This restaurant isn’t all about that mineral that our physicians desperately urge us to avoid at all costs. Instead, it’s about embracing that very frowned-upon part of our daily lives and sharing with patrons the beauty and distinctness of the crystalline mineral. We discovered this when we visited SALT restaurant in Calabasas one serene evening soon after its opening. The entry was welcoming and well lit by the eatery’s nicely illuminated tall-lettered sign, while indoors, intricate craftsmanship revealed itself throughout the establishment.
Chef David Lino named the restaurant ‘SALT’ due to his desire to embrace the simple pleasures of what it does in the enhancement arena with our daily cuisine. Both owner and chef of his modern-style bistro serving revised comfort foods, Chef Lino finds unique methods of creating traditional favorites in memorable ways. Above, water is graciously served in clear glass mason jars, and fresh white day lilies are placed on each table to further enhance the inviting feeling most every patron will feel when entering this chic, yet relaxed establishment.
Indoors, the décor is a combination of reclaimed materials, conversation pieces, warm toned woods, and an elongated spacious bar and lounge that compliments the dining area. There is a lot of openness at this establishment, which could easily accommodate a packed bar and dining room with plenty of room to still move about the restaurant. An expansive outdoor patio is connected to the space, and a free flowing, semi-private area lures curious diners to seek out a private dining room just around a corner.
Chicken & Waffles
Not quite sure where to begin our dinner at SALT, we asked our knowledgeble server to suggest a few things from the menu. The first thing out of her mouth was that we had to try the Chicken & Waffles. We were told that the portion was large enough to be an entrée if we wanted to order it that way, but instead we chose the southern-created dish to share as our appetizer. The dish arrived promptly. If it had taken a little longer it still would have been worth the wait. The dish was visually stunning. And the aroma of sweet maple syrup and crispy panko-crusted chicken breasts was heavenly. Mini waffles were plated alongside tender non-greasy panko-coated chicken, while a balsamic maple glaze was drizzled over the entire dish. A side of maple syrup for dipping and bright green parsley sprigs polished the presentation off nicely. From first bite to the final taste when we practically scraped the enamel off of the plate, this dish satisfied our salty and sweet cravings, which was polished off with a satisfying crunch from the panko exterior and expertly made mini waffles. This offering was indeed large enough for an entrée, as our server suggested before we ordered it. However, it was a delicious beginning to more savory treats that lied ahead for us that evening.
Another southern comfort food that we enjoyed was the slow-braised brisket. My husband ordered this immediately when he found it on the menu, and was happy he did so once it appeared before him. The beef was so tender, there was no need for the assistance of a knife. The flavor of the hearty meat, along with the sweetness of the caramelized onions and starchiness of the smashed potatoes united harmoniously on both our palates leaving an expression of delight and satisfaction on our faces.
Wild Mushroom Mac & Cheese
This particular evening, I had the crazy notion to be bad. Very bad, in fact. So I threw caution to the wind, and ordered Chef Lino’s Wild Mushroom Mac & Cheese. Not my typical selection for dinner, but there was just something about the way it sounded to me that forced me to annunciate the words “WILD-MUSHROOM-MAC-&-CHEESE” to our server. My first bite of this sumptuous dish of al dente macaroni smothered in three cheeses and earthy wild mushrooms pleasantly sent my taste buds to an entirely alternate dimension altogether. Creamy, slightly seasoned just enough to my taste, and earthy from the wild mushrooms mixed in, this is definitely an item I will have again and again.
Speaking of being bad, we chose the Salt Banana option from a delightful choice of items on the dessert menu. Something different…something different…and there it was. The Salt Banana. The banana was sliced into two halves widthwise, then was coated in a sweet wonton batter and flash fried to a seamless perfect crunch. The contrast of the still cool-temperature fruit against the warm fried wonton coating was exhilarating. A scoop of salted caramel ice cream sat on the same dessert plate, while the entire dessert was drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce for an artistic finish. fresh mint gave this item a stunning finish, while in the kitchen, it snowed Confectioner’s sugar over the entire plate.
We didn’t leave the restaurant without lots of leftovers to return home with as you can see in the photo above. In addition to it all, our server presented us with the check and two saltwater taffy candies before we left. Simple pleasures, unique style, innovative and creative cuisine, and a spacious and comforting environment will guide us back to SALT in the near future.
- ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: Large illuminated lettering spells out S-A-L-T as you arrive at this chic, yet relaxed eatery. Indoors, reclaimed materials make up an artistically finished space of exposed ceilings, industrial-type hanging lighting fixtures, and plenty of seating both in the lounge area as well as the main dining room.
- FOOD / DRINK: Chef Lino’s innovative cuisine is photo-worthy and enhances traditional comfort food dishes, while refreshing beverages and spirits are available to heighten the dining experience. We appreciated the fact that nothing was over salted or too spicy to enjoy. Salts are provided specifically for that reason on each table. Just a couple of pinches to suit our taste on each dish was more than enough for us. We were also informed that all of the restaurant’s fried foods (such as the Chicken & Waffles dish, for example) are gluten-free.
- LOCATION: SALT is located just off Las Virgenes Road at 26500 Agoura Road #116 in Calabasas, CA 91302. The eatery is located at the end of a small shopping village.
- HOURS: SALT is available for lunch service Monday through Friday from 11 AM to 4 PM. Dinner hours extend Sunday through Thursday from 4 PM until 9 PM, as well as on Fridays and Saturdays from 4 PM to 10 PM.
- SERVICE / STAFF: Service and the staff were appropriate and friendly. Questions were answered sincerely and thoroughly. The vibe of teamwork can be felt throughout the entire establishment, and we were satisfied with the service we received.
- PRICE / VALUE: We felt the pricing was fair considering the unique style and creativeness of the cuisine Chef Lino prepared for us. Add in the cozy and relaxed atmosphere, romantic dim lighting, and the wide selection of libations at the bar, and it scores pretty high in our book for pleasant dinner spots in Calabasas.
- CORKAGE FEE: Our server informed us that there is a $15 per 750mL bottle corkage charge at the restaurant.
- CONTACT INFO: Phone: (818) 880-9260, Website: www.eatatsalt.com
- PARKING: There is ample parking in front of the eatery with no charge.
- PRICING: Our Chicken & Waffles starter was priced at an easy $8, while my husband’s Slow-Braised Brisket entrée came in at an acceptable $16. My Wild Mushroom Mac & Cheese selection was a satisfactory $14, and the Salt Banana we shared for dessert was priced at a simple $8.
* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.