Sweetsalt Food Shop (Toluca Lake)
I caught the L.A. Times review of Sweetsalt Food Shop today.
I think it was divine intervention because I had forgotten my lunch at home, and had driven into the office today, so I decided to check it out. It's Alex Eusebio's (Top Chef contestant from season 5) new place. It's a rather cute and simple little place with wooden tables and metal chairs. It was super busy when I walked in.
I went for the duck confit sandwich. It had duck confit, onion confit, chevre cheese, lavendar honey, and alfalfa sprouts on a ciabatta roll. I have to say that it was quite nice. The roll was more soft than crusty. The duck was lovely and rich and the alfalfa gave it a nice crunch. I did feel a bit overwhelmed by the honey and the onion confit...it felt a little too sweet for me, and I don't think I got enough chevre throughout the sandwich. The parts where there was chevre, there was a nice balance of flavors, but where there was no chevre, it felt more like dessert than lunch. The sandwich came with a mesclun salad made with the house honey-citrus vinaigrette...the acidity from the salad helped cut the sweet from the sandwich. I also found a tiny bit of duck bone in my sandwich.
The selection of desserts were nice, so I picked up a red velvet cookie sandwich with cream cheese frosting. The cookie sandwich while okay, did not really wow me with the lightly cocoa-y vinegar-y flavor that red velvet is supposed to have...and I found the cream cheese frosting to be too sweet. I believe the desserts are made by Valerie (an outside provider), however, the chef has the creme brulee he made on Top Chef available on the menu for $3.
The vast majority of the customers were ordering the short rib sandwich and the turkey avocado.
Being that this is their first month or so of operation, I'm willing to give it another try. They have sandwiches and salads ranging from $7-$10. They make their soups daily, and have a lovely case of charcuterie and cheeses from America and Europe. They also sell an interesting selection of snacks and seasoning salts.
Sweetsalt Food Shop
10218 Riverside Drive
Toluca Lake, CA 91602-2502
Went back today with a co-worker and we decided to go all out. Short rib sandwich and two desserts for her. Shrimp Po Boy, apple fennel soup with bacon, and a blueberry "Pop Tart" for me. We halved our sandwiches so that we could sample. Hers was quite good, I can understand why it's so popular. The short rib has a deep red wine flavor and you can taste the herbs the chef used. I enjoyed the peppery arugula, but did not enjoy how the bottom end of the roll was soggy (we had taken our lunch back to the office a few minutes away). The Shrimp Po' Boy was a thing of beauty. Spiced shrimp cooked perfectly, pesto, fresh lettuce and tomato, a great aioli....and potato chip crumbles! The extra crunch gave the sandwich extra texture that I really enjoyed. The meclun salad is still refreshing as ever. They even gave me samples of the soups (Chipotle Tomato and Apple Fennel with Bacon). I enjoyed both samples...they were excellent, but took back the apple fennel because there was something so unique about it. Sweetness from apples, the aroma of anise from the fennel...and a hint of bacon....really nice, but I didn't even touch it because I had my hands full with the sandwiches. My co-worker tried the blueberry macaron....was okay, she's had bettter....and the macadamia white chocolate apple cookie...it was complex, but it was okay. My blueberry "Pop Tart" was really nice. Super flaky pastry with a hint of salt, and a cumbly streusel-like topping, but inside revealed a whole blueberry compote. I'll never eat a Pop Tart, again...the compote was a bit on the dry side, but the flavor was nice and strong. Great lunch.
Service was fine. Order was taken fast, and the servers understand the menu. We waited about 10-15 mins and this was after noon. Chef Alex came out of the kitchen to great his patroms while we were there. It was very nice to see him going from table to table. Super yummy lunch.
Stopped by today a little after noon and ordered the short rib roll to go. It took about 10-12 minutes to get my prder which isn't too bad. Cost around $11 all in.
The roll is very straightforward: braised short-rib, onion confit, roasted garlic, goat cheese and arugula served on a soft brioche bun and comes with a side of salad greens and salad dressing.
Overall, pretty decent samich.
The short-rib had a perfect tender texture, but the seasoning i.e. mainly salt could have been more precise. I detected a faint soy sauce flavor that needed just a touch of salt to make it pop.
The garlic was quite pronounced, but in a good way. Didn't get much from the onion at all and just a subtle hint from the goat cheese which I appreciated.
I've been to Sweet Salt half a dozen times and I love it! Today the soup was Tomato Citrus or Pear Bisque with Blue Cheese crumbles on top. I just love the soup/sandwich/salad options. Granted you MUST be here before noon or it gets crazy. I have only experienced the rude service once and I believe it was the owner's wife, but all in all it fills a much needed void in this area.
I had high hopes for SweetSalt but on two occasions I found the soups to be oversalted and/or not very interesting. The duck confit sandwich was disappointing. The duck confit itself was not very flavorful, and there was no chevre that I could detect. When I asked the counter person if they were sure there was chevre on my sandwich he checked with the kitchen person who said "yes." Okay then, despite the fact that I can't see or taste it, I must be wrong. No suggestion that perhaps they could take the barely touched sandwich and add a bit of chevre. I also find sprouts very assertive (aromatic) and thought they overwhelmed the sandwich. In other words, I can't get too interested in returning. Artisan Cheese Gallery makes a killer duck confit sandwich and that's where I'll be heading when I get a duck confit craving.
SweetSalt really needs to work on its recipes to improve the flavor if it's going to attract return customers. I agree that the neighborhood needs a place like this; SweetSalt just isn't it, so far.
Artisan Cheese Gallery
12023 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA
I went last week and had the shortrib sandwich. Sandwich was pretty good, though a little too heavy and missing complexity. I'd eat it again, but I wouldn't call it craveable. Side salad was great. Other menu items looked delicious too. And yes, service was insanely slow with my dining partner getting their food about 10-15 minutes before I got mine...very bad pacing. But the area is in desperate need of a good lunch place and this place is still very new, so I have high hopes!
It's a shame...that area really needs a place like that but the service kills it for me ( us ). A group of us used to go from work but each time encountered rude service from the wife and would also hear her complaining about other customers. If you don't have the personality for it then don't work the front-of-house. It seems they are busy so I doubt the service will change.