Salt: A Gastropub
109 Route 206
Byram, Sussex County, New Jersey
By The Artful Diner
June 23, 2008
During my initial visit to Salt, I freely confess that I was a
tad (no pun intended) disappointed on a number of fronts... But the place grows
on you. And, after several more sojourns, I really began to tune into Bradley
and Laurie Boyle's latest culinary venture.
The former proprietors of the highly-rated BYOB Bula in Newton have switched
gastronomic gears, trading in the rigors of "World Cuisine" for the
joyous challenges of an unabashedly Americanized version of the
British-inspired "Gastropub." And, judging by the crowds, their
decision was a wise one.
Just one word of caution: Should you arrive expecting the sophisticated
globe-trotting cuisine the couple offered at Bula, you may be in for a slight
disillusionment. On the other hand, if you're in the market for reasonably
priced, first-rate, innovatively prepared casual cuisine served up in an
equally casual, pub-like setting -- the quintessential definition of
"gastropub" -- you will surely be quite satisfied.
That's not to say that everything is picture perfect. For one thing, Bradley
Boyle is no longer the power behind the stove; the kitchen reins have been
fully taken over by Tony Mandeville, the former second-in-command at Bula,
while Mr. Bradley, along with his wife, Laurie, concentrates his efforts upon
management and front of the house affairs. In any such transition, there are
bound to be a number of near misses.
Appetizers, though are very good across the board. The goat croquettes
($6.00), for example, exhibit a marvelously crisp panko crusted exterior, while
the rich, creamy core is beautifully counterbalanced by slices of poached pear
and the understated acidity of a raspberry-balsamic vinaigrette. The
"Blood Mary Shrimp" ($7.00) are also panko crusted, skewered, and
delectably crunchy. They arrive at table in the company of fresh celery sticks,
and a zippy non-alcoholic bloody Mary shooter.
The olive salad ($5.00) also makes an excellent prelude. A mélange of baby
greens provides the foundation, while pitted olives, morsels of olive
oil-marinated goat cheese, and whole grain crackers add appropriately rustic
notes. Conversely, the roasted vegetable ravioli ($6.00) clearly demonstrates
that the kitchen is also capable of a good deal of finesse. The diminutive
handmade pockets are ethereal of countenance, filled with perfectly seasoned
minced vegetables, and gently caressed by a subtly addictive lemon-thyme cream
Of the entrées sampled, only the meatloaf ($16.00) failed to hit the mark.
It was overly dense, dry, and slightly burned and tough around the edges.
Certainly not the kitchen's finest hour.
On the other hand, if you're incurably carnivorous by nature, I strongly
recommend the hanger steak ($17.00). Inordinately tender & flavorful slices
are arranged around an epicenter of cracked mustard smashed potatoes and
crowned with a tiara of Asian-spiced slaw. A first-rate effort...
As is the "Flight of Burgers" ($12.00; there are also abbreviated
versions on the lunch and bar menus), three juicy mini burgers on brioche rolls.
The presentation also headlines a triptych of cheeses: cheddar, Parmesan, and
mozzarella; and condiments: a slightly watery but undeniably flavorful homemade
ketchup, sun-dried tomato aïoli, and spicy remoulade. The accompanying
fries are also quite good, albeit rather soggy on several occasions.
I would also highly recommend the fish 'n' chips ($14.00). The specific
species changes from time to time, but the African grouper I sampled was
superb. The crust was crisp & light, not the least bit greasy, the fish was
moist & flaky, and the ramekin of malt vinegar a tangy success.
The kitchen does a credible job with pasta as well. The farfalle ($12.00) is
firm to the bite and embellished with tender morsels of sautéed chicken,
niçoise olives, chunks of tomato, and crumbles of feta cheese. A relatively
simple dish, but the combo of colors, tastes, and textures is just right.
And there are other pluses... Side dishes ($4.00) -- namely sugar snap peas,
fabulous Guinness braised onions, and utterly addictive candied bacon -- are
certainly worth the additional modest expenditure. And, should you stop by for
lunch, the open-faced pulled pork sandwich adorned with a crown of coleslaw
($8.00) is equally difficult to resist.
Desserts ($5.00), however, are very much a mixed bag. Both the flourless
chocolate cake and the crème brùlée were outstanding. But the butterscotch
raisin bread pudding was soggy and burned around the edges, and the bananas
Foster was incredibly cloying, as unattractive to the eye as it was to the
palate. No espresso here, which is something of a letdown, and the decaf coffee
I tasted was insipid.
The bar area is usually bustling and a good spot to enjoy a brew or glass of
wine. The beer list is extensive and runs the gamut from Indian pale ales to
German wheat beers to Belgian lambics and just about everything in between. The
wine list is compact, marries well with the food, and also offers some good,
solid selections by the glass. Especially noteworthy are a crisp, refreshing
Hogue Pinot Grigio from Washington State ($6.00) and a heady Rosenblum
The atmosphere is loud, funky, and fun; the décor a mishmash of wood &
stone and mismatched tables & chairs; and the service young, energetic,
trying hard, and still learning the ropes.
Salt is, given its youthful exuberance, unashamedly a work in
progress. But, despite a few culinary missteps, Bradley & Laurie Boyle
obviously have a winner on their hands. And I have absolutely no doubt that, as
the months pass, both the cuisine and the service will serve its many patrons
Cuisine: Innovative Pub Grub
Hours: Tues - Fri, 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.; Sat, 2:00 p.m. - 1:00 a.m.;
Sun, 2:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Bar Menu: Tues - Fri, 11:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.;
Sat, 2:00 p.m. - 12:00 midnight; Sun, 2:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.; Lunch Menu: Tues -
Fri, 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Dinner: Tues - Thurs, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Fri,
5:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.; Sat, 2:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.; Sun, 2:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Credit Cards: All major
Reservations: Accepted for parties of six or more only
Alcohol: License; extensive beer menu
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
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Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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