Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
Charred pulpo with potatoes

Petite bites with big flavor are an order away at Saffron in Howard Beach.

Owner and chef Herbert Duarte and his daughter Mimi operate Saffron Restaurant, which sits along the bustling Cross Bay Boulevard. Serving the neighborhood for about nine years, Saffron’s menu features a diverse selection of tapas, or small plates, as well as soups, salads, Spanish paella and other full entrees.

Seafood tapas offerings include the charred yet tender pulpo, or octopus, served with a Spanish sofrito and potatoes. The crab cake slidersperfectly moist on the inside and crunchy on the outsideare another highlight, as well as the flavorful Mediterranean stuffed clams.

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As for meat tapas, diners can enjoy selections including Cuban sliders, grilled chorizo with onions and cheesy croquetas de jamon. Flavorful ropa vieja tacos with pico de gallo and a jalapeno avocado aioli pack a delicious punch. Duarte said the tacos, as well as the plantain nachos, are constant customer favorites.

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Entree offerings include meat, vegetarian and seafood paellas, as well as savory chicken, steak and salmon dishes.

Diners looking for a sweet way to end their meal won’t be disappointed. Creme-filled churros with chocolate sauce and a decadent espresso flan were among the restaurant’s cozy December offerings.

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To keep diners on their toes, the eatery offers seasonal menu items along with its standards. Servers are also asked to encourage customers to try something they never have before. Diners unhappy after taking the chance are offered no charge on the dish, Duarte said.

Saffron also offers an extensive wine, beer and cocktail list, as well as a selection of homemade sangrias. Seasonal offerings also filter through the drink menu, the chef noted.

After trying a strictly Spanish menu of tapas in the first few months of operation, the eatery struggled, Duarte said. However, after going back to the drawing board, he found success in combining Spanish, Italian and French cuisines.

“[The locals] are nice people and they know how to eat,” Duarte said. “I married flavors together to attract more local people, but still kept that Spanish flair.”

Chef Duarte and his daughter, Mimi

Chef Duarte and his daughter, Mimi

What draws people in to the warm, wood-paneled space most is its glass-lined, corner-lot situation, the chef said.

“People love to see the outside, what’s going on. They don’t like to feel closed off,” he said.

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Picking a favorite dish would be difficult for Duarte, a Ridgewood resident and lifelong food industry worker who spent years as a chef in the hospitality industry before opening Saffron.

“They’re all my kids,” he laughed.

Saffron is located at 161-50 Cross Bay Blvd. and is open from noon to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays, noon to 11 p.m. on Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. The restaurant is also able to accommodate small or large parties and offers weekend brunch.

To learn more, visit their website or call 347-392-4152.

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