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New tasting room/menu at Black Salt-review

s
shellymck Oct 24, 2007 10:29 AM

Last night the mckhusband and I went to Black Salt to celebrate our anniversary. We’ve been there several times before and intended to order one of the tasting menus. After being seated and chatting with the maitre d’ he informed us that they had just opened, a week prior, a new tasting room with a new menu and that they had discontinued the 5-7-9 course chef’s choice tasting menus in the dining room.

We were quickly whisked back to the new area, carved out from space in the back of the restaurant, sort of by the bathrooms. The triangular room is done in non-descript modern, like the rest of the restaurant, but with softer surfaces, including tablecloths and a fire in a rectangle nook. The room can probably seat about 40. When we left at the end of the evening we realized how quiet the tasting room was in comparison to the dining room.

The new menu is 5 courses for $75 plus wine flights for $35. The first two courses were fixed, the second three offered choices and that night there were three extra gift courses plus take-home goodies. For the tasting room there is also a special bread basket (cheese twists, mini Parker rolls and biscuits) served with anchovy butter. All I can say is Yum!

The amuse-bouche was an oyster on the half-shell with Banyuls mignonnette and chervil. First two courses were hamachi tuna with housemade kim chee and apples and day boat scallop with veal sweetbreads. These were all terrific and I am not a person who normally eats oysters or sweetbreads. The oyster in particular was a riot of flavors.

For the third course we had lobster agnolotti (husband) and prawns with blue crab (me). Of the two the lobster was better—actually the prawns were my least favorite dish of the night, not bad but not particularly exciting.

A complimentary serving of pumpkin soup with fig vinegar (vino cotto?) and pecans came out before the main entrée and it was really nice—probably the most interesting squash/pumpkin soup I’ve had, thanks to the vinegar.

The final savory course was a choice of big-eye tuna with split pea cassoulet, Mediterreanean bronzino, or braised short ribs. The tuna was tender and flavorful but the bronzino trumped it—the tomato sauce it came in was incredibly rich and intense.

Hot cider (so delicious) and a tiny Madeleine were the palate cleansers before dessert.

Dessert was from a choice of three: a cheese plate, a pumpkin torte with mascarpone ginger ice cream and a chocolate cherry something that I can’t remember.

Any cheese course we order has to pass two tests: it can’t come straight from the walk-in and it has to have a special bread basket. This is usually a good way to determine if there was thought in the cheese selection, that it’s not just a menu filler. This one did not disappoint—a triple cream from France, a Spanish semi-hard and a Vermont blue that really packed a punch, all served at the proper temperature. Each one had honey or a fruit spread and the bread that came with it was a luscious walnut raisin. We were both very happy. The portion was sufficient for two to taste.

My dessert was the torte. The ice cream really stood out, the torte was good but tasted mostly like a very good version of your grandmother’s pumpkin pie. We also each ordered the wines paired with dessert for the flight. A tawny port for the cheese and a Kanu Noble dessert wine from South Africa for the torte. Both were really excellent choices.

In lieu of petits fours we each received a nicely wrapped bag of chocolates molded in sea-themed shapes.

Overall this was a really great night. Service was excellent. For just being open a week the server was able to easily answer all of my questions about the food and the wine. Pacing was leisurely and portions were just right—we only started to feel full at the very end of the evening. Really, this is very well done. Go!

  1. ktmoomau Oct 24, 2007 10:35 AM

    Thanks for the update will have to put this on the short list! I am glad the cheese course was so well thought out. I appreciate a well done and thought out cheese course!

    1. j
      jeanmarieok Oct 24, 2007 10:35 AM

      Good to hear - I can't wait to try it! Thanks for the very descriptive report.

      1. g
        gyozagirl Oct 24, 2007 10:47 AM

        Thanks for the great report, as well as the tip on the tasting menu. I'm just starting to get into Tasting Menus at restaurants as they're a fun way of seeing what the restaurant has to offer- BlackSalt's will definitely be on my list for sure!

        1. d
          Dakota Guy Oct 24, 2007 11:41 AM

          Thanks for the info. Black Salt is one of my favorite restaurants. I just made a reservation to try their new tasting room.

          1. p
            Pappy Oct 24, 2007 11:46 AM

            I can't tell you how happy I am to hear this. While lunch at the bar at Blacksalt is high in my rotation, I don't appreciate dinner there because I've never thought the room kept up with the cooking. This Tasting Menu/Tasting Room solves both of those.

            1. e
              Elyssa Oct 24, 2007 12:41 PM

              Wow that sounds like a wonderful meal...I especially love the idea of all the fall-themed cuisine. Very seasonal and tasty sounded. I really need to get to Black Salt at some point. Probably will be awhile but this menu in particular makes me want to go sooner rather then later.

              1. x_otikchef Oct 24, 2007 12:48 PM

                Thank you for this. I have not eaten there before and after reading your post, I can't wait to check it out.look for my update. :)

                1. debit Oct 24, 2007 01:01 PM

                  Yay, yay, yay, yay!!!

                  And I love having a choice or two on a tasting menu.

                  Great news...thanks shelly!

                  1. r
                    rosecmd Jan 6, 2008 06:35 AM

                    Interesting, because my husband and I tried the tasting menu at Black Salt last Sunday and were very disappointed with the food. We've eaten at Black Salt in the regular dining room about 5-6 times and always enjoyed the food very much. In a nutshell, besides feeling isolated in the back room because for the first 1 1/2 hours we were the only patrons dining in this space, the food - except for one dish - was a huge disappointment. The service was excellent and attentive. I thought the food was off tasting and uninspiring, except for one dish - a lovely dish of lentils with sauteed bay scallops. I do not eat raw seafood, so the first item I was served one tiny baby beet with a dab of ricotta and some sprout garnish - taste was ok, it was just a tiny portion and kind of uninspiring. The next course was a flatbread with some olive tampenade. Again, ok, but nothing special. Next came three thumbnail sized lobster agnolotti that were again ok, it was hard to taste any lobster. The lentil/scallop dish was served next and I did really enjoy that. My main entree course was the bronzino, and I usually love this fish. I really disliked the intensely garlicy broth that it was served in - I couldn't pinpoint the other flavors, was it tomato? I do like garlic, it was just overpowering in this dish. The two maybe one ounce portions of fish were, I thought, skimpy. We were also served a soup, a safron veloute that must have been no more than a tablespoon or two of soup in a tiny dish with some teeny tiny croutons on top. I did not eat this, I thought the taste was really off. Even the the usually velvety soft & yummy butter rolls were off this night -- they were hard & crunchy, like yesterdays overheated rolls. Dessert was fine....the wine was fine. I thought the portions were generally small. The timing was ok, about 15 minutes between each course. However, some of the five courses are only one and at most two bites. The rest of them are no more than small appetizer size. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a big portion person, but I felt that these portions could have been a bit more generous. The dinner with tip/tax approached $300, with food being $75 a person. I found my self longing for a bowl of their clam chowder and a normal entree. Neither a memorable dining experience nor a good value, in my opinion. In all, we will return to Black Salt, but not to the tasting menu.

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