Salt House has been waiting patiently on my Need to Try list since I read of its opening a few months ago. This past Tuesday afternoon, I finally got the chance to check it out. Upon first entering the restaurant and surveying the exposed brick walls and large portions, I was reminded of Salt House's older sibling, Town Hall. However, Salt House definitely has a more youthful atmosphere; the rustic decor and Acme baguettes served on brown paper contrast with a cluster of contemporary light fixtures hanging above the bar and unusual touches such as water carafes marked with a heart and skull symbol. It seems to be aiming for what I can only describe as modern rustic.
Unless you are absolutely starving, for lunch I would highly recommend splitting a starter. My table decided to share the tuna and hamachi tartar salad. I was impressed with the presentation and simple (but obviously very fresh) ingredients. The dish tasted light and clean and was substantially brightened by the sliced apple artfully displayed on top. In fact, although the tartar salad was tossed in a zesty vinaigrette, it might have been slightly bland without the apple. -
For our main courses we ordered the gruyere and fontina grilled cheese with sunchoke soup, the duck confit, and the Dungeness crab appetizer. All of the mains looked wonderful (and were almost entirely eaten despite the large portions). I had the Dungeness crab which was served on top of a pile of shredded lettuce and accented with fried artichoke hearts and an olive tapanade. Although the lettuce was soggy from being drenched in far too much dressing, I was very pleased with my entree. The ample mound of crab was delicious and juicy, the artichoke hearts were lightly fried and perfectly crispy, and the olives complimented the dish well provided a nice bite.
We ended our meal with an unusual rhubarb dessert that was nothing like I had expected. Although the flavors were great separately, the cubes of rhubarb mixed in custard and topped with bits of granola combined to produce a strange textural experience. The pastry chef may want to think about simplifying his desserts a bit. Overall, it was really enjoyable lunch. There are still a number of other restaurants on my Need to Try list, but when I get a chance I am definitely interested in returning to Salt House. While I have heard complaints that during prime hours it can get quite noisy and crowded, that is a price I am willing to pay for a fun scene and good food!