Wednesday, March 30, 2011

About Town: Spring Menu Tasting at Satis

It started out simply as a lustful attraction then blossomed into a need and finally matured into what I can only describe as a Single White Female attraction. That's my relationship with Satis.

But it's okay because I'm not the only one that spills their heart and soul on the table at this restaurant. The owners -- and especially the Chef -- have a passion for each plate that's palpable.

Satis Bistro - 212 Washington Street in Paulus Hook
That said, yesterday was the first night of the restaurant's new spring menu and I was lucky enough to attend an informal tasting (read: two friends dress up and use the new menu as an excuse to order an extraordinary amount of food, which they devour happily with no excuses -- as the wait staff looks on in horror. Or possible awe. I'm not sure which.).
 So let's start on the gastronomic journey that was my evening. Being the diligent diner that I am (see above: Single White Female stalker), I had already previewed the new menu. But we were in for a few very big surprises when we were armed with forks and our sheer will to persevere through a meal that could have intimidated lesser eaters.

(Cauliflower, Mahon and English Pea Croquette, Romesco Sauce)
One surprise being these tasty little morsels.  Although it looks like a traditional arancini, the similarities with the Sicilian street food stop there. Inside you'll find delightful pops from English peas and a bite from the cauliflower that perfectly pairs with the crisp outer shell.  But there's more than just this in our appetizer course.

(Grilled Lamb Merguez, Flatbread, Sweet Tomato and Red Onion Chutney, Greek Yogurt Cucumber Sauce)
This dish mends so many distinct flavors together in such a pleasing way that I couldn't stop tasting all the individual elements separately ... and then mashing them together as one on my fork. The merguez has this delightful Moroccan seasoning while the chutney is both sweet and a bit acidic. Then there's the smokiness from the grilled flatbread  and the Greek yogurt cucumber sauce that cools everything off with its light creaminess and hint of dill. I could have eaten each element alone (even the yogurt cucumber sauce), but together they're really quite a beautiful ballet of tastes and textures.

(New Jersey Asparagus, Spring Onion Galette with Oven Poached Quail Egg, Frisse)
 I'll be honest with this dish. You can pretty much put a poached egg on anything and I'm a happy camper. But my dining companion summed it up best as she squealed between moans, "Oh my. Wow. The pastry in this is amazing!" And that is why I continue to patronize Satis. The dishes aren't scary or overly fussy. There aren't any jagged edges or art sculptures on the plate. It's just good ingredients, prepared with skill, that come together to make up a great meal. And this appetizer epitomizes that concept.

(Housemade Chorizo, Duck Liver and Marcona Almond Pate, Pan Tomate)
Another crowd-pleaser. Housemade creamy pate with slivers of crunchy almonds. There isn't too much to say about this dish except: Yum.

And no, we aren't even close to being done yet.
(Cast Iron Cauliflower Steak - Pan Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Pearl Tomatoes, Watercress, Golden Raisin and Pinenut Steak Sauce)

I don't care if you are a vegetarian or not, this dish will get you coming back again and again. Vegetarians, though, should rejoice. Finally a restaurant is preparing a meal for you that isn't a pile of sad stir-fried veggies. The cauliflower steak is robust and hearty with a crispy, pan roasted exterior and a tasty, creamy interior. Exactly like a good filet. But the piece de resistance is the sauce. I might have mentioned something about wanting to jello-style wrestle in it. Sweet and spicy. Smokey and tart. It's everything a good steak sauce should be and more.  

(Pork Tenderloin - Serrano Ham Wrapped Berkshire Pork Tenderloin, Melted Leek and English Pea Polenta, Spicy Carrot Broth)
And this is where the beasts smell blood and really go in for the kill. This dish is so good -- the true sleeper hit -- that it needs another photo before a full description.

I can taste the memory of this dish while writing. Like an elusive and slightly sexy dream that starts to untangle its tentacles as you wake up, this dish makes me want to close my eyes and slip back into its warm embrace. I want to run my fork along the bottom of the bowl and scoop up piles of polenta. Slice away portions of ham-wrapped pork. Dip remnants in the spicy carrot broth. I want to make inappropriate noises while consuming this dish and then forcefully tell my indecisive neighbor at a nearby table that they would be stupid -- possibly suicidal -- if they didn't order this dish. It's the good kind of surprise you rarely experience at a restaurant any more. The kind of surprise that renders you speechless until the dish is finished and the plate bare.

(Navarin D'Agneau - Dijon Tarragon Braised Colorado Lamb Shank, Roasted Spring Vegetables)
 And how could I even go on, you wonder, after the pork. Well we had a mission and that was to eat. And we are professionals. So, although saddened by the untimely end of our last dish, we knew there was more to consume. And the lamb shank made it pretty easy. For one, you don't even need a knife for this dish. The meat melts off the bone. And look how pretty it is:

(Farmer's Market Paella - Saffron Bomba Rice, Seasonal Local Farmer's Market Vegetables, Sweet Baby Tomato, Castelvetrano Olives)
 And calm down Vegetarians. Don't get your organic panties in a bunch. There's more for you too.

The Chef was obviously reading some Dear Diary entries, because he concocted another vegetable-heavy dish that will feature a rotating array of in-season produce. And don't judge me on my above love affair with pork, because when not producing dramatic eye rolls over porcine portions I'm actually a very big lover of all things green and garden raised. I just couldn't believe the amount and variety of vegetables in this dish. It seemed like every fork full of food unearthed some new and interesting bite that was hiding just below the surface of saffron-infused rice. 
 A here are a few aftermath shots for your viewing pleasure:

(Ooo, that's the new bar they added/subtracted downstairs. During the week I think they are playing with the idea of having a Chef's table ... and then on weekends it might be reserved for walk-ins.)

(PB&J - Peanut Butter Gelato, Damson Plum Sorbet, Concord Grape Gelee, Sugared Brioche Croutons)
 What? You didn't think we had room for dessert?

(Individual Baked Brie and Shallot Marmalade Tart, Apricot Rosemary Compote)
 This is actually an appetizer, but we ate it for dessert because ... well, why not?

(Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble - Warm, strawberry, rhubarb compote, almond streusel, vanilla whipped creme fraiche)
And this was another one of those dishes where I know there was conversation was going on around me, but I temporarily went deaf. My senses were so focused on the tastes and textures swirling around in this warm, sweet, nutty surprise (all tucked lovingly into a ramekin) that I simply couldn't concentrate on anything more than bringing spoon to mouth. Over and over. And over again.

Don't believe me? Here's evidence:

And that concludes my night at Satis. The spring menu is now available (if I didn't drain them of all their supplies yesterday) and you're free to do your own taste test and let me know what you think. If you're sitting at the restaurant and completely torn about what dish you should select, feel free to send me a tweet and I'll happily help you decide (Simone, I'm talking to you sweetheart. I know you can't make a dinner decision without me now.).

Also, as an additional note, I'm thrilled to announce that Satis will be hosting several tasting tables at the Rose Cottage by Kanibal Home event on 4/9. Make sure you RSVP to be able to take advantage of all the Jersey City-based goodness we have planned for that evening.

No comments: