EAST Eats: Sa-Tén
Coffee done artfully
By Andrew Thomas,
1:00PM, Thu. Nov. 20, 2014
Sa-Tén can be a little difficult to find. We passed it twice before we noticed a small, collapsible sign. Finding the cafe tucked into a corner of the Canopy's gallery space was like being let in on a secret. With the East Austin Studio Tour heading into the second weekend, it's one we expect won't be kept long.
Owned by the folks behind Komé and Daruma Ramen, Sa-Tén nabs design ideas from both. Komé's horizontal wood and Zen textures feature prominently, as does Daruma's pop sensibility (their poppy wallpaper replaced here by playful squirrels). There are plenty of ideas to steal – color-blocked tabletops, a TV set converted to fish tank, and yellow lamp guards used with filament bulbs to create instant pendants. The industrial touches fit in well in the warehouse space; the light-filled environment is no-doubt a draw to the cafe's esthetically-inclined neighbors.
The menu – a step above the typical coffee shop's quick breads and pastries – likewise fits in well with an artsy crowd. Creativity is fueled by serious coffee, including a robust 16-hour cold brew. It's perfect for pairing with their selection of Red Rabbit Bakery's superlative vegan donuts.
Japanese-style toast anchors most of the food offerings, whether as the main event or a side. Thick and buttery, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, the toast stages forms the foundation to everything from grilled vegetables (yasai) to egg spread (nori tama). Many of the dishes in the category play with fusion. The rich sriracha mayo smoked salmon is something akin to japanese bagels and lox. The Me So Honey uses a miso butter.
Those with larger appetites can choose from a small selection of well-developed plates (available 11am-4pm only). The chicken katsu with curry is the most ambitious, with a combo of pickled vegetables, tar tar sauce, and Worcestershire. The same curry is featured with grilled asparagus, broccoli, and okra. Less adventurous palates may gravitate towards the chicken teriyaki, served with a Asian twist on picnic macaroni salad.
But part of the experience of Sa-Tén is adventure. You'll want to discover both new flavors and new art. The concept may be new to Austin, but travel broadens the mind – even if the trip is just a few miles East.
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