Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Matthew 5:13 (Salt Of The Earth Reviewed)

"You are the salt of the earth. You are the salt of the earth. But if that salt has lost it's flavor it ain't got much in it's favor. You can't have that fault and be the salt of the earth!" -Matthew 5:13 (with a little interpretation from Stephen Schwartz)

Salt of the Earth (in Garfield) certainly doesn't have "that fault," which makes its name quite appropriate. From start to finish the experience was filled with great flavor (and consequently, great texture and taste); and although it's not dahntahn, Salt of the Earth is a true representation of Pittsburgh's "Third Renaissance."

Salt is exactly what Pittsburgh needs. Why? Well, from the outside, patrons know that they are in the Burgh, which is good because Burghers like familiarity. Salt sits near a classic Pittsburgh intersection (like so many in this neighborhood-based city) that serves as a melting pot of diverse areas. There's East Liberty with its surging redevelopment, and Friendship is over yonder waving hello. Bloomfield, Shadyside, Morningside, Highland Park, and Lawrenceville are just a few blocks away as well. But, from the inside, patrons could be in any bustling, chic, urban environment, which is also what Pittsburgh needs... urban dining without the Terrible Towel hanging on the wall and the yinzer accent reverberating.

With an open kitchen and both communal and private dining areas, Salt of the Earth has an understated ambiance. Metal sculptures with light features; neutral tones contrasted with blacks, grays, and charcoals; wooden and metal furniture; and traces of IKEA; all work well together to create a warm atmosphere. The absence of color doesn't last once food and drinks complete this picture.  

Boyd & Blair, Gozio Liquorice, Cranberry, Prosecco ($10)
If you have reservations, I recommend arriving early. This isn't because Salt is unprepared. No, this is to allow time to grab a seat at the bar and sample one of Salt's signature (and quite creative) cocktails, and then take a good look at the menu which encompasses the entire East wall of the space. As is evidenced in many restaurants, Salt uses chalkboards (both up and downstairs) to present their menu, which is broken into three categories: Starters, Mains, and Ends.

Everything we (JTP and me, that is) tried was full of flavors, textures, and tastes that we would easily recommend to anyone. The portions were optimal, and the combination of ingredients (as provided below) created dishes that were startling bursts in our mouths, but were also fulfilling and satisfying. In short, nothing disappointed; and although we will try new items* on our next trip to Salt, I would order these again without hesitation and with gusto!

Starters
Octopus, white bean, chorizo, cilantro, botarga, almond ($13)
This was the most tender octopus that I have ever eaten, and the salsa verde (cilantro) really added a complementary touch. As I was savoring, I was hoping that the main course would be just as fun!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi, beef cheek, tongue, chestnut, papaya ($11)
JTP went for the gnocchi; and after a few bites, he declared, "This is a big hitter." If one has the chance to meet JTP, he or she will soon discover that his "declarations" are quite declarative. Thus, when it comes to food, his statements can be taken for truth.

Mains
Scallops, mussels, sunchoke, artichoke, pancetta olive ($24)
This was a very refreshing entree, due largely to an underlying citrus flavor. The scallops were seared to perfection. Generally, mussels have a strong flavor, but these were small enough that they supplemented rather than distracted from the dish. Oh yes, and the olives... in a word: delicious.

Hangar Steak, broccoli kimchi, wild rice porridge, ginger ($21)
Prepared medium rare, this light and tender beef melted in our mouths. The kimchi "made" the meal by providing a miniature explosion. To us, kimchi needs to be both spicy and crunchy, and this was exactly that.

Ends
S'more, chocolate, elderflower, graham, malted barley ice cream ($8)

I don't know if I even know enough adjectives to describe this dessert dish adequately; but I will say this: if one needs a change of taste or just something to end the night well, this is it. If one looks closely at my picture, he or she will see that there is an object in the upper left that resembles a pork chop. It's not a pork chop. That is one of two roasted marshmallows, which when combined with the other items on the plate, creates a dessert that makes the s'mores I was eating at Girl Scout camp look less appealing than a well drink. The elderflower reminded me of pomegranate seeds, which was a nice garnish. JTP and I shared this treat, but I could have easily gorged and finished it off all on my own.

Overall, we were in Salt of the Earth for a little over an hour, which was the ideal amount of time for an evening meal on a weeknight. The service was knowledgeable, helpful, and polite; and we were never without anything that we needed.

Lastly, I truly appreciate that Salt of the Earth offers tap water to drink; as there is nothing wrong with drinking this tasty beverage option in Southwestern PA.

Salt of the Earth on Urbanspoon

4 stars (4/4)

*JTP is looking forward to the Duck (parsnip, haluski, pomegranate apple butter, brussels), and I anticipate trying the Pork Loin (farro, mushroom, pear).

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