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Jan 13, 2011 01:03 PM

Salt Wine Bar a real find! tapas for canivores. We will be back!

Having read something of the ups and downs of SWB's early days and licensing issues courtesy of the Ontario nanny state's minions, we went there last night, cold and tired - and were delighted to find on-street parking once we spotted the very discreetly-signed restaurant!

The hostess welcomed us warmly and offered to take our coats. We had reserved but the restaurant was only about half-full with a youngish demographic including a family group celebrating a birthday. The lighting was just right for my tastes - low, and the candle-lit atmosphere overall was welcoming thanks to wall and table flames and the beautiful woods and well -spaced tables.

Service was at first a trifle erratic - one or two items on the menu clearly unfamiliar to our genial waiter or the young ladies despatched with some of our plates - but proceeded apace and seemed to become more knowledgable or better briefed, anyway, as the evening proceeded. Our ice warer glasses were kept filled, and that is a big plus in my books.

My friend began with a martini manhattan made with bourbon - a bit sweeter than he would normally have preferred it - while I had a glass of dryish white Spanish wine, to whose cousin we then switched for a bottle of red. A premium chorizo, cut in thin slices - very good - and an absolutely delicious plate of little ham and cheese croquettes accompanied our drinks.

We then proceeded to the very best dish of the evening - poached or lightly fried foie gras on toast with pears and what seemed to be an apple-pear and apple butter reduction. It was incredibly delicious - a fair thinnish slice, bursting with flavour and done exactly to that point between mere warmth and molten dissolution! At $16 a head it isn't inexpensive, by any means; but that price point is a good deal less than inferior versions sold all over town in supposedly grander places.

As we waited briefly for our next choices to appear, we reflected that nothing could come near the foie. Well, we were wrong. Two "sandwiches" each in its way was a mean competitor in the scrumptious category. One was of pulled pork, tomato, guacamole (which I scraped off detesting the oiliness of that over-rated dip - it was clearly mentioned on the menu and another time I would ask for it to be omitted) and a spicy-sweet sauce more complex than one might get at a bbq joint. Wow - it was amazing. No less delectable, if slightly undersalted, was a parallel "sandwich" of wagyu short rib beef and seasonings. Both were generous-sized portions cut in two for our ease.

My friend not liking sweets, we moved to port - a bottle was concocted for us out of two 10 yr old Taylor's Tawny vessels - and cheese. We found the cheeses the weak point of the evening, not that they weren't tasty, but even the Spanish ones seemed unexceptional, and the pricing of the minuscule portions (25 g) was a bit much. We both thought afterwards that a reasonably priced sparkling wine with a few sweet tapas might have provided a more original and lighter conclusion to the meal.

Before we knew it, three hours or so had passed and we were out the door to face the cruel wind's wild lament and the bitter weather lol. As always happens at tapas-like places, seemingly-modest prices add up as one orders more dishes. To be fair, we did not stint on our alcohol.
With tax and tip we hit the $340 mark.

We enjoyed our evening terrifically and hope this place gets the custom it deserves.

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  1. I too loved the foie gras. After returning from a trip to northern Spain, I had been looking for foie similar in style to what I had in San Sebastian. Salt's foie, as well as their perfectly made croquettes really reminded me in a good way of the wonderful food I had in San Sebastian.
    The cost does add up very quickly, but the food was really enjoyable.

    1. Had dinner at Salt on Friday night. First time visit for us and we loved it!!

      Had six dishes between two of us, a martini, 3 glasses of red, coffee & dessert wine and the bill was $120 before tax & tip.

      Favourites of the night were waygu beef crudo, serrano croquettes, cod quenelles and a short rib sandwich. Also tried the grilled calamari and foie gras special but both seemd to lack falvour.

      Service was great and our server even suggested a few places for drinks after.

      Will definatley be back, especially for the salty chihuahua martini!!!

      1. We went to Salt Wine Bar last night. We really enjoyed the atmosphere, and our waiter was very attentive and helpful the whole evening, even as the the place started to fill up. I appreciated that there were several bottles of wine on the menu in, what I considered, a very affordable range. We chose a simple Portuguese Red wine for around $45. It went along very nicely with the olives, baguette with tapenade, jamon serrano, and trio of charcuterie. The Waygu beef short rib was divine.. it was melt in your mouth decadence... We also ordered the striped beet salad that had an oh so creamy goat cheese with it.. yum. We finished off with the Churros with a dark chocolate sauce, which was actually my least favorite of all the dishes... but still quite tasty. I thought that the churros were too heavy, and would have preferred something closer to the churros con chocalate that I've had in other locals around the world.
        Anyway, the evening was lovely. And we are planning to return.. there are several items on the menu we are looking forward to trying such as the grilled calamari,and lobster bisque, and the selection of house specialty martinis look too good not to try...

        1. we were there last night as well- had:
          the quenelles
          the cantaloupe salad
          the oxtail
          the duck confit
          the breem
          the beef crudo
          the sardines
          and fries.

          the cantaloupe salad was meh, the dice doesn't work for me and changes the flavor, the sardines were a little ho hum and the preserved lemon didn't come through (although my friend thought it really hit her, so I presume it depended on which bit you got) mine needed some acid.

          duck confit, the breem and the oxtail were big hits with all four of us at the table. perfectly seasoned (for me), simply presented, like your mom made but way better (sorry mom). the oxtail in paticular felt like a sunday supper.

          Service was great- unobtrusive, efficient and welcoming. my friend is gluten intolerant and the waitress was informed and helpful without making a big fuss.

          we had about 9 glasses of wine, two desserts and a coffee- the bill came in just over $300 with tip. I thought it was great and would definitely return. I really liked the room, it feels so cozy like you are in a library or a wine cellar.

          1. I'm going to sound like a dissenting voice on this thread, but I found Salt very disappointing.

            On the positive side, the room is beautiful and our service was excellent all night (kudos to the busy barkeep since we ate at the bar). On the not-so-positive side, the food...

            I thought this place was originally billing itself as a wine bar, but there were only five selections of red by the glass, and they were out of one. I ended up drinking a $15 Portuguese red, the most expensive of the options, and it was fine. They do have a nice cocktail list (some silly names aside) and they looked nicely executed with fresh squeezed juice. On another night, I would have been tempted to try a marg.

            We started with the pata negra and I knew we were in trouble when it came out on a long rectangular plate with two very thin slices of flat bread. The presentation was just too precious. We asked for some bread and were told that we could buy some baguette, which came with some (mediocre) hummus. Given that this place is spitting distance from some of the best Portuguese bakeries in the city this silly little baguette was a mockery and paying for maybe three inches of bread was insulting. The garlic shrimp were nice and fat, but while this dish is traditionally a big, buttery mess (and more delicious because of this), Salt sent out their shrimp in a line of five specimen down the same over-sized plates. They tasted OK. Same goes for the cod croquettes which were a bit mushy. Sardines and oyster mushrooms (two separate dishes) were both served on toast which made our order seem a bit redundant. Both were again merely OK. Frites were actually quite good, but we only ordered them out of desperation because we needed some food to sop up the vino. $125 in we were still really hungry and not interested in seeing the churros sanitized and pg-rated, so we trundled off to the Drake bbq where we are becoming regulars.

            In short, when I go to Torito I want to head back to Spain. The food is authentic, satisfying, fun and interesting. At Salt the room is gorgeous and the menu looked right, but it felt like the food had been simultaneously gussied up and yet dumbed down (and yes, I recognize that the pedigree is technically more Portuguese than Spanish). I would not recommend since I think this place is style over substance.

            276 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2L9, CA