Thursday, February 16 2012 23:30

Salt Keeps Its Promise

By  John Cullen with Marty Shayt

Salt, "a New American Tavern," occupies a renovated townhouse barely two blocks from the Pagoda in Patterson Park. The entrance (actually on Collington Avenue) separates a long bar with a few tables from a small dining room with about 10 tables. Overhead, clusters of contemporary large lighting fixtures that glow an otherworldly green stand out from tall ceilings against exposed brick walls and polished wood floors.

The menu is brief yet original (we recommend you review it online before trying for the first time). Twelve starters ($7-15) include eye-catching items like crispy boar belly with noodles and Ritz Cracker crusted fried smelt, while the nine entrees ($17-30) seemed less challenging. Some great fresh bread with an addicting spread of tomatoes, basil, and parmesan cheese had us nodding our heads in enjoyment while we read the menu. Marty and our friend JT finally decided on the mushroom and farro soup ($7) while John ordered the red snapper ceviche ($11). For our entrees, Marty decided on the signature coriander and pepper crusted tuna ($27), John for the pistachio and fig stuffed pork shank ($24) and JT with the filet mignon ($30).

The bowls of soup arrived steaming hot with bits of tomato, farro (a type of wheat kernel), root veggies, Swiss chard, and shaved Parmesan complementing the mushrooms in hearty broth; both Marty and JT ranked it a "Thumbs Up." The ceviche arrived in a large stylish bowl with bit of snapper enhanced with clementine and lime juice, garlic, red onion, and cilantro; it was tangy and scrumptious and earned another "Thumbs up" from John.

Our entrees similarly earned praises. Marty's entree included two large chunks of tuna (which looked at first glance like beef filet) highlighted with a ginger soy glaze and served with a couple of unusual but delicious tuna filled pot stickers. John's pork shank arrived deboned and with an interesting texture. It had a milder taste than expected, and was accompanied by polenta and broccoli rab. JT's filet mignon with a red wine sauce made a big impression. (He commented that it compared favorably to the filet at the Prime Rib). With buttered Brussels sprouts and pot roast stuffed potato sticks (think a cross between a thick tacquito and a petite burrito), he felt that his entrée was worth the cost. Along with our entrees, we ordered a side of duck fat fries; while we aren't impressed by the duck fat thing, the fries came with three different garlic dipping sauces and were awesomely good. (Both Marty and John's portions were big enough that they took home some!)

For dessert, we shared "3 mini ice cream cones" (yup, exactly what it sounds like! Small cones with chocolate mint, pumpkin, and apple homemade ice creams) and cheese doughnuts (round golf ball size doughnuts with a soft cheese inside, a touch of salt outside, and sitting in a pool of caramel with some coffee ice cream). Both were intriguingly good. We particularly enjoyed the ice cream cones!

Service from the staff of young men was impressively responsive without being intrusive. Salt's website asserts the goal of providing "fantastic food, wonderful atmosphere and excellent service." While it undeniably comes at a price, it's obvious that Salt takes those goals very seriously.

Salt Tavern
2127 E. Pratt St. • 410.276.5480
Open Tuesday – Sunday at 5pm
Full bar • Vegetarian Options
Reservations recommended • Street parking

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