Taking out a Muslim business partner to lunch or dinner often poses challenges to Koreans. Muslims do not eat pork while any other kinds of meat must be halal — slaughtered in a way complying with Islamic law.
With authenticity of the menu, religious compliance and atmosphere of the restaurant all counted, Saffron in the heart of Myeong-dong is considered the only Middle Eastern restaurant in Korea to take Muslim business partners to.
Owned by a Pakistan trader from Kashmir, the menu of Saffron is a delicious mixture of Arab, Persian, Pakistani and Indian dishes.
Amir Qazi, the restaurant’s manager, recommends Saffron Special Chicken or Mutton Handi, diced boneless chicken or mutton cooked with tomato, herbs and butter (20,000 won); Makloba, chicken cooked with rice, eggplant and spices (20,000 won); Saffron Royal Mix Kebab, assorted chicken and lamb kebabs in one dish (25,000 won); and Saffron Special Biryani, mildly spiced basmati rice in a clay pot covered by flour dough (20,000 won).
Apart from the food, Saffron will provide Korean guests with a experience of being in the little Middle East. Nearly 90 percent of the diners are foreigners while its luxurious interior is decorated with furniture and handicrafts imported from Kashmir in Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries.
Some of Saffron’s unique offers include a prayer room for Muslim guests and a roasted whole lamb, which will make an important feast just perfect. Because the lamb is freshly supplied locally, the dish needs to be reserved at least two days in advance.
Saffron’s biggest pride is probably its high-class clientele which include ambassadors from Islamic countries and Korean conglomerates with close business ties there.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak dined here during his visit to Korea last April while the restaurant provided catering services to Cheong Wa Dae for a delegation from the United Arab Emirates.
“Inviting Muslim guests to a Middle Eastern dinner is honoring of their culture,” Attiq Ur Rehman, Saffron’s owner, said.
- Kim Da-ye