Sava's CafÃ© flourishes in larger location with expanded menu
Though I was sad to see Zanzibar go, Sava’s is a worthy successor. The owner has quadrupled the number of menu items beyond her staple of breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches and crepes, to a variety of appetizers and bigger-ticket dinner items like balsamic glazed ribeye streak, at $15.99, and a cappellini pasta with lobster, shrimp and saffron, at $14.99. There’s also a full fruit and juice bar.
What I most liked about Zanzibar and I continue to appreciate at Sava’s, is the grandeur and beauty of the setting. Though Sava reupholstered the furniture and painted over the jungle-themed murals with basic shades of off-white, she left the structure intact, with its high ceilings, elegant dÃ©cor and large spaces, including a place for private parties upstairs. It’s just a beautiful setting for dining.
The appetizers we sampled were all high-quality, especially the hearty cream of tomato soup, with an abundance of thick tomatoes. Two of the starter plates, the potato pierogis and black bean cakes, were main-course size. Black bean cakes were thick, with cheese lightly melted on top — absolutely fantastic. The outside of the pierogis was soft and tender and tasted freshly prepared, while I enjoyed the piping hot potato interior, topped by lightly grilled onions. As for the sandwiches, the extremely fresh teriyaki salmon was worth sampling.
With a menu this extensive, I wondered if Sava’s could do everything well, and there were some shortcomings. The turkey panini, a carry-over from the old menu, featured turkey that tasted processed, and the sandwich would have been better slightly grilled. The pecan-encrusted chicken salad was basically just chicken pieces served over some greens with an uninteresting dressing. Butternut squash ravioli had a meager amount of sauce with plain pasta.
Sava’s also has a full breakfast menu, which is available until 3 p.m. every day, and that’s a perfect way to appreciate this place. We enjoyed sauntering in at 2 p.m. on a recent Sunday to see the restaurant packed with adults and students. The Swiss cheese mushroom omelet was light and fluffy and the potatoes were hearty and delicious. Unfortunately, both arrived lukewarm.
Brunch is a perfect time to sample the exquisite coffee drinks here. The latte was one of the best I’ve had in some time, rich and frothy, even though it was made with skim milk at my request. When I ordered cappuccino for dessert the first time, it appeared with a flower on top, formed with steamed milk — a clever, impressive image, and it tasted as good as it looked.
I wouldn’t miss out on the desserts, especially the crepes, a Sava specialty. The nutella banana we ordered was amazing, artfully prepared, fresh, gooey and just plain delicious, as was the Reese’s pieces cheesecake. On the second visit we opted for a four-inch-high piece of carrot cake, which Sava’s gets from Sparrow Market. Full of wonderful cream cheese frosting and chunks of walnuts and carrots, it was worth the indulgence.
Service was exceptional here. We particularly enjoyed our first server, who felt comfortable joking with us, eavesdropping on my daughter’s cell-phone conversation and chiming in on her discussion of the latest plot twist on “Desperate Housewives.’
Though not all the food is perfect, I’m generally impressed by Sava’s ambitious menu, with many dishes offered at reasonable prices. Once Sava’s gets its bearings and adapts to its new throngs of patrons, I think this will become a popular late-night and early morning hangout.
Sava’s CafÃ© 216 S. State St. Ann Arbor 734-623-2233 Sava's CafÃ© web site Hours: 8 a.m.-midnight every day. Plastic: American Express, Visa, Mastercard, Discover. Liquor: No, but a liquor license is expected at the beginning of next year. Prices: Moderate. The most expensive entrÃ©e is $15. Soups and sandwiches are far less. Value: Very good. Noise level: Quiet, even when it’s busy. Wheelchair access: Yes. Smoking section: No.