People going out for an upscale dinner want great food, stellar service, and a certain level of ambiance. But with so many restaurants providing those things, the one word I often hear when people describe how they want a night out to feel is…
And I get it. With so many options, people are looking for something to distinguish one place from another.
Salt, in the bustling kosher seaside mecca of Long Branch, NJ, certainly feels special. Owner David Mizrahi made sure that it has many features that distinguish it from its peers. But let’s deal with the first thing first: where are you going to sit?
Sure, you could try the main dining room. Or there’s the lounge, which has a slightly more laid-back feel. But depending on the weather and time, the outdoor seating might be most desirable.
There aren’t many kosher restaurants that provide a view of the ocean. Though you might find the bar attractive. Sitting there will allow you to really watch the staff do their thing, and the show is quite impressive. That said, maybe you want the opposite? The chef’s table and the wine cellar can both be set up as private rooms if you’d like a more peaceful experience.
Wherever you sit, I’d recommend that you start by getting some sushi. Plenty of steakhouses have sushi these days, but Salt has a full sushi bar that offers different levels of experience depending on the guest. In collaboration with Akimori, the top name in kosher sushi, Salt offers pieces of nigiri and sashimi à la carte, multiple omakase (chef’s choice) options for your table or at the sushi bar, and different sized moriawase (assorted sushi) platters for you to enjoy on top of a standard sushi menu.
When I was invited to Salt, I chose the Hamachi Sashimi with Yuzu Soy and it was the best sushi I have ever had. The yellowtail carpaccio was fatty, the ponzu sauce had a perfect blend of sweet and salty, and the slice of jalapeño brought a dash of heat. Everything together was unbelievable.
Switching over to meat, I’d suggest the Chicken Karaage. Executive Chef Pinchas Frank marinates dark meat chunks in sesame, coats them with cornstarch, deep fries them, tosses them in ginger soy aioli, and tops them with a slaw made of carrots and daikon. Each bite is crunchier than the next and the Asian flavors really come through. It’s fried chicken, but supremely elevated.
Behind a wall of glass next to the bar, you can see a station where two chefs are constructing and firing Salt’s legendary flatbreads. Using a coal-fired pizza oven that usually hovers around 850 degrees, they are able to make neapolitan-style flatbreads in minutes.
Not wanting to miss out, I ordered their Korean BBQ Flatbread, an item that many people had told me was their favorite. Now it’s mine too. The short rib and shiitake combine for a meaty richness, the sweet soy aioli offsets the heat of the gochujang (Korean fermented red chili paste), and the scallions added a nice bite and some color. If there weren’t so many other great options, I’d advocate for patrons to select this as their entrée.
Right next to the flatbread station and also visible through a glass wall, you’ll find Salt’s refrigerated dry-aging room. Huge cuts of meat are stacked and tagged with dates, waiting for patrons to order them. The average cut is aged for 30 to 60 days. Once you order it, they’ll trim the fat, and cook it to your liking.
My advice is to select the 26 oz. Dry Aged Cowboy Steak. It’s served sliced and is a great item to split (or … not). This steak is everything you want it to be.
The dry aging process makes the meat more tender and really deepens the flavor, the char on the outside was crisp with the inside still being medium rare, and I almost felt like I had three different dishes because of the sauces that accompanied the meat (béarnaise, chimichurri, and red wine shallot). I added on the Roasted Marrow Bones and they were delicious, as well.
If you still have room for dessert, congratulations. I’d advise ordering the Profiteroles. These pastry and vanilla gelato sliders come five to a plate with a scoop of vanilla mousse in the middle. The hot fudge topping gets added tableside by your server. This allows you to get the best experience as the hot and cold elements meet in your mouth instead of forming a soup on the plate. The pastry dough was light and crispy, the in-house pareve gelato was better than expected, the mousse/fudge combination was spot on, and it provided a great ending to a wonderful meal.
All in all, Salt is certainly worth the trip. Whether you’re just driving to the restaurant for a special dinner, or if it’s the focal point of a vacation to the shore, Salt is up to the challenge. The price point might make Salt a special occasion type of place for many patrons, but, for Salt, “special” is the name of the game.
Just figure out where you want to sit.