Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Salute to Salt

SALT has been an institution in Beijing since 2007 when restaurateur Gaby Alves decided to go on her own after having successfully led Alameda to be a trustworthy worth-going-back-to restaurant in the Sanlitun area of Beijing. Her empire has now grown to include Terra Cevicheria and Rum Bar and Zest Coffee Shop. While her restaurants (like almost all restaurants in Beijing) suffer from the inability to always provide good service, good food and a great menu; SALT is reliable. It is affordable, clean, very customer friendly and is constantly coming up with new ideas and events to attract and keep customers.

As our loyal followers should have read in our earlier post, Decisions, decisions ..., we dragged (i.e., invited) our friends to join us for a tasting at SALT.  Their extremely difficult task was to help us try almost everything on the menu (so that we don't actually have to spend more time in the gym!).  Luckily for us, inspiration came fast and furious in the form of lemongrass and chili.

The party started with our Thai Martinis.  These fabulous concoctions immediately took us away to a  tropical beach.  You could almost imagine relaxing in a hammock while the world went on without you.  To keep us from staying on that beach, we enjoyed cheddar-wrapped olives (you really can't eat just one, or two, or five) and lemongrass and chili spiced nuts.  The perfect nibbles to get the evening started right.  

The smooth deliciousness of the pumpkin and lemongrass soup begged to be reinvented.  We served our version chilled with swirled yogurt and crowned with crushed peanuts.  After our duck disaster we were short of an accompaniment to the soup. Initially we wanted to put the smooth duck on toasted brioche and serve it with a mango salsa. Well, while the mango salsa tasted great, there was absolutely no way we could serve the massacred duck to any living being. Luckily we are extremely creative and confident home cooks (and a little stubborn – we just couldn´t let the duck go!) and decided to serve seared duck breast instead – and boy did it work! The saltiness of the duck, crispy skin and all, complimented the slightly spicy sweetness of the mango perfectly. The appetizer was a success.

As a main, we had all fallen in love with the fish dish –sole with fennel crushed baby potatoes, coconut ginger foam, roast yellow pepper cream, farofa and bok choy. We quickly eliminated the greens and the banana stuffing (farofa) but began to search for an alternate fish.  Good, fresh sole was just becoming too difficult to find.  After a multiple visit to the fish monger and a few test drives, we decided to go for cod. The crushed potatoes were a piece of cake but the real winner was the sauce. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough! To put some color on our plate and to add another texture, we quickly wilted some spinach for that touch of green.

For a grand finale, we decided to continue with the lemongrass theme and made silky, creamy lemongrass crème brulees. The crèmes were a piece of cake, to brulee them however proved a little difficult. As it turns out, our trusty kitchen torch didn’t fill up with gas as easily as it used to. We filled it up, and filled it up and then, filled it up again but still – it wouldn’t produce a flame! What to do? Well, at that point of the evening we simply did the most irresponsible thing you can do (don’t try this at home kids!) – we lit it up with a match. Nothing exploded and the dessert could finally be enjoyed – and it was delicious!

Appetizer and main course was enjoyed with a beautiful MOMO Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and dessert with a Serasin Gewurtztraminer.  YUM!

Though we were happy with our choices, we now think that we could have made the main dish even better by choosing another kind of side dish. Perhaps a sweet potato and parsnip puree instead of the crushed baby potatoes? And perhaps another kind of fish (we had big problems trying to explain what we wanted from our market lady) as in the end we spent quite some time getting bones out of the supposedly boneless fillets. So much for our fabulous Chinese skills!  The sauce (again, the sauce!) did not need any work and the greens were oxygen filled healthiness on the plate (and very colorful).

Thanks again Xiu for being such a great help before, during and after dinner and thanks to our guests who will remain nameless.

1 comment:

  1. You are so right. I am hungry! :)
    No way am I ever going to try this but it is so fun reading about it...And of course I would love to be one of the nameless guests! Hugs, Lynne