Savor is the fine dining restaurant at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute. It’s a restaurant school, which means all of the staff are students. We’ve been to several other restaurant schools (notably in Philadelphia and San Francisco) and I always love the atmosphere – people who are passionate about food, trying to learn as much as
they can, and do as good a job as possible. There are often mistakes, but somehow everyone is very earnest which makes up for it.
We headed up to the Falls on a Saturday night after making a reservation and mentioning two people in our party were gluten-free. We were told it would not be a problem at all. We easily found free parking on the street, although there is a ramp in the building (this is in the old Rainbow
Mall building). The lobby is beautiful with a very modern fountain. There is a Barnes and Noble store that also sells culinary items. It was closed when we got there and appeared quite small. The restaurant was comfortable and attractive and you can see the kitchen from just about every table. All the staff was unfailingly polite and attentive during our meal.
After we were seated we asked our server what the gluten free choices were. She scurried back to talk to the chef. The information she returned with was not very complete. She basically said we could have the Caesar salad without croutons and that the fish dishes were gluten free. She did not address what other items on the menu could
be presented gluten-free by removing sauces or making adjustments (and since we called ahead with our needs we expected some effort to be made). You can see the menu here – there is also a lunch menu (which is filled with gluten, other than the salads, unfortunately). We were presented with a specials menu but it had only one item and one cocktail on it (an appletini which my of newly drinking age daughter enjoyed).
We began with an amuse-bouche of saffron risotto. It was a nice little bite. The server did not specifically tell us it was GF, which would have been nice.
The dinner menu has 3 salads – Caesar, farro, and arugula. Three of us got the Caesar. My son is not
GF and his came with one large crouton on top. The salads were a bit heavily dressed for my taste, but had a very nice tang. There were two anchovy fillets on top. Overall, they were quite good. My daughter who is not GF began with the beef carpaccio. This dish could easily be GF if ordered without the toast. It came with citrus segments which added a nice flavor. She felt the beef was not presented rare enough and was in fact slightly brown. It was thinly sliced and flavorful, however.
There is a nice selection of entrees, however all of the pizza (in their wonderful pizza oven) and pastas are off-limits for those who are GF. I wish they could offer a GF pizza from that oven!
My daughter and I both ordered the salmon which was served on a banana leaf and jasmine rice and accompanied with a coconut broth you could pour over it, macadamia nuts, and an interesting little yolk-like sac of pineapple juice you pierced and also poured over the dish. The salmon and rice were prepared perfectly. The coconut broth and pineapple juice could barely be tasted, so those flavors need to be much stronger for the dish to be successful. It was a bit bland, but when you could taste those flavors, it was a lovely combo. I loved the macadamia nuts!
My husband ordered the tournedos of beef. We were told the sauce (cognac demi-glace) was not GF but the dish could be offered “plain.” He asked if the chef could substitute something GF instead of the sauce (often a flavored butter is an easy switch a chef can manage). That didn’t happen however. The tournedos were crusted with pepper, which was done in a heavy-handed manner. Perhaps if it was balanced out with a sauce, it would have been good. He also did not care for the whipped potatoes which had a heavy dose of mustard in them.
Our non-GF son had the gnocchi which he enjoyed.
Dessert was a short menu with a bananas Foster and a gluten-free flourless chocolate cake. The menu specifically identified it as GF. Why can’t they do this on the dinner menu also? Everyone at the table got the cake which was mostly a mousse with a thin sheet of solid chocolate on top, a mint cream and some mint ice cream with chocolately crackles. It was delicious. There was just enough mint to balance the richness of the chocolate. It was a nice ending to a fairly nice meal.
Our bill came to $172 for 4 apps, 4 entrees, 3 desserts, and one cocktail. Not a cheap night out and for that price I would have expected to love the food. But, it was fun and they did understand our dietary needs. If you like fish, give it a try!