Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dinner at Salt and Fat

For the past week I have been in heaven.  My sweet B. -- whom I think I will forever refer to as the one who cooks for me, partially because after all this time, that is still one of my most read post on this blog -- came to visit from Paris.  This past Friday night we went out to happy hour and dinner with his friends in the city.  We had made plans to eat at a place that I have wanted to try for a while called Salt and Fat.  This restaurant serves what they describe as "New American small plates" which are like tapas, but without the Spanish influence in terms of flavor or composition.

We were three couples, and we walked in at around 7pm on a Friday night.  The restaurant doesn't take reservations, so we added our name and number to the list.  We were told it would be about an hour wait, so we went a few doors down to a bar to get drinks.  It wasn't long before the hostess called us and we were able to come back and be seated.

While we considered the menu, we were started off with a bag of bacon fat popcorn.  Each couple got their own bag to share.  This was a wonderful way to get the meal started.  It was salty and savory in a perfectly balanced and ethereal way.  I would happily eat this every day for the rest of my life and sacrifice my arteries and my health.  Delicious.

And then we started the meal.

One of the dishes we started with was the Truffled Beet Salad which featured frisee, red and yellow beets, pepperoni chips, and a dressing of yuzu creme fraiche ($9).  It was a good balance of bitterness (from the greens), acidity (from the creme fraiche), sweetness (from the beets), and saltiness and spiciness (from the pepperoni).  It was also fun to eat because of the differences in texture of all the components.  Despite the fact that the dish was overall a success, we gave it a 7 out of 10 because it wasn't particularly special (thought it was above average) and because it really could have used more beets.  Also I think this the type of dish that you only order once to know what it is like; good, but not stellar.  For six people, we ordered one plate.

The dish which you can see above in two forms -- first, as it came to the table, and second, "mixed" after we had dug in a little -- is the "Shaved" Hudson Valley foie gras which featured cinnamon, Mandarin oranges and bacon brittle ($15).  It was a fantastic combination.  I loved the soft acidity of the mandarin with the warm sweetness of the cinnamon.  They worked well with the delicate flavor of the foie gras, which truly melted in the mouth.  The bacon brittle was a great textural component and its saltiness was a nice addition to the flavors already in play.  We gave it a 9 out of 10.  I would happily order this again.  For six people, we ordered two plates.


This dish is the yellowtail tartare which featured scallions, yuzu gel, cassava chips ($14).  You can see it as it came to table, beautifully plated, and then after we mixed it and were prepared to scoop it up and eat it with the chips.  This was my absolute favorite dish of the night.  It was perfectly balanced.  It was spicy, savory, crispy (from the fantastic cassava chips), and fresh.  The natural flavor of the fish was highlighted beautifully, and each bite I took impressed me.  We gave this a 9.5 out of 10.  I would definitely order this again.  For six people, we ordered one plate.

Not on the menu was a dish called "Crack and Cheese", which features fried potato gnocchi, bacon, and cheese (white béchamel sauce).  This failed to impress me.  It was hot, heavy, and dull.  The same texture was in every bite and the overwhelming fattiness of dish could be tasted in a way that I did not enjoy.  With a name like "crack and cheese" you would think that the dish would be addictive, however I wouldn't order it again.  This was barely a 4 out of 10.  For six people, we ordered one plate.

 These braised pork belly tacos with kimchi salsa, pickled onions, and queso fresco ($9 for three) were another favorite of the night.  The kimchi was mildly spicy, the pickled onions were crunchy and brine-y, the pork belly was sweet and meaty, and the queso fresco added a mellow smoothness that rounded out the other flavors.   There was great textural balance.  I really enjoyed this dish.  Our one complaint was that the kimchi was a little strong and thus overwhelmed the pork belly flavor.  There either should have been more pork belly or less salsa.  We gave this dish an 8.5 out of 10.  Would I order it again?  Yes.

 The pulled pork sliders pictured above were marinated with a sriracha BBQ sauce that was more sweet than spicy (I actually had no idea there was sriracha until I looked at the menu) and served with sweet pickles ($9 for three).  I thought this dish was rather one-dimensional.  There was nothing interesting in terms of texture with each bite; the bread was soft, the pork was tender, and the pickles weren't particularly crunchy.  The flavors were also rather dull.  There was no kick, no oomph, no wow-factor.  We gave it a 5.5 out of 10.  This was by no means a bad dish, but it failed to impress and I wouldn't order it again.

