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If I had a rating system for restaurants, I would have to rate Salt & Fat a qualified “WOW.” Qualified only because, although I adored it, it’s not everybody’s bucket of lard.
There are a few party poopers left out there obsessing about their waistlines and/or arteries. Still, if you’re one of those diners who hasn’t stopped mourning the loss of M Wells (whom I understand will be resurfacing in PS1’s cafeteria), don’t despair. S&F is a serious contender for the title of Queens’ quirkiest cuisine, and one of its most delicious.
The décor in this diminutive outpost of edgy gastronomy is deceptively conventional. A cozy and welcoming feeling is established by an artful combination of painted wood and faux stone linoleum on the walls. Like their food, the taste level surpasses the description.
They start you off with a small brown paper bag of popcorn. The grease stains on the bag reveal the popcorn’s secret. It has been drizzled with bacon fat that has at once a smoky and also woodsy flavor, hinting of truffles.
The menu is disproportionately divided between small plates and a few entrée sized options. Our server encouraged us to order a couple of small plates per person, which seemed like good advice.
Red and golden beets formed a crisscross pattern over frissee, dotted with crunchy pepperoni chips dressed with yuzu crème fraiche on the side in the Truffled Beet Salad. The sweet beets and citrusy crème fraiche were nicely offset by the texture and flavor of the pepperoni, although no hint of truffles was discernable.
Shaved Hudson Valley Foie Gras is one of the signature dishes here with good reason. The rich heaviness of goose liver is lightened with an easily overlooked ingredient — air! The foie gras is shaved into a mini-haystack and served over cinnamoned mandarin oranges and thin bits of bacon brittle, enlarging upon the theme of sweet with savory.
Yelllowtail Tartare is a dish with a light touch. Chopped raw hamachi tuna is arranged in a flat rectangle under daubs of yuzu gelee and finely shredded raw veggies, flanked by cracked black pepper on one side, and a zippy mayonnaise based dressing on the other. The idea is to mix all of these ingredients together and then scoop it up with cassava chips.
A healthy mess of Prince Edward Island mussels with Thai oyster sauce and Chinese sausage come topped with a frizz of crisply fried shallots. A couple of garlicky croutons are provided for soaking up their heavenly broth at the bottom of the dish.
Another fairly circumspect option here is the Korean BBQ wraps. Hey, they even come wrapped in lettuce. Lettuce is healthy. The filling is hanger steak, pickled daikon and seasoned miso. Very tasty, and pretty Korean.
We topped it all off with a combo dessert, Lychee Panna Cotta with Yuzu buttermilk sorbet. Once again they had the sweet playing off the not-so-sweet, as in sweet panna cotta against the sour-ish sorbet.
They sent us on our way with tiny plastic flasks of a Korean yogurt drink, an enjoyably enigmatic send-off.
Salt & Fat serves food that is both adventurous and delicious in a setting with a youthful vibe. They have an impressive list of micobrews and a well-priced wine list. The menu prices are recession-friendly. Dine or snack and imbibe with equal satisfaction.
With a moniker like Salt & Fat, I won’t be inviting our mayor there any time soon, but I will be going there with friends who enjoy great food.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Salt & Fat
41-16 Queens Blvd
Sunnyside, NY 11104
Price Range: BBQ: $3-12. Other dishes: $7--20
Cuisine: Globally influenced New American small plates
Setting: Intimate, attractive, close quarters.
Service: On the ball. There when you need ‘em, not when you don’t.
Hours: Tues.-Sun. 6–11 p.m.
Alcohol: Beer & Wine
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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