Sometimes watching restaurant after restaurant open and close in a certain location can be exhausting. I can’t help but think about the money lost–not to mention the jobs–and the fact that when everything is said and done, someone’s dream of owning a restaurant is no longer a reality. A particular location on Magazine Street always comes to mind when I think of this phenomenon, and though it may not seem like very many, four restaurants opening and closing in the span of ten years does not paint the picture of success. For years 3226 Magazine Street was Semolina’s, then I believe they changed their name to Bistro Italia, then it was sold and Catch opened. No sooner than I had realized Catch was no longer “catching” anything (and never really did), Salu opened up in its place, and people were immediately talking about it. Normally, I’ll wait a few months before giving a new restaurant my business, but since two of my good friends had said it was delicious, I figured “what the heck?” and we popped in for dinner last Friday night.
Upon arriving the first thing we noticed was how loud it was in the restaurant. The bar and dining area are all in one room and the sound had escalated to an uncomfortable level. But before we had a chance to give it much thought, we caught eyes with two good friends seated at a four-top and they invited us to sit with them. Happy to not have to wait the estimated fifteen minutes, we accepted their invitation, sat down, and began playing catch up. They had already sipped their way through a bottle of wine, and enjoyed a few small plates of food, so my boyfriend ordered another bottle of wine, and I began studying the dinner menu. I spotted some familiar items such as the Medjool Dates and the Patatas Bravas, which I had tried variations of here. Also, the Grilled Lamb Lollipops and the Paella reminded me of dishes featured at Barcelona Tapas, so I opted to order some things that were familiar to me and some things that weren’t. My friend suggested that we get the Lamb Lollipops and the BBQ Pulled Pork, so I ordered those, along with the Deconstructed Beef Tar Tar (for the sake of trying something unconventional), the Duck and Manchego Flautas, and the Wild Mushrooms with Sherry Cream.
The Beef Tar Tar was a pretty big let-down, and even though I questioned twice as to what kind of beef it was, our waitress never got back to me about it. The plating was unimpressive and the dish was hard to eat. The diced “sides” meant to flavor and accentuate the beef were too small to easily grab with a regular sized fork. A small cocktail fork was not provided, which would have aided in being able to assemble our crostini properly. But I’m not sure any amount of diced egg, red onion, or peppers was going to create the end result the chef had in mind. The BBQ Pulled Pork was tender and I loved the red onions on top, but once again, presentation was lacking, and I also thought the pork was a little too oily. The Duck and Manchego Flautas were pretty good, but all the other flavors–the smashed avocado, salsa fresca, and cumin creme fraiche– overpowered the flavor of the duck. Let’s just say that if they changed the meat to chicken, I highly doubt anyone would notice. Luckily, the Lamb Lollipops were the best part of the meal, and the most expensive thing we ordered. For ten dollars you get two lamb chops that are seasoned and grilled until a juicy medium rare, then plated with some roasted red pepper-fava bean hummus and pita bread. The flavorful hummus was a nice addition, and for what it’s worth, went well with the lamb. The menu says that goat cheese is supposed to be crumbled on top, but I didn’t see any, and certainly didn’t miss it. Our last dish was the Wild Mushrooms with Sherry Cream. I enjoyed this because I really love mushrooms (of any kind) and mushrooms covered in a creamy sauce is most likely always going to be good. There was an element of spice and smokiness that was mellowed by the sherry cream, and though it was quite rich, the few bites I had for the five dollar price tag were well worth it.
Salu’s attempt at Spanish-style small plates wasn’t completely lost; however, I do think there is room for improvement. Plating seems sloppy and even though rustic, unpretentious plating can be very stylish and creative, I found that Salu’s was bordering on lazy and/or rushed. And the noise, the NOISE is inexcusable. One of the best parts about enjoying a meal out is the conversation that ensues, and I absolutely refuse to justify sporting a sore throat after eating a meal just because someone didn’t bother worrying about the restaurant’s acoustics. I hope, for the sake of those invested in the success of Salu, that it’s time on Magazine Street isn’t as short-lived as it was for Catch. Having said that, they still won’t get my business again until the weather cools down and we can sit outside to avoid the noise.
After dinner, we headed down the street to Sucré, where we soothed our sore throats by sharing the Petite Vanilla Cake and the Salted Caramel Filled Cupcake. Obsession is an understatement.