The oxtail terrine, pictured above, was served with caramelized onion puree and roasted mushrooms ($10).  We appreciated the nice presentation, but you have to agree that the terrine was overly burnt, which detracted from our enjoyment of it as it really depended on the piece you bit into whether or not the char of the terrine detracted from the experience.  The onion puree was also a little too acidic.  Overall, while the earth tones of the mushroom, onion, and oxtail played together nicely, the flavors not as sophisticated as I would have expected.  We gave it a 6 out of 10.  I wouldn't order it again, but I could understand giving the kitchen another chance to make this right.  For six people, we ordered one plate.

 Pictured above is the crispy pig trotter torchon which was served with a slow cooked egg, spicy mayo, and scallion"mu chim" ($10).  This dish was interesting because it is not at all how you typically think of pigs feet in texture or taste.  In fact, if I hadn't read the menu and had tasted this blindly, I would have had no idea that it was pigs feet.  I liked the fresh spiciness of the scallion combined with the smooth spiciness of the mayo.  The creaminess of the egg was an interesting addition, thought I don't think it added much flavor-wish to a dish that was already a bit heavy.  We gave this a 7.5 out of 10.  A fun dish, I did enjoy trying it for the first time, however I don't know if it would be something that I would come back and order again.  For six people, we ordered one plate.

 We were also given complimentary fried chicken which came with pickled daikon and an herb ranch dipping sauce (normally $13, on the menu).  I'm still not sure if it was given to the table because we were a large group that ordered multiple dishes which I kept photographing and taking notes or if it was because one person in the group knew the hostess, but either way, it was a nice gesture.  Unfortunately, this dish failed to impress.  The brining of the chicken left it a little too salty.  Being cooked sous vide, the meat (especially in the breast) was tender, but we found our drumstick to be a tad undercooked.  I wasn't crazy about the herb ranch dipping sauce, and honestly thought it actually detracted from the chicken cayenne and paprika flavors of the meat.  Though this was given to our table for free, I think it was not worth the price on the menu.  If you put fried chicken on your menu and charge $13 for four pieces, it should be excellent.  This was overly salty and the skin was soggy, as though the oil it was fried in was not warm enough.  We gave it a 5 out of 10.  I wouldn't order it again.

For dessert, we ordered the lychee panna cotta with yuzu buttermilk sorbet ($6).  While I enjoyed the panna cotta, the problem was that if I closed my eyes and pretended I hadn't read the menu, I would have had no idea that the flavor was supposed to be lychee.  It didn't come across at all.  It didn't have the fragrance or the flavor of the fruit.  And the sorbet was so overpowering in its acidity and depth of flavor that it overwhelmed the delicacy of the panna cotta.  The sorbet was more of a palate cleanser; good, but not what you want to pair with a panna cotta.  The two parts of the dish worked well independently, but not as well together.  We gave it a 7 out of 10.

Our second dessert was the ice cream and sorbet ($6).  The flavors change daily, but on Friday night they served white peach and jalapeño (right, green), thai iced tea (in the middle, orange), apple miso (left, peach colored).  My favorite was the white peach and jalapeño because of the perfect balance that was established between the sweet and spicy.  It captured the natural and delicate essence of the white peach very well and yet managed to counter it with the bite of the jalapeño, which was sweet in its own way.  The thai iced tea was also successful; it really was thai iced tea in a scoop of ice cream, not diluted, not overly sweetened.  The apple miso was not bad, but it was fairly basic as a mixture of salty and sweet and I thought the scent of the apple was a bit lacking.  We speculated, however, that this flavor (apple miso) would have been nice if paired with the lychee panna cotta.  We gave the dessert a 7.5 out of 10.

After we were done eating, the meal was concluded with a probiotic Korean yogurt which the waitress brought out for us.  They were little bottles, like the kind you buy at an Asian supermarket and they tasted like candy.  The waitress had described the flavor as something like orange julius, which I thought was fitting.  It was a clever idea to end the meal with something to aid digestion, but the cloying sweetness of the yogurt wasn't exactly what I wanted after a full meal.

Overall, the experience was a 7.5 out of 10.  The service was friendly, the atmosphere was nice and the food was good.  Though there were some dishes that were subpar, there were also some dishes that really impressed me (popcorn, foie gras, tartare, tacos).  I wouldn't mind coming back to experience the scallops, grits, or Korean BBQ wrap on the menu.  Maybe another time.

Salt and Fat
41 - 16 Queens Blvd.
Sunnyside, NY 11104
Tel. 718.433.3702
open Tues-Sun from 6-11pm


  1. Is the bacon popcorn better than your crispy kale??

    1. haha, it is better, but I don't think it boasts the same health benefits. I would try making bacon fat popcorn at home, but I really don't want to know how much fat you have to add to get it to have that delicious bacon flavor.