798 Main St, Cambridge, MA 02139
Towards the end of last year, I took my wife to Salts to celebrate her birthday. This was our first time at Salts. It's definitely more of a special occassion type of place. We had heard great things about the restaurant, and Salts is consistently in the discussion on message boards regarding the best restaurants in the Boston area. The restaurant is a pretty small, quaint place in Cambridge situated right next to a candy manufacturing plant, oddly enough. As you pass by, you can smell the candy being made. It's also down the street from Craigie on Main.
The dining room is really intimate, and the menu has a very clear French leaning. Having just come back from France, we noticed that even the restaurant's service was decidedly "French" in its style. Many dishes, such as their famous whole duck, were presented and plated tableside in the style of Escoffier. We also saw the chef-owner come out to greet every table, including ours, and ask how our meal was once we finished. It reminded me very much of when we dined in Lyon, and Paul Bocuse, even at his old age, came out to greet our table when we dined at his inn restaurant.
What's interesting though is that while much of what Salts does is traditional, we noticed many modernist techniques used for multiple components of various dishes. One dish had some type of faux "caviar" on it, clearly made using the spherification technique. Our dessert, which had a peanut butter "snow", was also likely made using tapioca maltodextrin. The blend of old and new was really intriguing to me, and I liked seeing modernist techniques being applied to traditional French cuisine. The funny part is I don't think most diners there even notice these things since the modernist components are well integrated into the dishes and have a meaningful place on the plate, as they would on any good plate of food. Molecular gastronomy and modernist cuisine get a bad rep when the techniques are used for technique's sake, but when incorporated thoughtfully into a dish and used to enhance flavor and texture, they certainly have place.
The meal started with an amuse bouche of this silky, smooth mussel soup.
For our first course, we shared the charcuterie plate, which featured a chicken liver mousse, country pate, rabbit sausage, and duck proscuitto. Every different item was really delicious.
For her main, my wife ordered the painted hills ribeye that came with sunchokes, root vegetables, potato, and bone marrow custard.
For my main, I ordered the roasted halibut with potato gnocchi, pickled beets, black truffle "caviar", and dill emulsion. The halibut was cooked perfectly, the gnocchi were light, and the dill butter sauce was rich and delicious.
For dessert, we ordered the chocolate tart with banana, miso, and peanut butter. Chocolate always seem to work well with banana and the miso and peanut butter added a bit of saltiness. Overall, the dish had interesting flavor combinations but overall was a little on the rich side for my liking.
After we finished all of our courses, the waitress brought out some small petit fours, another very French touch.
Overall, I really enjoyed the meal at Salts and would most definitely return. The whole traditional vibe and ambiance is a bit too formal for my personal liking, but what matters the most - the food - was top notch. I absolutely can see why Salts is considered one of the best restaurants in Boston.