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Undersalted restaurant food

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  • Afar Dec 20, 2008 10:29 AM
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The Chowhound Team split this thread from its original location on the L.A. board. If you'd like to discuss your opinion of the food served at the Curious Palate, please respond on this thread:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/579532

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The wonderful thing about under-salted food is each dinner can use a table saltshaker to get their perfect taste. Please don't salt the food.

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  1. i completely concur with you Afar.

    2 Replies
    1. re: westsidegal

      And I with the two of you. We went for the first time yesterday and found the food to be quite good. Yes, undersalted compared to what we're used to when we eat out elsewhere, but I think this begs the question, is our food at many of the eateries a tad oversalted? Are our tastebuds too accustomed to depending on salt flavoring up our food?

      I think if one gives the flavors of the food at this place a chance, they do impart a lot of care and consideration. Beluga lentils start to taste like lentils, carefully cured pickles taste of herbs and spices, short ribs sing of beef that has been delicately braised in a red wine sauce, and even the mac & cheese imparts great levels of flavors - you can actually taste the various cheeses as well as the pasta.

      Between their heavily locavore-driven menu and the focus on using good products in their food and drinks (e.g., Intelligencia coffee and tea, artisan breads, etc.), I'm pretty impressed with Curious Palate's efforts in bringing good food across their counter.

      I forgot to ask them if patrons are allowed to bring alcohol - does anyone know? Thanks

      1. re: bulavinaka

        Agreed undersalted is always better, I happened upon the curious palate today. The gourmet selection is pretty nice. I picked up a few things and a home made brownie i'll be going back to try some of their food soon can't wait. I would have never known this place was right around the corner from me if it wasn't for all the reviews. The owner seemed really nice and seemed to truly care about the quality of the food he serves.

    2. Hows about PROPER salting so that is not necessary?

      9 Replies
      1. re: Adsvino

        Which coordinated universal individual salt taste standard would you suggest the chef use? (g)

        1. re: Servorg

          The one they teach in culinary school?

          1. re: Adsvino

            Which school? Anyone or is there one that trumps all the others? All kidding aside. Salt is one of those tastes that is so variable no one standard could or would work. But, since you can't take it out it just makes sense to under salt and let the individual diner add more to taste. The lucky thing is that adding salt after the fact works just dandy.

            1. re: Servorg

              Well, a chef might tell you some dishes can ONLY be salted in advance, as they fail to season right after the cooking process has concluded.

              At this place, I'm sure you will be fine :)

              1. re: Adsvino

                Some chef's have spent WAY too much time breathing in smoke and gas fumes.

        2. re: Adsvino

          Gotta agree with Servorg - is there such a thing? I personally feel the approach by the folks at the Curious Palate to be good for me - I ended up enjoying the food as is...

          1. re: Adsvino

            d'ya mean the amount of salt that many places use to cover up their flavorless, cheap, basic ingredients?
            i believe that if your basic ingredients are of very good or supurb quality, less salt is better.

            1. re: westsidegal

              Salt can be a bit like what goes in your coffee: light cream, soy milk, whole milk, half & half or nothing? You get the coffee black and make your own decision as to what to add. Years ago light cream was dispensed and that was that. Times have changed food service for the better. In culinary school, I have been told by one student, chefs are taught to add a pinch of salt only. Today's discerning customer will depart a restaurant after handing food back and not paying or leaving never to return if the food is too salty. If the chef leaves it to the customer to request salt or use table salt everyone leaves happy, at least as far as salt is concerned. bulavinaka did an excellent bit or writing in the first comment posted about salt. The ongoing consensus to limit the use of salt validated bulavinaka thinking. As for Jase's long comment/review it is informative and very good but shake your own salt.

              1. re: Afar

                This thread popped back up again and I hadn't realized there was additional comments. As the original poster on this, I'd like to point out that my wife is very sensitive to oversalting things. I too prefer things to be err on the side of less salt.

                That's why I mentioned the lack of salt to our palates. It was unusual enough for me to comment on it. Also in my original post I pointed out that it was only in some of the dishes. Other dishes were fine. So to me it was an inconsistency. There's a big difference in my mind between something just tasting flat and subtle flavors. I liked their food overall.

                But what I found most interesting was when I first posted my review, I got several people jumping in without ever actually having tasted the food. At least taste the dang food before criticizing my post.

                I'm fine with erring on the side of less salt, but cooking completely without salt and expecting the diner to add their own salt at the end is not something I agree with.

          2. Came across this "salt" post from another food site, NOT in California: I had the opportunity to visit this restaurant and the presentation was excellent.The waitress was good.The food looked great and I was about to enjoy a well presented plate of fresh vegetable and fish.One bite and it was salt city.While I love my pepper I hate salt.To me that should be left to the customer to choose; but, no the chef decided to salt before serving. At first the chef denied it but then admitted to it. I hadn't time to stay for yet another meal preparation so they gave me no choice..sorry goodbye. Now I don't care to return. --- A recent discussion about salt I had with the house chef suggested that, in any given meal, plenty of salt is consumed in the breads, sauces, drinks and sides. If you are running a restaurant one had best do whatever gets the most favorable response from the dinners so they will return.

