It may be the wine talking. When I think of Satis Bistro now, I cannot recall how I got there. I can only remember the dining experiences that transport me to European travel, foodie vacations, and young child-free days.
“satis bistro” by Jenn Kosar
Our first visit focused on the adjacent wine bar, the celebration of the liquor license acquired in 2012. It has that lovely European cafe feel, the kind of place you wander into at 3pm on a Tuesday for a plate of fromage and a big glass of vino. The rustic brick walls and traditional dark and cozy wine bar features are freshened up with the modern Carrera marble bar. The passionate bartenders happily engage with guests on the careful selection of the perfect drink. Cocktails, wine and beer equally spark enthusiastic discussion. The bar features a preservation system, allowing us to enjoy a glass from a bottle that we might not ordinarily splurge on (at least on said Tuesday). These and other wines build to a (potentially) overwhelming 45 or so “by-the-glass” offering, sparking a joyful kid-in-a-candy store sensation.
Al fresco dining on the bluestone terrace is a charming option, as Satis Bistro is located on a quiet street off the main waterfront. Early in the evening, this is a kid (and dog) friendly option, with plenty of families enjoying the last rays of sunshine. A pitcher of Sangria, served fusion style in a yellow-blue french country pitcher, transports you to another time and place.
The interior is one of my favorite spots in North Jersey. The early 1900s building dates was completely gutted as part of the renovation. “Before” photographs hang in the restrooms, and the owners Michael Garcia and Geza Gulas (who is often there, usually as host and occasionally serving) are happy to share the stories of the renovation over a drink… or two… or three… [We’ve been through renovations. We know.] The two-story ceilings and towering windows flood the dark wood floors and rustic fixtures with gorgeous light near sunset, and give way to romantic, moody ambiance as the evening sets in. There’s a salumeria in the back, decorated with hanging sausages and in-house cured meats.
The service is my favorite style — the kind where you feel “taken care of”. There are little things — an un-rushed pace for lingering over a glass of wine; pouring your beer into its appropriate glass; or crafting a personalized cocktail when you’re inspired by the seasonal list but can’t find one that’s “just right”.
There are the touches that go the extra mile. On our second visit, we were fortunate to have Gulas as our server. We curated our first course to combine a Pierre Robert triple creme, Beemster aged gouda, duck rillettes with pink peppercorn and thyme, and pâté de campagne, a classic country style. When I asked for advice on a wine pairing — the list is, not surprisingly, highly international and very eclectic — Gulas didn’t just name a favorite; he sat down on the bench next to me to chat over options. He selected wines that I would have never chosen myself and were absolutely perfect, both on their own and as pairings.
The Pierre Robert was cool and creamy with a pungent bite in the finish for a little something unexpected in a triple creme. The always reliable Beemster packed a crackly bite and was a nice balance on the palate. The duck earned my “second favorite duck rillettes outside of Paris” award (first place going to Artisinal in midtown Manhattan), intensely flavored with a balance of both heady saltiness and light refreshment from the fresh cut herb mix. The pâté had the sausage-like texture I expected, but it was on the salty side. When Gulas noticed we left a bit behind, he tasted it, proclaimed it “way too salty”, and removed it from our bill. Totally unnecessary (hey, we ate it!) and truly lovely.
“country pâté” by Jenn Kosar
Our second course started with a buffalo mozzarella topped toasted crostini that struck the right balance — creamy but not runny. The surprise hit of round two? The spring pea, grapefruit, and cucumber salad with ricotta salata and olive vinaigrette. I have no idea what possessed us to order this, because the salad is basically composed of individual ingredients that either Gary or I (or both) don’t love. But together, they were a winner. Fresh and bright, it was the perfect palette cleanser for what came next.
photo by jakub at foodiesfeed
The harissa-rubbed lamb loin, served on a bed of sautéed asparagus, was made fresh with a dollop of lemon and dill infused yogurt, brightened with crisp cucumbers, olives, and radish. The standout, however, was the braised oxtail served over mascarpone risotto with snap peas. It was umami in a bowl. The risotto was more textured than what many restaurants serve, honoring the traditional style and standing up to the crunch of the peas and the rich, meaty oxtail. Paired with Gulas’ wine recommendation — a glass of Pipoli, from the Basilicata region in Italy — it was the essence of comfort and joy in a meal.
There is always room for ice cream. As my friend Jeff says, it melts to fit the space that remains. Satis Bistro features Bucket & Bay Gelati and Sorbet and whether you prefer a simple scoop or a sundae creation, it is not to be missed. On our first visit I swooned over scoops of hazelnut and madagascar vanilla. This time I had my eye on the deep-bowled sundaes, and simply couldn’t leave my readers wondering which was best. We
sampled devoured both. The “German Chocolate Cake” — coconut-almond crunch and chocolate brownie gelato, toasted coconut, candied pecans, and warm butterscotch sauce, and the “Strawberry Shortcake” — homemade dried shortcake, fresh macerated strawberries with basil, balsamic syrup, and vanilla bean gelato. Shockingly, the strawberry was the hands-down winner, outperforming the rich and lovely german chocolate with cool, savory sweetness.
Satis is Latin for “enough”, as in satisfied. Indeed we were.
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