Saté is an Indonesian dish that has been adopted across Southeast Asia. I fell in love with the charry skewers of seasoned and grilled meat as a child at a now-defunct Haymarket restaurant called The Satay Stick. The chef was housed in the restaurant’s front window inside a smoke-filled, glass box, where you could watch him rapidly flipping long rows of skewers. Even with the containment, in the dining room there was a mouth-watering aroma of charred meat that still permeates my memories to this day.
It was this memory that drew me to Sate Haus, a new Surry Hills eatery you’ll find on Foveaux Street.
Sitting partially in the foyer of an apartment block, the long galley-style restaurant is a bit bland and austere, comprised of cold, industrial surfaces from the thick, marble counter to metal window frames, white tiles and polished aggregate floors.
With a large extraction unit, the stainless steel open kitchen lacks any hint of that maddening aroma I remember. The only sense of the restaurant's personality comes from a mural that’s a strange collection of glib aphorisms, movie star quotes, and religious propaganda. While I can only assume these are things the owners find inspiring, I’m for restaurants staying in their lane. I don’t want vaccination advice from celebrity chefs, nor do I want religious advice from a saté shop.
What I do want is food, and, across the course of two separate visits, I give their short menu a reasonable going-over. While dinner is ordered piece-by-piece, at lunch times, saté and rice combinations create a reasonably priced lunch.
The signature Chicken Saté Lunch ($14.90) delivers you five sticks of their signature, turmeric-marinated chicken sticks with a mound of your favourite rice (I chose coconut rice, which proved a little soft), a teaspoon full of diced raw vegetables and a pot of gently flavoured peanut sauce. For an extra two bucks, you can add on a can of soft drink from their range, which includes American favourites like A&W's Root Beer and Cream Soda. It’s an okay lunch, but nothing to write home about.
Still chasing aroma, on my second visit, I pulled up at the counter and did manage to get a little hunger-inducing cooking smell. It also let me see they’re finishing their sticks with a blow torch, rather than relying upon a super-heated grill.
Ordering piece by piece, this time I kicked off with a Gado Gado ($10.90/appetiser). This cold salad presents a mound of chopped lettuce tossed in peanut sauce dotted with canned corn kernels, cucumber, tomato and boiled potato slices and crisp snake bean segments, garnished with half a hard-boiled egg and a scattering of prawn chips. While it started off well enough, I got a bit bored with it half way through. My palate was wanting some more textural interest (often provided by fried tofu or tempeh) and some more garlic, chilli and lime oomph in the peanut sauce.
Complementing my salad with some sticks, I tried the Chicken Giblet Saté ($3.50/each) which seems to be more about texture than chicken flavour. While it's a bit too chewy for me in places, it's salty enough to make for an interesting pre-dinner snack. With mushrooms, capsicum and zucchini, the Veggie Saté ($3/each) doesn’t taste of more than simply cooked, juicy vegetables. Throwing some decent spicy heat, the Pork Saté ($4/each) is where the flavour is, though you have to be okay with the texture of unrendered fat.
If they had a bigger craft beer range, I could see Saté Haus working a bit like Tokyo Bird, as a beer and snack pit stop on your way to something else...
54 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (0411) 105 026