Monday, April 20, 2009

Saute

Wade's Take:

April's dinner was Saute, a fairly new restaurant on Front Street, South of South Street. It was a neighborhoody place, filled with babies and regulars and oddly next door to a funeral parlor. The menu changes regularly, so it will likely be vastly different even a week from now.

My app was a hamachi ceviche. The hamachi (a young yellowtail) was thin cut and stacked sideways with citrus slices. Two dots of smoked avocado puree flanked the appetizer, and the entire thing was dusted with cilantro. The grapefruit pieces overpowered the hamachi. Granted, the hamachi is light, but it was completelty overwhelmed by the fruit. The smoked avocado pulled the flavor of the dish back down from sweet, but this appetizer still didn't land perfectly.

We shared a charcuterie plate among the five of us (howdy, Chris and John), which had a fantastic chicken liver pate with a lid of clarified butter. I couldn't get enough of this - I would even brush my teeth with it if that were somehow possible. The rest of the charcuterie plate was moderate. There was some sliced, rolled meats that reminded me of cheap pepper loaf.

Sticking with poisson, I ordered a bronzino for my entree. Served with the skin, it was cooked really nicely. It sat on a fontina fondue that had a cheez whiz cousin type texture. Atop the fish was brocolli rabe, red onions that were peppered and sweet, and pine nuts. What it was missing was a starch... maybe a bit of some coconut rice type substance.

Dessert was the milk chocolate mousse served in a phyllo cup alongside berries. There was much phyllo to get through once the mousse was finished, probably too much. The mousse was good, though - milky smooth and with a nice distinctiveness from the normal dark chocolate, bitter mousse most places serve.

The staff was what truly bumped this place up a notch. I really liked the cast of characters that worked there, including our waiter, the owner and the chef. By the end of the night, we had spoken extensively to all three. They were eager to hear feedback on the plates and tell us about future menu and space plans.

Food - 2.5 out of 4
(Staff - 4 out of 4)

Dave's Take:
Saute is a great neighborhood dining spot and the folks in Bella Vista are lucky to have it. No tourists from South St, no duck tours driving by. Just a nice comfortable place to have a good meal at reasonable cost.

To start, we shared a Charcuterie plate. This was really a pate plate with a few slices of mediocre cured meats. Since I believe charcuterie plates were sent from the heavens and serranos, prosciutto, lomo's etc., are the top of the food chain, I was a little disappointed here. I'm not a huge fan of pate but I can appreciate it when it does not taste like cat food. I must admit, the duck pate was excellent but the charcuterie was disappointing. Unless you are a pate fanatic, stay away from this.

For my personal app, I got the special duck meatballs with apricot cream. This was fantastic. The duck meatballs were rich, tender and delicious. This is what regular meatballs unsuccessfully strive to be. By themselves, they may be too rich but the tartness of the apricot cream cut the fat of the duck and resulted in a very nice dish. From the tastes of my compadres, it was the highlight dish.

Main entree was the grilled quail. Quail is one of my favorite of the game birds and is head and shoulders above the bland but popular chicken. This was seasoned with salt, pepper and herbs, split in two and accompanied but cherries and a puree. The bird was tasty and tender with nice flavor and similar to the duck, the cherries added a nice tart acidity. The puree was pretty bland (even though it was full of butter/cream) and brought down the dish. Would have been much better with a wild rice risotto or similar treatment. Overall, a solid performer.

Agree with Wade. The people make the place. The food is good and creative but hit or miss and flat on occasion. It could just be that the food is finding its place since its a new opening. If they can improve consistency and match the food to the service, this will be a home run. If you live in Bella Vista, take a walk over and give Sauté a try.

Attention- We noticed a liquor license application. Go before they get it approved. The place is way too small for booze and it will just increase the cost. I hope it does not ruin it.

3 fowls out of 4

Jess' Take:
I won't spend too much time on the Charcuterie plate since Wade and Dave did a nice job. I will say that if you're a pate lover go for it, if you're a cured meat lover steer clear. I am a pate lover so I was very pleased.

I went with the special black cod served with fennel. Nothing to write home about. The fish, while cooked well was a little tasteless. It was divided into two even, square portions, which sat happily atop the bed of fennel, which was much more tasty than the fish. After trying Wade's bronzino I had wished that was my main dish. Ah-well, next time I suppose.

Being a lover of brussel sprouts I ordered a side for the table (translate: for me). It was served with diced prosciutto and truffle oil. While that combination is enough to make even veggie lovers swoon, the brussel sprouts were just this side of ripe, and as a result had a bit of a hard, sour taste to them. Luckily proscuitto and truffle oil are pretty overpowering tastes, so unless you were really trying to taste the brussel sprout this dish was delish.

I give Saute 2.5 out of 4 artery clogging pates. I'll give it another go so long as it remains a BYO.

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