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by foodie

I have nothing new to add that hasn't already been said.

Sage is a great restaurant.

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by A and D

Sage The Restaurant
6877 University Avenue
Windsor Heights
Des Moines IA
Tel. (515) 255 7722

Chef Andrew Meek's Sage The Restaurant has been a favorite of A and D since its opening in November, 2000. Chef Meek has over 25 years of experience and has focused on keeping Sage at the highest possible standards of cuisine, wine and spirits and service. Now, approaching 7 years, Meek retains his innovation and concentration on fresh, artisanal ingredients and continues to create imaginative and superb dishes.

For the lovers of fine dining, Sage offers specials daily, including dishes rarely found in Des Moines or elsewhere, such as Chuckar partridge and pheasant. Niman Ranch pork is featured, as is Cleverly Farms' specialty greens and lettuces, including baby spinach and mustard greens.

Sage has a soft décor. The walls are...naturally...sage green. The patterned ceramic tile floor reflects the sage theme and retains its charm from the days long ago when the restaurant was Anjo's, a classic Italian bistro. As you enter, an intimate bar occupies the front. Almost minimalist in design, the wines and spirits are the showpieces. Wines by the glass or drinks can be enjoyed with appetizers or a full dinner at the bar. Sage features fine spirits, including the new Iowa-produced sensation, Templeton Rye, a barrel-aged, caramel flavored whiskey with roots back to Prohibition and Al Capone and a spirit Iowa can be proud of distilling.

Sage has an extensive wine offering. The whites are mostly top California vintages and tend to range from $35 to $70 for bottles. Reds are also predominantly California and are priced $55 up to $270. A few non-California wines are offered below $30. A and D did notice other diners bringing their own wines and assume a corkage fee is charged by the restaurant. Sage has also developed an extensive collection of half bottles of reds and whites ranging in price from $21 to $52. The selection of half bottles is eclectic and two diners can each pair their food and wine at a reasonable cost.

A and D started with a bottle of Chandon sparkling wine from California, a winery we visit when in Yountville, Napa Valley. Our selection was the modestly priced Blanc de Noirs, a $20 retail price at the winery and priced at $32 at Sage, which is fair. Chandon is a wonderful starter for a great dinner which we always expect at Sage.

The menu is set up with warm and chilled first courses, main courses, and desserts. Specials are described by the wait staff. The chilled starters include three salads: frisee and chicken livers with onion, bacon and a warm balsamic vinaigrette; another with baby spinach, onion, grapes, glazed walnuts and a sherry vinaigrette topped with Schwartz and Maytag blue cheeses; and the third, a timbale of avocados, baby gulf shrimp, mixed greens, a roasted beet reduction and a touch of caviar. Salads are priced from $7 to $10.

The warm starters include "D"'s choice for the evening, an oven-baked mushroom selection with sage, shallots, garlic and vermouth, topped with Vermont goat and Asiago cheeses. It was prepared and served in a small saucier pot, hot from the oven. The mushrooms were superb, perfectly cooked and with a hearty and meaty texture and flavor. All was perfectly sauced and the pairing of the cheeses and the hints of vermouth was unique. "A" chose the scallop starter, large New England divers scallops, seared and served with caramelized onion on a cauliflower puree and watercress, sauced with a Riesling reduction syrup. The flavors were both sweet and buttery and with the caramel onion, the dish was a winner. The warm starters are priced between $7 and $13.

The main course dishes offer a choice of pork, chicken, halibut, duck and beef, all priced between $18 and $33. Nightly specials are seasonal or the chef's selection and tend to be priced above $33. A and D each chose a special entrée. "A" had a Canadian lobster tail served on risotto at $35. "D" had sea bass with short ribs served on risotto at $23.

Chef Meek has a delicate touch with his sauces. D's sea bass was prepared perfectly and the accompanying sauce was especially subtle. The risotto was well-made with good stock and no saffron. The innovative "surf and turf" concept using the braised short ribs for the dish did not materialize fully as no ribs were served, only two small pieces of short rib meat about the size of a quarter, which gave the dish an air of stinginess rather than elegance. What little short rib there was, however, was delicious.

A's lobster tail was also perfectly prepared and the risotto was equally good and, interestingly, prepared for this dish with saffron. Two distinct risottos were served in each dish. That's attention to flavors. The carrot in the risotto was crunchy and perfect. Again, however, the lobster tail was quite small. The sauce was delicate, bordering on anemic; it neither added nor detracted. Here, perhaps a slightly bolder flavor would serve as a subtle counterpoint to the delicate lobster flavors.

D chose a rhubarb tart for dessert. It was very good and the hints of rhubarb were just right. Both A and D had a glass of Prager Port, a wonderful port never seen outside of California. Both A and D have made visits to the Prager Port Works in St. Helena in the Napa Valley and it is one of the most unusual wineries in the country with a tasting room covered in cobwebs and dollar bills. Jim Prager has been making port for years and years; his sons now run the business. They make several varieties and all of them are outstanding. At Sage, we had the Noble Companion, a tawny, golden-orange port made with 100% cabernet. If you enjoy port, go to Sage and have a glass of two of Prager. You'll enjoy it and it's almost sure to become a favorite.

Service during our dinner was excellent. The wait staff is well-trained, efficient and unobtrusive with none of the rehearsed babble...straight forward, professional, informative and efficient, a credit to Lisa Meek who manages the front of the house. The food and service star here, not the people. Dinner for two was $210 including a 20 + % gratuity.

