashi seared tuna appetizer ($13), four thick slices of yellowfin tuna arranged over a seaweed salad and coated in a chile-based spice blend popular in Japan. Small piles of pickled ginger and wasabi on the side of the plate amplify the togarashi’s heat, while the soy-mirin glaze and strips of fried wontons bring tang and crunch. Nothing is extraneous: Each element on the plate adds something to the dish.

The same goes for a strawberry salad ($8/$11) that pairs sliced fruit with peppery baby arugula, toasted almonds and feta cheese made in Tucumcari. Tossed in an ideal amount of citrus vinaigrette, it has the bright, refreshing taste of a great summer salad, although the strawberries’ dull appearance suggested they had been frozen.

Among the less pricey entrees that make up the “Savoy Favorites” portion of the menu, toasted farro bowl ($18) is a vegetable-lover’s delight. Baby orange and golden carrots, spring onions, asparagus, crimini mushrooms and local micro greens fight for space atop a bowl of golden brown, nutty-tasting farro, an ancient type of wheat. Eating this simple, no-frills bowl feels like an act of penance for all the times you succumbed to the temptations of junk food.

Slices of pan-roasted duck breast are fanned out across fava beans, quinoa pilaf, rainbow chard and water chestnuts at Savoy. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

The pan-roasted duck breast ($26), sourced from birds raised on a farm in California, brings back the decadence. Served rare, the sliced breast looks more like steak than poultry, but tastes like dark meat chicken, only juicier and more succulent. Here, as in other dishes, the supporting characters on the plate – in this case, fava beans, quinoa pilaf, rainbow chard, water chestnuts, and dried fig and medjool date demi-glace – shine. It all goes great with a glass of smooth pinot noir from Savoy’s extensive, California-leaning wine list.

Savoy’s sunset parfait ($7), perhaps the most summery option on its excellent dessert menu, looks like a work of art in a beer glass. Under layers of mango lassi panna cotta and raspberry gelée, the blackberry mousse forms a wavelike pattern against the glass. The rice crisp topping that looks like flower petal adds a lovely touch to this sweet and sour dessert.

The staff, clad in black shirts and pants, did a great job choreographing the delivery and clearing away of our plates. Special notice to the diligent young man who refilled our water glasses with metronomic regularity. I wished he had more waters to fill, but the dining room was largely empty on a Saturday night at 7:30. Chalk it up to the dog days of summer, the respite between graduations and send-offs. At least the lounge on the other side of the restaurant was hopping – a reminder you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to pay Savoy a visit.

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