December 2019 Coming soon to Carmel\u2014Savor\u2014a fusion of European\/Mediterranean and modern ambiance with a gorgeous corner view of Main Street and Third Avenue Southwest in the Arts and Design District in Carmel, Indiana. Savor\u2019s owners, Henri Najem and his wife, Shelley, are no strangers to the Indy food scene. Najem and his wife built a solid reputation as restauranteurs with their previous restaurant, Bella Vita, that was a popular waterfront venue in Geist. Najem is also known for his Flamme Burger locations that feature the award-winning Flamme Burger and other delectable options that are prepared with fresh ingredients from local purveyors and in a true wood-burning oven. Savor, Najem\u2019s latest endeavor, will also feature healthy, fresh and local ingredients and also with an authentic wood-burning oven like at Flamme Burger, but that\u2019s where the dining similarities end. Najem shared with us that Savor\u2019s menu will feature dishes with an Italian and Mediterranean flare with an emphasis on fresh ingredients\u2014especially fresh seafood. Why Carmel? More than a decade ago, Najem met Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard at a fundraising event at Belle Vita. \u201cMayor Brainard brought the idea of opening a restaurant in the Arts and Design District about 12 years ago,\u201d Najem recalled. \u201cThe city was in the early stages, and so I came out here and met with people from the city, and at that time, there wasn\u2019t a whole lot here yet\u2014just a few businesses. Over the years, I\u2019ve watched the growth, and it really has been unbelievable to watch. I got excited with what have done with this business-friendly area, and the walkability, connectivity to the business community, pedestrian traffic and accessible parking are all very important to me, as is the close proximity to the residential areas. I decided it was time for me to figure out what I was going to create for this area.\u201d Najem noted that there is a parking garage behind his restaurant and valet parking is available. The Savor Dining Experience \u201cI looked at what I\u2019ve done in the past, and the upscale, polished casual dining is my niche,\u201d Najem shared. \u201cWe are in between casual and fine dining. I\u2019ve never been a white tablecloth person because I don\u2019t want to be for special occasions only. When I started creating the concept of Savor, I had to define who my guest will be, and they are everybody for any occasion.\u201d Najem and his wife, Shelley, have worked tirelessly at creating a comfortable ambiance, paying close attention to detail to complete a first-class, quality experience for their guests. Buying and working with local purveyors and artisans is incredibly important to the Najems. The wood for the wood-burning ovens is supplied by a family-owned business out of Seymour, Indiana, and all the meats and produce are purchased from within the state of Indiana. As they are the preferred caterer and exclusive in-house caterer for Daniel\u2019s Vineyard, Savor carries all of the local vineyard\u2019s wines. Even the art displayed within Savor is created by local artists. \u201cI\u2019ve always been a \u2018bar\u2019 person,\u201d Najem said. \u201cIt goes back to my family roots. As I\u2019ve gotten older, I like to sit in the bar area and have that full-service experience. What we\u2019ve done with this location is we\u2019ve installed a NanaWall system and have a 25-foot section in the bar where the doors fold in and the bar extends out to a dedicated patio section on the west side of our location that will seat up to 40 people. The city has worked with us on this, and we will be able to create a Mediterranean \u2018look\u2019 out there on the patio with vines and a wooden trellis system that will create a diversion from the cars and streets without completely barricading it.\u201d Najem describes the ceiling treatments as suspended \u201cclouds\u201d that absorb noise but don\u2019t enclose the space the way dropped ceiling systems do. \u201cWe have hung a beautiful trellis system over sections of the dining and bar areas that will create a warm and inviting feel that\u2019s not too fancy but is aesthetically pleasing,\u201d Najem described. \u201cOne of the first things our guests will notice when they come in is a 25-foot-long fire pit that runs through the middle of our dining room. It goes along well with the wood-fire oven that people are always intrigued with once they see the open flame.\u201d Najem continued, \u201cMy wife, Shelley, has done a great job as far as the colors. She's a little more patient with the colors and the decor, and she's done a great job keeping the features subtle to where you don't feel like you have to come in dressed up.\u201d The couple shared the meaning behind a prominent artistic feature that captures the imaginations of all who walk past its designated wall: a pair of closed eyes that represents a woman caught in the moment between a blink and a dead-on stare along with a quote, \u201cA strong woman looks at a challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink.