Thursday, March 29, 2012


Crabmeat and lemongrass bisque.
If a chef applies his craft with much success but no diners are in his restaurant eating, does the food still taste good?

Each time that I dine at Sara's in the Riverbend, I pose the same question to myself. Granted, I have been on only 4 occasions over the past 3 years, but every time no more than 2 other tables have been occupied in the restaurant. Which is a shame because I have enjoyed almost every dish which has graced my table.

"Asian flavors, creole technique" is the tag line for Sara's kitchen. The result could be easily defined as "fusion cuisine", which is often the red headed step child of the food nerd world. I concern myself less with labels and more on taste.

The single best dish on the menu is the crabmeat and lemongrass bisque ($8). With a base of softened celery, coconut milk, and a load of sweet crabmeat, this potage packs an addictive lemongrass essence with backdoor spice. Honestly, this may be my favorite soup in the city. An appetizer to share would be eggplant sauteed in a sauce of tomato and whole cloves of garlic which produces a slow, lingering spice and highlights the earthiness of the aubergines. The dish would be better if the skins were removed, and the accompanying "naan" is actually pita bread. The Folk Singer always orders the salad of breaded and pan seared goat cheese matched with a mixed greens and tossed in a sundried cheery vinaigrette.

Lamb Oxford.
I am sucker for slow cooked, one pot dishes, and the season for those is rapidly passing us by (if it has not already). The Lamb Oxford ($22) is a leg of lamb braised in tomato sauce until the shreds of meat and sauce become one. It has depth, it has flavor, and it is delicious. The menu touts the sauce as a “korma,” which in my mind connotes an addition of heavy cream or coconut milk, both of which were absent from the finished product. Basmati rice and lentils, which were sadly served cold, round out the dish.

Red curry chicken.
More typical Indian fare is available, probably because that's what most first time diners are looking for. The saag paneer uses leafy spinach cut into long strips and cooked down with tomato and onion. Standard but flavorful, and at $16 the portion size was spot on. Red curry chicken is presented elegantly, but I have had better versions for cheaper prices elsewhere, and the cold black bean and corn salad seemed out of place.

The ambience is completely comfortable if you don’t mind dining in a nearly empty room with a mixture of new age rock and sitar tunes. Chairs in the front dining room strangely resemble those found in a gentleman’s club (so I have been told), and the rear dining room is so quiet that you feel mandated to whisper even if your table is the only one occupied. The restaurant is nowhere near a scene in the fedora-wearing and Kate Upton look-a-like sense of the word.

But the food is good. Expensive, but good. Soup, salad, 2 entrees, 2 Kingfish beers, and 2 glasses of sauvignon blanc ran the total bill to a shade over $100 including tax and tip. Sara's will not be winning any awards in the value category, but that lemongrass bisque alone is worth going for.

Sara's Restaurant - Par/Birdie
724 Dublin Street
(504) 861-0565

No comments: