Saturday, August 02, 2008

Salts, Cambridge: good food, funny words

On Thursday nights, we have a tradition: meet up with friends at the Middlesex in Cambridge, have a couple of refreshing beverages, then go out to dinner. This has been going on for more than a decade. Originally, the evening started at the Miracle of Science, but the Middlesex makes for a much-less-crowded post-work destination.

Anyway. Long story short: this week, the four of us decided to eat around the corner at
Salts, the tiny French-inspired place on Main Street. We'd been there a bunch of times before (also back when the space was Anago), and in a way, it was a marker of our gradual rise to financial stability that we now saw it as a place for a casual weekday dinner, rather than as a once-a-year celebratory treat.

The past few times we'd tried to do a Thursday dinner at Salts, we were unlucky: either there were no tables available, or it was reserved for a private party. This week, however, only three other tables were occupied, so they had no option but to let us in.

I accept that we may not have looked like high-rollers, turning up as we did in jeans and Chucks. But it was still a little annoying when the hostess said, "Now, you may find some funny words in the menu, so please ask if you have any questions about the food."

Funny words? Okay, here's a selection of dishes from the Salts spring menu (bizarre capitalization is all theirs):
  • Spiced Tuna with petite garden vegetables, preserved lemon chickpea puree, and minted cucumber yogurt
  • Pan roasted local Fluke with braised leeks, white grapes, almond,and Elderflower infused raisins
  • Ballotine of free range Chicken with apricot white bean puree, Serrano ham chips, sage, and cocoa nib vinaigrette
  • Painted Hills beef Sirloin with smoked potato cream, Morel mushrooms, and garden pea ragout
  • Lavender honey glazed whole roasted boneless Duck for Two with leeks, roasted peaches, and Salts farm turnips
See anything funny in there? Neither did we.

(And yes, I admit I really just wanted to to drool over those descriptions.)

But then we managed to order without mis-pronouncing any of the words, and chose an appropriate wine, and it became clear that we didn't usually order food by yelling out a car window into a clown's mouth.

The food was as it should be. We started with shared apps of yellowfin tuna, crispy veal sweetbreads and pickled ramps, and a plate of hefty rabbit-filled tortellini, unusually accompanied by a sweet lemon curd-like confit. Good start, that.

Then came a fresh veggie couscous, tuna, trout and fluke, all of which were carefully prepared and nicely executed (though the fluke, with grapes and floral raisins, was just a little too sweet).

But most notable of the night was our waitron's word choice. She came to clear our appetizer plates and asked, "Was that enjoyed?"

So there were some funny words after all.

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Anonymous DawnEve said...

You seem to be having a small string of snooty run-ins. I find this so confusing. In a down economy, businesses, especially high-end hospitality businesses, should be welcoming any and all customers. (Even ageing hipsters in Chucks.) Instead, it seems that some are holding on to the elitism that they could get away with a few years ago. Losing a few customers when there are lines out the door is no big deal. When all you're getting is foot traffic because gas is $4 a gallon, you need to start cultivating your neighborhood cred. Seriously - Salts with only three tables filled on a Thursday night? An attitude adjustment seems in order.

10:48 AM  
Blogger LimeyG said...

Excellent point--and Salts especially should be looking to cultivate customer loyalty, given that Craigie Street Bistrot is slated to open across the street later this year.

Not sure about the "ageing hipsters" part, though; I'm still in my 30s. For another five months, anyway :-)

6:29 PM  

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