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New chef at Sara's Bistro 

  Sara's Bistro (724 Dublin St., 861-0565); has been around for many years, but the eclectic Riverbend restaurant was always hard to categorize, mixing French bistro dishes, Creole standards, Indian and southeast Asian flavors.

  A new menu here, however, is different from what Sara's regulars have come to expect. There's a hanger steak prepared in the style of Korean bulgogi, for instance, and short ribs prepared sous vide (a culinary technique using vacuum packs and very low heat).

  This menu is the work of Bart Thomas, the restaurant's new manager and consulting chef. A north Louisiana native, Thomas says he previously ran his own private chef business in New York and London, shuttling between the two cities, but homesickness led him back to Louisiana and then to New Orleans.

  "I stumbled into Sara's one night because it's near my house, and I thought this was a place with a lot of potential that needed some help," Thomas says. "The menu really hadn't changed in 10 years."

  Thomas says his goal is to put a new polish on the restaurant, from the menu and sourcing to presentation on the plate and drinks at the bar. His menu still features plenty of Indian and Thai flavors. Among the entrees, there's saag paneer (an Indian cheese) in masala sauce and chili-crusted shrimp are served with noodles in coconut green curry, and there's even "sub-continental chicken thighs" spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and coriander. Thomas bristles at the description of the new Sara's as an Indian restaurant.

  "When people think about an Indian restaurant, they automatically think lunch buffet," he says. "You wouldn't believe how many calls we get asking when the buffet opens."

  Sara's does not offer a buffet, and it serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday.


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