It’s a foregone conclusion that this place would be packed from day one — it’s owned by the same folks that have brought Houston Ibiza, Brasserie 19 and Coppa. Thus, no surprise, even in July — when many of the crowd that flock to these restaurants are out of town — Salt Air has been hopping since it opened a couple weeks ago. We ventured in early one recent Sunday evening. The large square bar in the middle of the restaurant was sufficiently inviting that we passed on our reserved table. (Goes without saying that reservations are a must right now.) Like one of its predecessors at this location (Pesce), Salt Air has an open kitchen environment with the raw bar in the center of the restaurant.
The menu is expansive and somewhat eclectic — everything from multiple raw bar selections to hot fish, seafood and vegetable offerings. It’s clear the restaurant strives for freshness, with many of the fish and seafood choices changing based on availability. Don’t expect a lot of fried seafood, although there are a couple small plates of fried claims and calamari. If you’re looking for something cooked, grilled and steamed items seem to prevail with the fish and seafood items.
Certainly, we’ll return as we only tried a couple dishes — the fried claims (served with a gribiche sauce) and the octopus carpaccio (not really raw, but steamed and very thinly sliced). We enjoyed both dishes, although the octopus could have done with more of the taramosalata sauce, and the gribiche sauce could have had a little more tang given its traditional ingredients of mayo, pickles, capers and herbs. The fried claims were very well executed (not the least bit greasy and and the portion size a very good value for $10), but the crust was a little heavy (perhaps because it’s cornmeal based?) for our taste. The same crust perked up when used on the salt & pepper calamari, which we sampled from the plate of the guy sitting next to us. Our neighbor also wasn’t too thrilled with the crust or the asian-based sauce served with the calamari, but the latter was remedied with a quickly brought remoulade sauce. The woman sitting on our other side raved about the tuna tartare (on quinoa) and the seafood salad (same tuna with the addition of cold shrimp on greens). We’ve heard good things about the lobster bisque (lighter than most traditional versions), the steak tartare, and the roasted carrots. (The bok choy and avocado were not touted with as much enthusiasm.)