Hello Memphis Spork Reader! I’m Courtney, and I have the lucky pleasure of being one of Neel and Jon’s friends. A couple of weekends ago, Neel, Jon, my boyfriend Lee and I all decided to try out Safari, a tapas restaurant located on South Main. Being the Memphis Spork fan that I am, I jokingly suggested at dinner that I write a guest blog entry about our dining experience, and luckily for me, the Scruggs took me up on my offer! So, that is what brings me to your computer today.
Neel suggested that I give yall a mini food biography so that you would know a little about my preferences and biases while reading my review. I’m drawn typically to lighter fare that is blackened or grilled, especially seafood, at restaurants. I love all fish, and I love spicy food. On to the review...
Safari's website "recommends" a reservation, so Neel took Safari’s website at its word and made a reservation for 7:30. This ended up being completely unnecessary because we were the only customers in the entire restaurant. We kept expecting more patrons to arrive but that never happened, which was odd, but ok because Safari is kind of an odd place. Everything about it...the music, the table decorations, the overall feel of the restaurant...everything fit together in an odd way. I wish I could expain this better, but I think you really have to visit Safari to fully understand.
As a table, we decided to share a bottle of wine and order a variety of tapas to share. Wine-lovers be weary; if you are easily turned off by a restaurant’s wine selection, Safari is not for you. I believe we only had two bottles of red wine to choose from, and neither option was very exciting. With our waitress's approval, we decided to order six different tapas and one pizza, and this was plenty of food to satisfy everyone. To give you an idea of pricing, the tapas averaged around $7 each, so the restaurant is reasonably priced.
I’ll start with what I loved. I guess I’m a true Southerner because my favorite was probably the Southern Fried Chicken Wings with Mac and Cheese. I think I liked it so much is because I was not expecting it to be so good, but this chicken surpassed my expectations. It was seasoned well, and the mac and cheese served as the perfect accompaniment to the dish. I also loved the Creole Crab Cakes. They were filled with huge pieces of crab and topped with a delicious Cajun sauce that had a good amount of spice. The cakes were slightly crispy on the outside and moist in the middle, just as a good crab cake should be. Everyone at the table really seemed to enjoy the Moroccan Beef Skewers as well. Seasoned with typical African flavors, this dish fit in perfectly with Safari’s decor.
We also ordered Falafel with Hummus. The Falafel was good, but nothing to write home about. I thought the star of that dish was the hummus. It was clearly homemade and delicious with a fresh lemon flavor. The Thai Shrimp Curry was a bit of a let down for me. I thought the Asian noodles served in the dish were slightly soggy and that the curry sauce was bland.
My two least favorite dishes were the Oriental Vegetable Rolls and 3 Cheese Pizza. From the menu description, I didn’t envision anything fried, but the Vegetable Rolls were more like spring rolls, of which I’m just not a fan. I did really like the sweet chile glaze served with the rolls. It had a kick which was more than I expected. On to the pizza, the rest of the table probably disagrees with me on this one. I think I recall someone commenting on really liking the pizza, but I just didn’t think it was anything special. I should probably point out that I’ve never been one to get excited about a plain cheese pizza, and to me, that is all this was.
So overall, I think that Safari has a great concept with good food, but the restaurant itself could use a little work. As of right now, the food is really all Safari has going for it. The slightly bizarre restaurant decor, unsettling lack of patrons, and severely lacking wine selection hurts the overall dining experience. However, I think the food is worth going back for. For this, I give Safari 2.5 stars.