If you haven't yet got a copy of Sat Bains' book Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian, you should, it really is fantastic and more or less makes blog posts on his restaurant (like this one) redundant as the book so comprehensively covers everything he is about, what the restaurant is about and what the food is about. His philosophy is woven into every part of the book but one page captures things well when he says
Be the best. Work hard - work fast - work clean. Every ingredient has to be the best we can afford. Seasons have to rule the kitchen. Only allow minimal manipulation when necessary. Elevate flavours through understanding. Cook as if you are eating. Waste is poor workmanship. Extraction of flavour is our role in life as cooks. Balance of menus is our obligation to our guests. Health is crucial in menu planning. Seasoning is a true skill so taste, taste, and taste again. Our goal is to be the best so we should act like the best.
There's a shorter and a longer tasting menu, and it's nice to see that the shorter menu is not simply an abbreviation of the longer menu but has been crafted in its own right, both look incredibly tempting. We don't get to Nottingham nearly enough to have the shorter menu, we want to try as many plates as possible, so it's the full 10 courses. Portion sizes are ideal, well judged to see you through the meal rather than overwhelming you early.
The food at Sat's seeks to open your eyes (and mind) a little with combinations, textures and temperatures that you perhaps don't expect. Early savouries include 'chicken muesli' which are two words you rarely find together and when brought to the table, the chicken is not apparent, appearing only as a bowl of muesli, but dig down and through and cool creamy chicken liver resides below the surface giving that pop of surprise as textures and temperatures (and of course taste) put a smile on your face. In common with much else that's on the menu, it's lighter than you might imagine and the menu skips along easily enough.
Elsewhere in the early savouries, it's a mix of the familiar and unfamiliar in many ways. There's a beautifully caramelised scallop which is a fair opening gambit for any top end restaurant, though root vegetables with bearnaise and umami heavy dashi leads into the main course and is the kind of creation that marks somewhere like RSB as worthy of a special journey. The main, hare, comes in two parts leading out with a 'hare sausage roll' that pushes the game flavours of hare to the right side of the limit. With the sausage roll gone, hare dusted in szechuan arrives and is served with cauliflower, pear, stilton and chocolate for a super rich umami packed main. Hare is always quite an intense dish but here it's controlled, not overwhelming and the pear provides freshness and acidity to counter when it feels like you might drown in the umami. It's good cooking.
There's a crossover lolly, beetroot mivvis (mivvis being originally a Lyons Maid ice cream, memories from childhood then) before another childhood favourite: rice pudding. This is a grown up version though, the rice separate from the cream and served with a sake granita on top; it's heaven, leaving you to curse the tasting menu portions for a giant bowl of this would have been readily eaten by us both. Then a beautiful chocolate dish that inevitably gets compared to an Aero but included here is a mystery ingredient that you're invited to guess. We did (yay!), but we wont spoil the surprise. It's dessert heaven here as you are further served blueberries and finally bread and butter pudding, though again, both are outside the box and all desserts were so so good.
The location of the restaurant is, as has been often commented upon, not an obvious one and to have made it the success it is requires you to admire and respect Sat's achievement. With a great menu of original offerings, you have to admire and respect Sat's food also. Meanwhile, front of house were simply excellent and with a chef's table, kitchen table and kitchen bench, you might well be interacting with the kitchen team during your meal, and guess what, they're lovely too. In Restaurant Sat Bains, Sat has created something special and it's without doubt a must visit destination for those who love food and are food curious.