Salt Tapas & Bar by Luke Mangan has been around for quite some time. I haven’t been there before, so hearing that the food is good only made my mouth water in anticipation. Furthermore, having Salt’s Executive Chef Ronald Li, 31, at the helm of the restaurant’s kitchen would mean that things there are only going to get better. He’s been in the food business since he was 18 , and apparently he’s put some great new stuff on the menu. Chef Li’s got a keen eye for plating, with the belief that people eat with their eyes first. And it’s his passion for plating that got him into the kitchen in the first place. Honing his culinary skills in various kitchens – from Singapore’s Four Season’s Hotel to Ku De Ta (now known as Cé La Vi) – also means that one can trust the good food he’s got to offer.
We started off with a couple of appetisers – all of which were pretty darned good – and one to take note of is the grilled Eryngii mushrooms served atop a smearing of chive aioli ($9). The fat mushrooms – otherwise known as King Trumpet mushrooms – look like bloated fingers in the market. But here, they were served as grilled slices that were beautifully charred. The charred parts added a smokiness which echoed the mushroom’s aroma very well, and added a bit of a crunch for some texture. What surprised me was how the slices remained so juicy and flavourful after all the scorching they had gone through. The robustness of the pungest aioli married the mushroom’s flavours beautifully. I’d give a nod to this dish, and will say that this is a definite must-have whether you’re a mushroom lover or not.
Grilled Eryngii Mushrooms With Chive Aioli
Another noteworthy mention will be the Bone Marrow with Shiitake Duxelle, which was served with garlic toast and Holland potatoes ($20). I’ve never had a good impression of bone marrow what with all the trouble of knocking the soft gelatinous marrow out of a bone, and also because of how it looks – Google the images if you dare. So never in my life have I ever bothered (or dared) to put bone marrow in my mouth. Here, the troublesome part of extracting the marrow from the bone was done away. Phew. The marrow was well-marinated in Chef Li’s secret spice mix and tossed merrily with juicy shiitake mushroom pieces and nicely charred Holland potatoes, resulting in a beautiful culinary mess that you simply couldn’t wait to dig into. The flavours of the starchy potatoes and earthy mushrooms weren’t overpowering, and complemented the buttery bone marrow very well. Eat it with the grilled garlic toast it comes with – the mix of flavours and textures is probably why this dish one of the highlights on the menu.
Bone Marrow With Shiitake Duxelle, Holland Potato, and Garlic Toast
I knew that it would be a complete sin to not have left the restaurant without having sampled their desserts. Being served the Gooey Chocolate Tart with passionfruit sorbet ($14) got the greedy candy-loving kid in me to throw my fist up in the air with glee (in my mind, of course). The tart is normally served with mango sorbet as seen on the menu, but the kitchen was out of that for the day. Working with a passionfruit sorbet was more than good enough. It gave the deep bittersweet smokiness of the chocolate ganache a surprising tangy-sweet dimension. The tart shell itself was good – light and crumbly with a nice buttery flavour. I could eat this thing for the rest of my life, and it’s not just because I’m a chocolate lover.
Gooey Chocolate Tart With Mango Sorbet
Other selections on the menu like the Taco of Tempura Prawn, Pineapple Salsa, Chipotle Aioli ($12), and the Grilled Barramundi, Mango Salsa, Sautéed Brocollini ($60) are worth a try as well. The latter is a whopping 400g worth of tender, lightly seasoned barramundi served on a hot grill. So unless you’ve been starving yourself for 2 days, share the fish with 3 other people as a main. Haven’t you heard of the term “Spread the love”?
Grilled Barramundi, Mango Salsa, Sauteed Brocollini
Salt Tapas & Bar, if you don’t know by now, is a great place to just wind down over dinner with your mates in the evening. After all, a good time isn’t a good time if there’s no hearty food shared over informal conversations in good company.