>> Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Salts is a cozy little restaurant between Central and Harvard Square in Cambridge. It sits in a funny area near MIT surrounded by Royal East, Bertucci's, Craigie on Main, and Toscanini's.
I had yet to try Salts since they came under new ownership about 5 years ago. The restaurant has been highly acclaimed locally, so we decided to try it out on Friday night. Surprisingly, it was easy to get a table at 7:45PM on Friday night. Is it the recession?
Bottom line? The food is excellent, especially their signature dish, "duck for two," which is worthy of its accolades. The ambiance is cozy, warm, and relaxing. The waitstaff is very friendly and they really put you at ease. We had a very enjoyable time there.
"7 Minute" farm Egg with foraged mushroom escabeche, shaved asparagus, toasted hazelnuts, and Idiazabal cheese ($15). This appetizer was excellent, probably my favorite item of the entire evening. The slightly cooked egg yolk spread throughout the rest of the salad, covering the farm foraged mushrooms and everything else. The dish tasted rustic, flavorful, and very balanced. The cheese and the egg added a nice counterpoint to the mushrooms and asparagus. The toasted hazelnuts gave the salad a nice crunch, adding to the interesting and complex texture of the entire dish. Very enjoyable.
Consomme with rabbit, raspberries, Salts farm borage flowers. I did not try this dish, but Bryan assures me that it was delicious.
The Signature Dish: Lavender honey glazed whole roasted boneless Duck for Two with spring onions, heirloom carrots, and petit farm turnips ($65).
My friend, guest blogger Peter, has this to say about the duck:
Salts is famous for its duck for two and that fame is well deserved. The bird is the size of a small turkey and can feed four comfortably. Do not be fooled by its conservative billing as a meal for two.
The first thing that strikes you about the dish is the plumpness of the duck's breast which are literally fat enough to be carved like a turkey. The duck is prepared Thanksgiving dinner style with a simple bread stuffing surrounded by fresh vegetables. There are no fancy gravies, gastriques, gelees, or foams. The skin is broiled to a crisp and the meat is cooked to perfection. The breast meat is on par in tenderness with well-prepared confited dark meat.
I enjoyed the dark meat the next day as a leftover meal and it was still super moist and delicious even after being microwaved. I have had my share of duck (as it is my favorite meat), but the duck at Salts has no parallel.
I totally agree. This dish was incredible, and totally worthy of its reputation. The skin on the outside was crispy while the meat on the inside, even the breast meat, was incredible soft and juicy. It's highly recommended that you reserve the duck beforehand. They only have a limited number of ducks per day, and they usually sell out. We actually reserved ours about 20 minutes before heading out to the restaurant, and it turned out that we had gotten the last duck of the day!
This is what the duck looked like after it was cut up and served to each individual.
We also had a chance to enjoy a bottle of Ojai Syrah Santa Barbara County 2006 (WS 87). I fell in love with the vineyard ever since I had a fantastic bottle of Ojai Pinot Noir Pisoni (WS 93) at Craftsteak New York. When I saw this reasonably-priced syrah, I jumped at the chance to try a different offering. It did not disappoint. While lacking in depth and complexity of its more expensive cousin, it was a still a very solid table wine. It had the spiciness that is characteristic of syrahs but it did not overwhelm. You can taste concentrated notes of blackberry and plum. Definitely a solid addition to the meal.
Over all, this is definitely a great restaurant worthy of a visit. The desserts are supposedly really good, but we had no room after stuffing ourselves with the duck, and therefore passed. The duck is definitely worth trying. However, even if you forget to reserve it beforehand, the restaurant is still worth visiting because of all their other interesting and innovative dishes.
798 Main St
Cambridge, MA 01239