Saturday, April 30, 2011

R e v i e w: Salt

So, even though I'm in the middle of finals, I had to take Monday to celebrate my birthday, the day I came to Earth. I wanted to go to my favorite restaurant in St. Louis, Niche, for my very special birthday dinner. Even though I missed my best friends on Saturday at my party, this birthday was definitely one of the highlights of my so-far so-so semester/year. On Monday nights, Niche has this Monday Supper menu, which is essentially comfort food done-up. Unfortunately, what I didn't know was that the Monday Supper was the ONLY thing Niche serves on Monday night...I'm sure Gerard Craft would do it right but I wasn't in the mood to pay over $60 for a Caesar salad and a flank steak (though ironically I did end up getting a steak at Salt anyways, whoops). 

After quickly downing some Prosecco, we headed over to Salt because their kitchen was open until 11. Salt had just opened up a few weeks before and I saw a feature on it in Sauce magazine, so I decided, why the hell not. It's new, should be good, acclaimed by Sauce, should be great. And it was. So, so great.

The place is on Lindell in between Sarah and Boyle, and is in old funeral home, that used to be restaurant, and a mansion, and now serves as Salt. It's extremely bizarre. The front of the house is white with four pillars White House style. There's no sign, and you can barely see the parking lot, we would have missed it if the hostess hadn't told us what to look for. The first thing you see is this little garden which coincidentally is the patio seating area, and the entrance to the restaurant is not the front door of the house but rather the back door, behind the patio. 

You walk in, and the first thing you see, is this uber-fancy bar area, a circle of seating around the bar with an amazing selection and some new-age drinks. Behind the bar area is the entrance to the kitchen. When you walk into the dining area, you feel like you enter something out of Mad Men...sort of retro-60s, sophisticated, without the regal, over the top that you get out of Monarch or somewhere fancy. It's not as minimalist as Niche, but it's totally different. They don't pretend to be modern, they know they're not. But their food is right on up there with Niche, Sidney Street, and Monarch. 

Upstairs, the bathroom is like an Egyptian themed ballroom, right out of 60s high-society. Clearly this mansion, or whatever this was, was designed in a different time and they did a good job of giving that it's credit. It could have almost been the 20s, like you were in Great Gatsby, it was crazy. But extremely tasteful. Now onto the food...

The menu is surprisingly straight forward, a few appetizers, a few small plates, and a few big plates. Only 3 desserts (and chocolate to boot), plus a 5-item list of cocktails, and a wine-list printed on printer paper, stapled together, splotted with water stains. But that's the charm. It's simple, yet unique and delicious. So, the menu went as follows: broiled mussels with chorizo, mint bbq'd lamb steak, duck fat fries, and "candy bar." Yeah, mouthwatering yet?
broiled mussels: the mussels came out, extremely hot, in this little skillet, with mussel jus and smokey sauce and a chargrilled piece of garlic bread to sop up all the juice. all in all, amazing. i liked the contrast of the rich broth, along with the bread and creaminess of the mussels and the salty spicy addition, it appealed to all the senses and was aggressive and subtle all at the same time. highly recommended. and cheap as well.
mint bbq'd lamb steak: o.m.g. talk about a perfectly done up lamb steak. cooked perfectly, extremely tender, the mint wasn't overpowering and wasn't artificial but at the same time there was some char on it that made it smokey and delicious. it came with these sea salt potatoes which i didn't finish because i was too busy with the lamb. it was definitely one of the better things on the menu and not to be underrated because it's lamb.

duck fat fries: i don't even know what to say, other than they were perfect. could have been a little crispier, but they were shoestring potatoes which was good and bad. 
finally, candy bar: cashew, nougat, chocolate, fleur de sel, what's not to love? well, it wasn't as perfect as the rest of the meal, but it was a great ending. it could have been warmer, the chocolate was a little hard so that mixed with the chewiness of the nougat might it hard to finish, but it was a nice birthday dessert. it definitely looked better than it tasted, it was clever presentation, but the dessert itself was a little bit try, so you couldn't taste anything. because it was dry, it needed a sauce, maybe a salty caramel sauce? the name implies a love of salt, the simplest ingredient, so they could have taken this opportunity to really play-on-words.

It was empty because it was new, but I liked that, the waiter was extremely attentive, and even though it was getting late he didn't care, he let us take our time and kept asking us if we needed anything. I didn't feel once like I should leave because they were closing. I felt great, like I was being transported from time period to time period, supplemented with great food and wine. All in all, the perfect way to spend my birthday. It is definitely worth a try, because it's so new, the prices are fairly low and they definitely need word-of-mouth advertising. So go ahead, enjoysalt!

So back to my very bizarre law-school-esque review system, Salt in a nutshell:

Service: §§§ 1/2
Ambiance: §§§§
Wine: §§§§
Taste: §§§§ 1/2
Overall: §§§§


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