Sasson credits the sizeable talents of his Colombian architects and designers who have created inventive and distinct spaces for his five restaurants in Bogota (Harry Sasson, Balzac, Harry’s Bakery, Harry’s Restaurant & Bar and Club Colombia). They've done so most notably at his flagship where a brick mansion built in 1914 was restored to preservation guidelines while the garden behind the building was enclosed in a vaulted, geometric shell made of custom cut glass and aluminum girders painted white to create a thoroughly modern space. The angular lines of the structure are echoed on the chef’s business card. Dining rooms inside the mansion create different “ambiances” from romantic nooks to assertive power lunch tables to a private chef’s table room.
Maybe it’s the ingredients, the chef suggests. “Every day I’m looking for a fresher piece of fish, a better piece of meat, tastier hearts of palm so that you taste the difference between our food and other people’s food,” he says. Specialty ingredients are picked up at the airport in Bogota daily and my dinner at Harry Sasson included many of them including a riotous plate of langosta, salmon and mero tartare with small flavor bombs of fresh citrus on top. Then there was an oven skillet from the restaurant’s mozzarella bar with two types of melted cheese and rich, sweet tomatoes.
But it was a simple dish of grilled wild heart of palm from the Putumayo region of Colombia that proved the most memorable. A one inch diameter shoot of fresh palm heart was sliced in half, seasoned with sea salt and pepper, and grilled over wood. The finished palm was firm but tender (erase all notions of canned hearts of palm from your mind) with a flavor that reminded me of the choicest artichoke heart. Delicate smokiness and rich salt asserted themselves with every bite.
Next, Sasson unveils his next big project...