            1. Are you suggesting chefs not salt food at all? If that is your contention then I completely disagree. Food needs to salted as it's cooking to bring out the level of flavors. If you don't believe me take something as simple as mashed potatoes and try not salting until it gets to the table. It will never be as good as if you salt before hand.

              3 Replies
              1. re: KTinNYC

                True, certain things need to be salted while cooking, potatoes, pasta, blanching vegetable liquids, but a minimum is needed. l am so tired of reductions that may have been salted properly in the beginning but on further reductions become so salty as to be inedible for me. Charlie Trotter's was guilty of this as well as many haute cuisine places around the country. Live in France part of the year and have rarely found this to be the case in Europe. l do not like salted food. Sure, give me a dish of Fleur de Sel and sweet butter and great bread and off l go, but to have fresh wonderful stuff masked by heavy salt is not for me. Been doing this for meat for years when l cook it. No salt at all when cooked and put a great finishing salt on the table for everyone to do what they want when eaten. No one has ever complained not salty enough, and l make a point of asking whenever l cook. l collect table salts from all over the world, have around 80 and use them as flavorings not preservatives.

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  And so many places use iodized salt and that I'll always taste that - yuck. Give me just enough salt as needed during preparation and let me taste the flavors of the ingredients themselves.

                  1. re: alwayscooking

                    Rule as l was taught, was if you live within 60 miles of an ocean or eat shrimp three times a year, your body will get enough iodine without needing it from outside sources.

              2. What?

                If you undersalt food it will taste really, really bad, in general.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Halie

                  Yep, you're right.

                2. i disagree. saltying after is not the same. salt causes a whole host of chemical reations, besides just adding saltiness. and even ignoring that, saltiness on the surface is not the same taste as salt inside.

                  and as a side note - one post in this thread has this comment: " l am so tired of reductions that may have been salted properly in the beginning but on further reductions become so salty as to be inedible for me."

                  this sort of argument makes me nutty. no one wants food oversalted to the point of inedibility, but there are certainly more choices than undersalt and inedibly salty, aren't there?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: thew

                    Of course, and usually no problem, but when oversalted, the dish is ruined without hope of redemption. Some of us like their food less salted than others. l mentioned some things should of course be salted in preparation, but many need less salt or no salt in preparation..
                    And again once salted to excess in some of our opinions, what then.

                  2. You would all love the "ABC Gourmet" show on the elgourmet channel in Latin America. Until a couple of years ago, the otherwise brilliant very technical instructional shows were made impossible to watch by the TONS of salt that they added to each dish. Things seem to be changing and almost all of the great chefs on the channel shows now use a lot less salt. The point may be that rough "average" national levels of salt intake and acceptance may have a lot to do with salting.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Ate some steaks on a trip across the northern tier of US, they literally dredged the meat in salt before throwing on grill. In Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana.

                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                        Everybody's taste preference for salt is personal. I agree that certain foods need to be cooked with a pinch of salt. Take the popular hamburger for example. I've never cooked it salted. When I was a lot younger I always added table salt. Now I use no salt. My taste for salt has changed. I am on the side of those pointing out that too much salt added when cooking can be destructive, as Del says "ruined without hope of redemption".

                        1. re: Afar

                          http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/22/hea...

                          1. re: Afar

                            http://tinyurl.com/yj9ee9k
                            In NYC salt has become THE big issue. It's debated in the link provided.

                    2. If everybody's salt tolerance is different then why not be more "inclusive" than thou and just not put any in?

                      I'm certain that would satisfy everybody and we would all live happily forever after.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                        food salted after is not the same as food salted during. no amount of salt after will get in the pasta or in the potatoes. Also salt causes changes in the way things cook. the chemistry of salt after is completely different.

                        1. re: thew

                          It would be interesting to see that theory put to a test with double blind placebo controlled trials. I am betting that people could not tell the difference in taste between food salted before/during the cooking process or after.

                          1. re: Servorg

                            depends on the food, but i have definitely noticed when, say, pasta is not salted during cooking.

                            1. re: thew

                              Even with the sauce on the pasta? Or are you talking about tasting just the cooked pasta alone? I am still willing to bet that if you didn't know which batch had salt added to the water/cooking process, and which batch had salt added after it was cooked, you would not be able to discern a taste difference. It would be interesting to see this put to a true test.

                              1. re: Servorg

                                yes even with sauce. the pasta tastes flatter

                          2. re: thew

                            I actually agree with you completely and suspect you're right. Surface salt, unsurprisingly, is much more "up front" and I can even detect the grit. Salt during cooking, on the other hand, disolves into the food and disperses much more evenly. The saltiness is also smoother and less harsh when done this way.

                        2. I've not seen a comment on health issues. I'm hypertensive and very salt sensitive, so I must avoid too much salt or my bloodpressure goes through the roof. A reasonable amount of salt is OK and you can add more at the table, but the rest of us can't take it out. I have asked for unsalted fries and waited for a fresh batch to be cooked only to have them be scooped up with such a salty scoop that I couldn't eat them.