Salts Restaurant: Unexpected Elegance With A Few Twists

I can't tell you the number of times I've walked by Salts Restaurant and not given it a second glance. I'm not exactly sure why, to tell you the truth. I think that the fancy copper sign with funky lettering seemed like it was trying too hard... and in my mind it was overcompensating for mediocre food. Boy, was I wrong! Our meal at Salts on Friday night was one of the best fine-dining meals I've had in a long time.

First, a note: unlike most places in Cambridge, this restaurant is actually pretty fancy. I was wearing jeans and a collared shirt, but I was definitely under-dressed. Luckily, the restaurant didn't seem to mind, but as I sat there, more and more suited and high-heeled guests came in, and I felt more and more like I should have dressed up a little more! The ambiance in there is very cute and refined, as well as romantic, I would say.

Before the meal, they brought us a small bowl of parsnip soup with apple and garlic foam, which was really really good.

Our first course was pretty adventurous: Soft cooked farm egg with burgundy snails, ham, morels, parsley, green garlic, oat "rissotto", walnut oil and some kind of foam (I forget what kind). Ok, I'll admit it, I didn't actually eat the snails, I'm too much of a wimp. But the risotto was excellent, especially the morel mushrooms, although the bright green of the risotto was a little bit off-putting,. We were excited to try the oat risotto because that is something we have made ourselves as part of our "Risotto Challenge" where we are trying to make a risotto out of each whole grain. But I digress...

For the main course, I had Atlantic halibut with heirloom potato gnocchi, pickled beets, black truffle "caviar" in a dill emulsion. WOW. The fish was crispy on the outside and buttery smooth on the inside. The "caviar" was actually encapsulated truffle oil, which was a creative touch, and the pickled beets were sweet and unexpected (in a good way). The dill emulsion sauce was also very good. The weak link in this dish were the gnocchi, which I felt were a little bit under seasoned and underwhelming compared to the rest of the elements in the dish.

Tucker had the hazelnut agnolotti (pasta) with french white asparagus, artichoke, aged gouda, saffron, and  orange. This dish was also very good, although the presentation wasn't as pretty as my dish, and the dish wasn't as colorful. All of the flavors were a lot more subtle in this dish, but still quite excellent.

For dessert, we had the chocolate and caramel tart with candied kumquats, whipped caramel, and hazelnut brown butter ice cream. All of this was good, especially the ice cream which was slightly burnt tasted and really unique. The candied kumquats were a really nice addition to the dish as well.

Overall, this place is getting 5 stars from me, the food and ambiance were excellent, it is fancy without being stuffy and the food is unique without going over the top (although they could stand to lay off the foam a little bit, isn't that a 2009 trend?)
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