Wednesday, July 27, 2011

salt - st. louis, mo
4356 lindell boulevard
st. louis, mo 63108

housed in an old funeral home in the central west end, salt is the creation of chef/owner wes johnson. with stints at the shaved duck and eclipse in his rear view, chef johnson opened salt a few months back, and has experienced largely positive reviews thus far. like many other trendy restaurants popping up across the country, salt makes it clear that they use the freshest locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. without technique and innovation however, even the best ingredients can lead to disappointing meals. after browsing salt's menu online, i was excited by some of the seemingly unique flavor combinations, and have been looking forward to seeing how they come through in execution.

haing made reservations over the phone (salt is not on opentable) earlier that day, carrie and i arrived at the house right at 8pm. upon approaching the front door, a sign detoured us to a door on the left side of the building. for a wednesday night in st. louis, the place seemed to be fairly busy, although the room we dined in only had one other table present. inside and out, salt is simply a beautiful restaurant with a classic yet somehow still somewhat modern feel to it. carrie commented that she wanted to take home the red chandelier pictured above.

after chatting briefly with our server about the specials and menu style we put in our order for six small plates as well as a large plate to share. salt focuses on small plates, which is perfect for carrie and i who like to try as many different items as possible. there are also bigger entree sized plates available, as well as a nice selection of cheese and charcuterie.

cocktails for the evening were the ornery hound (made with gin, yellow chartreuse, ruby red grapefruit, grapefruit bitters, and agave nectar) and the modern cocktail #2 (sloe gin, scotch, new york orange bitters, absinthe, and grenadine). both drinks were excellent with the hound being expectantly astringent and the modern particularly boozy and complex.

unfortunately, no bread is served at salt, so we had a good ten minutes to sit and talk while enjoying just our cocktails. we polished them off just before our first wave of dishes arrived. to go with the food, we opted for a bottle of the 2008 steele pinot noir. while not exceptional, the wine was very drinkable with hints of strawberry on the nose and a finish with notes of vanilla and maybe tobacco.

served with pickled vegetables, the braised pork belly was the first dish i sampled. much praise has been given to salt's take on pork belly from reviewers on sites like yelp and urban spoon, and while it was indeed excellent, it certainly wasn't above and beyond other pork belly dishes i have recently consumed. hype aside, it is still a must order in my opinion.

a contender for dish of the night, the pear salad with fresh blueberries, mint, and smoked jowl bacon was fantastic. the combination of flavors present was incredible with the cool mint and savory bacon contrasting wonderfully against the tart berries and sweet pears.

the final dish in our first wave was a house made tomato pasta with needle onions. i do not remember all the details of this dish, but i can say that the pasta had a unique bite to it, and was very good.

wave two of the meal contained our seafood choices. pictured above is a single seared scallop in a mustard seed sauce with scallions and cedar smoke. the scallop was served in a sealed jar, presumably to hold in the cedar smoke. the dish was served to carrie, so by the time i got my bite or two of the scallop, i think the smoke affect had been lost as i did not really note and smokey cedar flavor. however, the scallop was well cooked and characteristically sweet.

the second of our two seafood dishes was the broiled mussels with house made chorizo, leeks, and grilled bread. although a few of the mussels were a bit gritty, this was a successful dish overall with the spicy chorizo really packing a punch.

our main course for the evening was the sorghum lacquered duck served with swiss chard. while the pic above may not look all that appetizing, the duck was excellent. cooked to a perfect medium rare, the duck was served in a sorghum lacquer, (essentially molasses) giving it a wonderfully sweet flavor.

paired alongside the bird was a heaping pile of duck fat frites. thin and crispy, the frites were terrific on there own or dipped in the house made ketchup or garlic aoili, both of which are condiments that i typically do not enjoy.

after a nice little break we used to finish our wine, the desserts began to arrive. starting with the best of the three, above we have the ligonberry bread pudding with a sweet bourbon sauce. interestingly served in a tall jar, the bread pudding was one of the best iterations of this age old dessert that i have ever had. a must order for sure!

moving along to what turned out to be my least favorite dessert, we have the chocolate cake with honey goat cheese. a decent offering, but the cake was a bit dry for my taste. the honey goat cheese did add a welcomed bit of tartness to the fray however.

finally we have an excellent peach tart with a delicious salted caramel ice cream. the warm tart was executed perfectly and paired nicely with the caramel ice cream.

to go with our desserts, carrie and i shared one last cocktail. called the salt smash, this drink featured bourbon, blood orange, chocolate mint, salty caramel syrup, and angostura bitters. this drink was a bit of a let down for me. while the mint aroma was nice, the flavor of the drink was rather bland with the flavor of the bourbon actually dominating the profile for me.

even with two slight misses coming near the end of the meal (cocktail and cake), i would say that salt exceeded my expectations. as mentioned earlier, the restaurant is absolutely beautiful and was simply a joy to dine in. but this would not matter in the least if the food did not hold up its end of the bargain, which it did on almost all accounts. i am assuming that the menu at salt will change often, and if it continues to operate at the level it did on this night, it has a chance to become one of our "go to" restaurants in st. louis.

Salt on Urbanspoon

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