Monday, June 13, 2011

Salty and Fatty

Salt and Fat is an apt name for the fusion restaurant that just opened in Sunnyside because the food served is, indeed, salty and fatty. At the meal's start, a server shows up with a paper bag filled with popcorn cooked in bacon fat. It's a redemptive amuse bouche, the kind that sets the pace for a great meal.

Salt and Fat is mostly small plates, which gave us the opportunity to sample most of the menu. We began with a trio of seafood dishes, a cured yellowtail served with jalapenos, shaved radish, and grapefruit and orange supremes. The fish was clean and complimented by the spice of the jalapeno, but I think I would have felt better about the dish if it had not been so similar to a lobster salad we ordered--poached lobster pieces over a bed of greens with those same citrus supremes. The redundancy was my largest quibble with the menu. Items often bore too much similarity to one another (Korean steak wraps; short rib buns; pork sliders). That lobster salad was good enough (and, for $9, a complete and total steal), though I might not go back on the merit of that dish. Seared scallops with a bright orange accompanying puree was a bigger success. The scallops were cooked perfectly and the salty and sweet from the puree was the ultimate condiment.

Next came the lettuce wraps, hanger steak with pickled daikon on Bibb leaves. They were perfectly seasoned and a little spicy, and I would have eaten more than just one. Then: short ribs on buns with cucumber pickles. The buns were the pillowy, David Chang variety. Something about this dish left me incomplete. It was a little too acidic, or a little too salty. I can't tell which. A smear of mayonnaise or hoisin would have remedied the problem for me. An oxtail terrine was the star of the evening, crispy on the outside and soft in the center and served with earthy Hen-of-the-woods and enoki mushrooms and a salty-sweet sauce. It was a home run in the face of singles and doubles.

Our final trio left me underwhelmed. Papparadelle with a soft egg and asparagus and mushrooms and peas seemed woefully under-seasoned (and lacking cheese!). Pork belly tacos felt redundant in the face of all that meat in wrapping, and they needed more crunch and more acidity. Fried gnocchi with bacon in a bechamel, meant to be a play on macaroni and cheese, was an epic fail. The bacon was too chewy, the gnocchi too soft, the breading a degree too burnt. Unfried gnocchi would have been better.

For dessert, we ordered three ice creams--toasted marshmallow, white peach and jalapeno, and Thai iced tea--as well as a lychee panna cotta with yuzu buttermilk sorbet. The toasted marshmallow ice cream had the consistency of an actual marshmallow and had me wishing the kitchen had sent extra. The Thai iced tea was no real surprise, but it was plenty delicious. But the white peach was too grainy and more closely resembled a sorbet than an ice cream. We had a bite and left it for the kitchen gods. But, oh, the panna cotta! It was the perfect consistency and the perfect brightness, brought completely to life by that palate cleansing sorbet. That panna cotta, paired with the oxtail terrine and the bacon popcorn, might be enough to bring me back to Salt and Fat. Someday.

Salt and Fat
41-16 Queens Boulevard
Sunnyside, NY 11104

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