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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

sat bains

some chefs are trendy for a while, then dilute their product by opening 'franchise' type brasseries offering a lite version of what it was that brought them publicity and success. Sat bains (@satbains1) is not one of these chefs. he has been carving out his name, plying his trade or rattling the pots and pans, however you wish to say it, for nearly 12 years at the same place in a suburb of nottingham. this time is one of the key factors in his continued success, as it has allowed him to create a series of 'signature' dishes, which , although not on the menu all the time, are instantly recognisable as his creations and let the diner know that they are following a succesion of people blessed to have tried the same dish, which has been proven and stood the test of time. one such dish was presented to me at the start of my fantastic meal at restaurant sat bains recently- scallop 'curry'. to label it as just ' scallop curry', sat has lulled you into a false sense of simpicity, as this dish is a very precise and technically able dish- the single, large scallop is dusted in indian spices and roasted in butter and presented with a mango chutney puree, poached sultanas, tiny cauliflower beignets, sliced raw cauliflower, diced apple and a fragment of poppadom. like all of sat's food, presentation is simple yet elegant and intricate.
all of the following courses i received this time ( the previous nights meal is another days story...) were of an equal standard, all showing flashes of brilliance and a dexterity of palate that elevates this restaurant to one of the best in britain.
next up was an intensely flavoured crab tian, on an avacado puree with of all things peanut brittle. a very clever addition, as it seemed to fit so easily into the rest of the dish, giving texture, sweetness and a clever nut twist.
following then came leek, hazelnut-shallot. a simple but stunningly tasty stew of leeks braised in a hazelnut beurre noisette, and caramelised shallot. again, simplicity of presentation concealed a depth of flavour i never previously thought possible in a humble leek, a talent in itself.
another course of organic salmon was cooked sous vide, and was incredibly tender, yet looked raw. the power of water bath cooking. during my meal, i discussed water baths with sat's head chef, john, and he hoped that they never 'de-skill' kitchens by making it so easy that a chef never has to learn to cook, but in my opinion, with people like sat pushing the bar and coming up with new uses of the equipment, i think it simply makes the possibilities more achievable.
following this i was lucky enough to receive three seperate game main course- pigeon, hare and grouse- each one slightly gamier than the last, and each treated with such respect that you feel as though you are being treated to the chefs own dinner.
throughout the meal, each dish is labelled depending on which of the taste buds it will stimulate- salt, sweet, sour, bitter or umami- and midway through the meal is the 'crossover'. a dish with one foot in the savoury courses and one foot in the desserts, for me this involved poached fig, parmesan, pinenut ice cream and pineapple. a very clever concept incredibly well executed.
the finale to the meal, the desserts, were also well balanced and started with a sharp, acidic blackberry compote with frozen elderberries ,soft vanilla meringue and crisp meringue.
then a chocolate course of bitter chocolate mousse with a dehydrated mousse acting as a texture, a cobnut jelly and cobnut oil. a slightly unusual pairing, but my word it works.
the final dessert, or so i thought, was a sea buckthorn curd tart, with a yoghurt mousse, hydrated pistachios and caramel. the sea buckthorn is an incredibly tart flavour, which needed the yoghurt mousse, but then that is why it is there!
after i had finished this, john asked if i could squeeze in one more course- not wishing to be rude i said i would give it a go, and im glad i did! john brought me a cheesecake of sweet and sour cherries, passion fruit and vanilla, which was the perfect end to a (nearly) perfect meal. during the day i had been treated to a tour of the kitchen and the research and development kitchen by sat himself, who despite the rumours ( joking sat!) is an incredibly friendly guy who went out of his way to make me feel welcome, including upgrading me to the 'chefs table' which gives you a complete overview of service throughout the meal.

to summise, i would recommend restaurant sat bains as a very special place to eat, and stay. well worth the effort it takes to find (it is hidden in one of two lenton lanes which are half a mile apart!).

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