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By Anatol Steven. 11.11.2011


Save to foursquare Blaumaņa 5a, Riga Phone: 6601 8036
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Sato hits all the right buttons for an Uzbek restaurant – if you know what they are.

Uzbek cuisine is highly underrated, and despite the essential offer of plov Sato is determined to change any preconceptions of heavy meat and rice dishes.
The restaurant employs five Uzbek chefs with experience in some of the best restaurants in Moscow – where Uzbek food now rivals sushi in popularity – and the results are excellent.
The foodies behind Sato travelled to research Uzbek cuisine and found that hospitality is the number-one national hobby. The tables of households expecting guests there are always fully laid with food.
The plov, or pilaf (€5), at Sato is genuinely Uzbek, cooked in a kazan – a big metal pot with a lid that’s like a heavier version of a wok. It’s made especially, not just heated up, so guests should request it ahead when reserving a table.
The rice in the plov is imported from Uzbekistan, but the lamb is locally Latvian. The meat should never be lean with this dish, allowing the rice to soak up the fat. At Sato it’s not quite as spicy as you’d get in Central Asia but it retains the carrots and sweet raisons.
An alternative if you fail to pre-book is manti – Central Asian dumplings containing lamb (€7.85), potatoes or pumpkin (both about €5). Manti are basically a more upmarket and time consuming version of the Russian pelmeni.
For many guests at Sato, all they need to know is that the plov is genuine. But there’s much than that on the menu, which is essentially 80 percent Uzbek with a smattering of Georgian and Armenian dishes.
Haravats (€4) is an Armenian salad described as “caviar of fried vegetables.” Refreshing the tongue if you’re eating something spicy, it makes a great side dish. But it’s fine also as a starter or lunch with bread that has been freshly baked in Sato’s cylindrical tandir oven.
Intriguingly, Uighur cuisine is also represented on the menu with three dishes characterized by the use of soy sauce and garlic, the lightest of these being humo (€5), a chicken dish with vegetables. We’ll sample that next time we visit.
There’s a wide choice of teas, mostly green, and a smattering of popular cocktails if you’re going to begin a long evening here. If you want to stay faithful to Uzbek cuisine, order a glass of fermented milk, or katik, which is a sourer version of kefir.
Sato’s décor features divans and big cushions, Central Asian snapshots on the walls and mounted hand-painted plates. The music is mainly Café del Mar with a peppering of Middle Eastern pop. The service is friendly and attentive. All in all, Sato scores highly.

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