In years past, Sage has never disappointed and it did not disappoint this time. What both A and D did experience was the hint of penury...the "just a bit small" portions that one does not expect at these prices; the nagging question, "Is Sage leaning towards the Nouveau Cuisine and its anemic portions?" We hope not. Sage is a legendary Des Moines restaurant. The frontier of culinary innovation is in new flavors and imaginative new dishes, not reductive cuisine, the bane of London, Los Angeles, New York and the faux-design of "food as fashion." Andrew Meek is a very talented chef with a long tradition at the top in Des Moines. "D" wonders how exciting the short ribs really are . . . and will be back to find out. "A" is always on the look-out for lobster with such good flavor, but preferably over 4 ounces.

Quality: 4 stars
Service: 5 stars
Ambiance: 5 stars
Wines/Spirits: 5 stars
Recommended: Absolutely
Alternatives: Hard to top.

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by Lady Sehkmet

I have eaten at Sage twice in the past 4 months. The first time I had the lamb (lamb is one of my favorites, and I was more than pleased with the preparation to my order of medium, the seasoning, and the sauce that was served with it), and the second the fish special, which also was wonderful. The salads and appetizers were original and prepared well, and the desert-which is always my favorite part-is hard to beat. This is one of my in-laws favorite places to go and where they take friends when they come to Iowa to visit.
I took a half of a star off because each time we visited, the hostess was not that pleasant. The first time we did not have reservations, but arrived just after it opened, and the hostess was pretty snotty. The second time (yes, it was the same lady), we had reservations, but she acted as if we were putting her out for showing up only 10 minutes early. Give her a course on courtesy, and it would be 5 stars.

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by A-Rog

I love Sage. You should give yourself a chance to love Sage. If you appreciate a restaurant that creates dishes that can only be called art and that works to cultivate your whole dining experience, go to Sage.

The food is a culinary delight. The flavors and tastes that Sage's chef delivers to your table are as exciting and unexpected as they are delicious.

The "Salad One" is amazing. Who knew chicken livers could do this? This was a real palate pleaser.

For an appetizer, I tried the mushrooms, but not your typical stuffed mushrooms. The spices and cheeses complemented each other, enhanced and brought out the flavor of the mushrooms. Fantastic.

Unfortunately, our table failed to coordinate our entree orders, and three of four ordered the halibut. That is not to say the halibut was bad, it was just the opposite, but had we coordinated our ordering, we could have sampled the other tempting entrees. The halibut was moist, flaky, and succulent, and the sides were most enjoyable. The "odd person" at the table who didn't order halibut ordered the filet mignon and, oh my gosh, what a steak. The balsalmic reduction made the meat taste so good, I might have imposed by stealing more than my share of bites. Again, the sides were perfect, as was the entire meal.

I almost forgot to mention the wine selection. It is top notch. We had a wonderful cabernet our server recommended (who I also almost forgot to mention). Not to forget the server, she was marvelous--a true professional. She was there when we needed her, and she wasn't there when we didn't. She was knowledgeable, witty, and pleasant.

I suppose the only warning I would give about Sage is don't go here if you expect a heaping plate of food. No Midwest-style potatoes-and-gravy-laden meal here. So, keep your expectations in line. I will not, however, take any stars or fractions of stars away for "value." You get what you pay for here, and what you pay for is not quantity, it is quality, and there is plenty to go around.

Five stars. Well done, Sage. As I said before, perfect.

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by NicoleK

Sage is a very intimate, sleek urban bistro. The menu is prepared with only foods that are in season and they provide nightly specials. The staff is friendly and very accommodating. Our server gave wonderful recommendations and was incredibly knowledgeable.

As for the food, it is outstanding because it is fresh and seasonal. I enjoyed a delicious salad with sherry vinaigrette dressing. For an appetizer we took the mushrooms (oven roasted with fresh sage, shallot, garlic vya vermouth & topped with vermont goat & asiago cheese), they were really good and really rich. For the main course I ordered the chicken (free range & herb roasted served with whipped potatoes, roasted mushrooms and green beans with pan juices), it was outstanding and plated beautifully.

Drinks: yes! Sage is known for wonderful cocktails and an extensive, award-winning wine list.
Dessert: yes, yes! We enjoyed a wonderful crème brulee served with fresh berries.
Damage: yes, it is pricy, but the staff, ambience, food, drinks and dessert certainly help with the price.

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by kari

Sage is one of the most amazing restaurants in the Des Moines area. Being a small bistro, the food is local
(if it can be), fresh and creative with a speciality menu that changes every nite. The crabcake appetizer was incredible! The service was more than attentive and very informative about what Sage had to offer. Sage has for sure made my Top 5 Restaurants in Des Moines list.

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Finding Sage can be a bit of a challenge since it's sort of in a weird part of town and only has 2 tiny neon signs in their windows. But once you get there, it's well worth it. Ironically the interior walls are sage green with dim lights and art on the walls - it's a very classy place. If you show up and there's a wait, don't worry; they have a full bar right inside the door and a very impressive wine list to take care of you.

Another great thing about Sage is that they get their seafood delivered fresh daily, it's often sashimi quality also - so you can count on excellent taste. All of Sage's meals come with perfect portion sizes; it's not too much to stuff you, it's just right. If you go out afterwards, you don't have to worry about your car smelling like your leftovers.

The staff at Sage is great. They're very knowledgable about what they serve, which is important. Plus, my water glass was never empty (and I drink a lot of water at meals).

Also recommended: steaks, port, creme brulee, and any seafood appetizer. Ask your server what they recommend, they'll help a lot.

Sage - the restaurant The Sage dining room