\u201d The Najems saw a similar art installation in the Bahamas and were inspired to feature something similar along with an inspiring message in Savor. Savor\u2019s 5,600 square feet of space allows for a maximum seating of 140, including the bar, patio and a private dining area that can seat 35 to 40, depending on the configuration. The private dining room has retractable doors for privacy and includes an 85-inch flat-screen with full audio capabilities. Guests can also enjoy ordering from a private menu. When the room is not booked, it serves as overflow space for the main dining area. Getting the Band Back Together Again Many of Najem\u2019s original kitchen staff have been with him since he opened Bella Vita in 2004, and two have been with him since 1999. Najem has remained in close contact with most of his original crew, and many rejoined him at Savor. \u201cI\u2019ve always kept in contact with my employees and have told them that I\u2019d like to work with them if we opened another concept,\u201d Najem stated. \u201cMany have come to Savor, and one thing that I\u2019ve learned with staff\u2014especially when you\u2019re a restaurant\u2014is that the kitchen is the heart of the operation. I\u2019m excited to have all these people back because we know it\u2019s going to be good.\u201d Savor the Food and the Entertainment Najem shared that he began experimenting with wood ovens in 2012 and 2013 when he created Flamme Burger. \u201cOver the last five years, I\u2019ve really grown to like that cooking method because of the flavor it gives the food,\u201d he said. \u201cI don\u2019t use hickory because it overpowers the flavor of the fish and\/or meats. Flamme Burger is a burger concept, but we do fresh seafood there too, and that\u2019s really how I grew to understand this method of cooking and began creating different ideas that I could take from a casual environment and step into an upscale, polished casual atmosphere.\u201d Patrons of Savor can expect a straightforward menu that offers many of Najem\u2019s best recipes\u2014new and even a couple edible gems from his previous establishment. \u201cFor us, Savor is about the seafood element,\u201d Najem explained. \u201cI like fresh fish, and we deal with one purveyor out of Chicago who does a great job and provides the freshest fish I\u2019ve seen in the last 15 years. I always say that your protein is the star of the dish. You begin with a great quality protein, and from there, the rest should be easy preparation. I don\u2019t like to saturate my fish with sauces. I like Mediterranean-style, Italian- or Middle Eastern-influenced recipes, so the menu will be modern American cuisine with the Mediterranean and Italian influences. I like putting fish over different ingredients, like couscous. I love lentils with fresh spinach, tomatoes and kalamata olives sauteed with a little lemon, butter and garlic. For me, it is about the good flavor of the fish and complementing it with whatever you\u2019re serving it with. We also have pasta on the menu because I love pasta, and we have a few steak options and of course\u2014our award-winning Flamme Burger that has been voted the \u2018Best burger in town\u2019 for four years now. We will also have pizzas that are prepared in the wood-burning oven.\u201d The bar area will feature a DJ booth\u2014an important element in creating the entertainment factor without being a nuisance to the diners. \u201cI\u2019ve always felt that music adds to the ambiance,\u201d Najem said. \u201cI\u2019ve brought in bands over the years at Bella Vita, but it\u2019s hard to control the sound, and you can\u2019t carry on a conversation. With a DJ, we can control the volume and the playlist. We\u2019re not a nightclub and we didn\u2019t put in a dance floor, but it is important for us to be able to provide musical entertainment, and if you want to chair dance, it doesn\u2019t bother me at all. We understand that you chose to spend your hard-earned money with us, and I want to create not only the best food experience for you but one that makes you feel well fed, well served and well entertained.\u201d While Savor\u2019s dinner menu is impressive, the craft cocktail menu is equally as enticing. \u201cI have 10 different local taps and the national brand domestics,\u201d Najem said. \u201cWhile we are focusing on featuring local breweries on our taps, we are also promoting our handcrafted cocktails. I had always wanted to offer this at Bella Vita, but it was such a monster, and I wasn\u2019t able to do it with 25 bartenders, so the cocktail list is going to be a really cool cocktail list. I infuse a lot of different simple syrups with fresh herbs and ingredients, like basil, ginger, Serrano pepper and such. I like to mix it up.\u201d Enjoy great food in a comfortable and fun atmosphere with your co-workers, friends and\/or family\u2014be sure to check out Savor in Carmel! Call-ahead seating will be available, and reservations can be made by phone at (317) 564-4126 or via Open Table\u2014post grand opening! Follow Savor on Facebook and Instagram @savorcarmel for updates and special announcements!