33 Lower Road • Chorleywood • WD3 5LQ • 01923 284323
Reviewed by Jill Glenn
Chorleywood friends tell me that Sathi is their restaurant of choice. ‘Small but perfectly formed,’ says one. As I sip my first glass of red, and glance around, I realise that Sathi’s not just small, it’s tiny – but it’s buzzing with life, and clearly popular: indeed, surely there have been more people arriving than there are seats?
The mystery is solved later when I realise that there is a second, equally intimate, space upstairs. Both areas are simply decorated in whites, creams and reds, creating a very relaxing and welcoming atmosphere and a pleasant, laid-back vibe. And it gets ten out of ten from me for being the sort of place that lets you order gradually, course by course, instead of expecting you to know what you want for your main dishes before you’ve even started your popadums and chutney.
We begin with Lamb Chops and Prawn Moni Puree. The chops are deliciously melt-in-the-mouth tender and the flavour rich and strong; my guest declares that she’d rather like to pick the bones up and gnaw the last of the meat from them, but concludes, to my relief, that ‘it’s probably Not Quite The Thing’.
The prawn dish takes me slightly by surprise; a puree (fried, unleavened bread, aka ‘puri’ and ‘poori’), topped with spicy prawns in a thick sauce, is one of my favourite starters… but this has an almost sweet/sour flavour, which I ascribe to the unexpected presence of pineapple. It’s a bright, rich taste, and the prawns are beautifully tiny – but it will teach me to watch out for stray words like ‘moni’ in the title of a dish that might derail the recipes. It’s Prawn Puree – but not as I know it.
We opt for main courses that neither of us has tried before. Sylhety Fish Curry (Bangladeshi white fish cooked in chef’s own recipe of medium spices with cooking lemon) is chestnutty dark and chunky. My companion initially thinks the sauce too heavy for the fish, although by the time the serving dish is bare she’s changed her mind, and is singing its praises. Although the pieces are large, the fish is wonderfully tender and moist… it’s a very clean-tasting affair.
Chicken Hariyali arrives sizzling. It proves to be on the thick side, and, oddly, dark orange. The description – ‘delicately flavoured tender pieces of chicken cooked with various spices, chopped fresh spinach, fresh mint and coriander leaves’ – has led me to expect something thinner and greenish. The flavours are good, but overall it’s more dense than I’d like. It, too, has a certain sweetness; my companion gives it extra marks for this: ‘it raises it out of the ordinary.’
For me the Tarka Dhall is the star of the show. Earthy and grainy and pleasingly runny, its mellow flavours are beautifully blended. I find I’m helping myself to more – and more –while my guest’s gaze is averted.
Alongside there’s cauliflower, in the form of a fine Gobi Jeera that contrasts nicely with the flavours of the main courses, and Garlic Rice. It’s a pleasure not to have been encouraged to order a Nan bread that we neither want nor need… and this small exercise of moderation means that after another considerable break we find ourselves capable of managing a Kulfi (a milk-based Indian dessert not unlike ice cream) each. The Mango variant is jauntily sweet, refreshing and soft; the Pistachio milder and firmer, and very soothing. They’re the ideal way to finish this Indian/Bangladeshi feast that has frequently surprised us.