Salt Kitchen & Tasting Bar

I’ve begun to get very boring in my dining habits.

For the last few years I’ve stuck to all the same places – places I’ll never write about because I want to keep them to myself. So all kinds of exciting, trendy new places have come & gone & I’ve never stepped foot inside of them. I’m getting old.

When Salt Kitchen & Tasting Bar opened up on Waialae Avenue (it’s right next to Coffee Talk), I heard all kinds of great things. Jason from Kalapawai Cafe had glowing things to say about their menu, so glowy in fact that it occurred to me that I should go there some time. When my friend Wes said he wanted to try it too, it was a done deal.

Jason had very helpfully texted me a list of menu recommendations – the belly pork sandwich, the fried egg, the beet salad, the charcuterie platter, & several others.   Once we arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see Jenny, formerly of Town. Among the very sparkly glittery things I had heard from people was only one piece of criticism: that the food was great but the service was bad. Upon seeing Jenny, however, I felt certain that all was well.

I didn’t keep close track of which wine we ordered or which slice was which cheese & I apologize for that. However, I did take pictures & these are all thumbnails so you may click on them for the larger versions. Enjoy, Logan.

The item I was most curious about was the Fried Egg, which Jason had described to me but which description had just plain fallen out of my head right after he told me because I think we had carbombs that night. I recalled only knowing that it was something very unique I absolutely had to try. I, who have never sampled Balut, but totally would given the opportunity, have always liked eggs. At least since the first time I saw Angel Heart. Actually I think it goes back to my first reading of the Hobbit.   Remember?   “A box without hinges, key or lid; yet golden treasure inside is hid.”   And yes, it should have been “hidden,” but it was Middle Earth & they had Sauron & orcs to deal with so I think that’s a good antigrammar excuse.   And yes, I’m fully aware that instead of golden treasure, balut would have Gollum in it… but anyway.

When the Fried Egg came, all that Jason had told me about it came back, but I was still surprised.   Who would ever have thought of breadcrumbing a boiled egg?   What a pain in the ass this must have been to prepare.   Even more so because, once sliced open, it was apparent that the egg had been perfectly soft boiled.

In the end it was still just a boiled egg that had been breadcrumbed, but I totally enjoyed it because I can never boil my eggs that perfectly. The spiced mayo that came with it was very tasty & went well with the buttery yolk.

Right off the bat I loved the ceviche (photo up above). It hadn’t been on Jason’s list but I love ceviche. There were 2 preparations & I picked the simpler sounding one. Jenny said that it was her favorite as well.

The belly pork sandwich had me from “belly.” Belly pork is decadent. I mean, it’s where bacon comes from. This belly pork was fried crispy & covered with a (traditionally) fried egg. The table next to us exclaimed that it looked like a loco moco sandwich. But it tasted like Heaven. Like Heaven & a really fat ass. But mostly like Heaven. Wes & I actually didn’t even bother with the sandwich top; frankly I would have really loved to have some of that crispy belly pork on some hot steamed rice.

And they had a cheese platter. Of course we had to get it. To be honest, it wasn’t to my taste, but Wes really enjoyed the Oregon Bleu. I like gouda & triple creams – the typical cheeseboard you’d get at your friend’s wedding in Waikiki – & I like anything smoked.

Wes had also never had figs before. Figs are my favorite fruit in the world. I actually have a fig tree but I never get to eat any figs because the birds always get them. Salt’s candied figs were delicious.

And of course we had to order the House Charcuterie Platter. They cure their own meats, after all. I was very excited about the “crispy head cheese,” which was a little medallion of head cheese, battered & deep fried. It was delicious. There was only a very faint hint of vinegar & the different textures within were perfect. It was just right. I also enjoyed explaining to Wes what it was after making him take a bite first. He not only enjoyed it but determined that he needed to visit a market & try head cheese in its “natural form.”

I left the smoked foie gras for last because 1) it was my favorite & 2) it was the worst picture I took. Perhaps my hand was shaking with anticipation.

The outside of the foie gras slice was peppered, & it was too much. I cut it off. Upon tasting the foie gras by itself, the only word I could think of to describe it was “beastly.” I’ve had all kinds of different preparations of foie gras – chilled, with fruit, seared, with sauce, cooked in a pastry – but they were always quite tame. This preparation horrified you at first with a strong raw bloody flavor & primitive texture, & then it immediately knocked you over as the creamy goodness which is foie gras spread through your mouth. And lingered.

It was so good I couldn’t even eat it with bread. I sampled the different cheeses in vain for something suitable to eat in between nibbles of foie gras, but in the end I just ate it, a nibble at a time, very slowly. In retrospect I think some greens would have been ideal.

I had a glass of riesling which was sweeter than promised but ended up being very good to my overwhelmed taste buds as dinner progressed. Wes had some nice, dry Spanish red which was not yet on the menu, & then chianti, which he enjoyed thoroughly. We finished up with flan, which was too spicy & sweet for me. If it had been less sweet I think I would have liked it. I think by the end of dinner I was worn out, & I really wanted a cup of tea.

Our tab came out to $128, pretty cheap for all that we had. Frankly I would like to go back & just eat ceviche & foie gras all night. Anyone?

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