Review: Salt

4 December 2014

I woke up early this Thursday still thinking about that amazing tasting menu at Ö last night…oh, that quail… I was full of energy and headed out the door earlier than usual. I ended up at Tallinn’s Metsakalmistu (Forest Cemetery) for a 3-hour stroll, visiting some of the greatest Estonians ever lived, as well as visiting a few departed friends. It’s odd to visit the grave of someone you had a rather cross exchange with for a final conversation…again…

I almost joined them as their newest denizen thanks to the hills and ice…

After that little adventure I hopped on a bus back into town and jumped off at the Kadriorg neighbourhood and headed to a restaurant that everyone in that part of town raves about, Salt.

Salt is a small basement restaurant that looks like a pure labour of love by everyone there. Simple, but solid and efficient. Only problem for me was that the radiators were blasting and nearly all tables were against radiator-strewn walls, so I had to move to a middle one facing the front door. Perfect.

I relaxed with some wine and enjoyed looking at the Mediterranean-and-Asian-influenced menu. As it was lunch some of the dishes were not available (it’s a very small operation here) since most people went with the daily special. It’s very popular and the place is packed out the door with locals and foreigners with babies (Kadriorg is popular with foreigners with families as houses have more space, alongside the huge park next door).

My starter is something I never order in Estonia, but for some reason I went for it…

mussels

Now this is a huge plate! Garlicky goodness in aroma and taste, these were done brilliantly. Extremely fresh and plump, I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a large plate of mussels like this. Touch of chilli to bring it to a perfect balance, and very low on the ginger (which I generally don’t like). I even drank the broth!

And that was a starter? Uh oh… My main was coming, the Sicilian couscous.

Sicilian_couscous

Not the usual thing you’ll order in Estonia, especially since shellfish has never had as much traction here, but that’s obviously changing with the healthy amount of shrimp and squid in this dish. I usually hate couscous because it’s so bad when cooked badly, but these were done perfectly, flavourful and plump without losing its texture. Excellent bit of cooking here.

Simple and solid, can’t ask for much more than that! I much prefer solid execution and good cooking than over-the-top creations and over-ambitious “chef’ing” that takes just 1 in the line to kill the plate. I am so over “chef-driven” places…

After a chat with the staff (so glad to be able to converse in Estonian again!) I headed out happily. I would have killed for a place like this when I lived here 15 years ago. Affordable, excellent stuff, a neighbourhood gem. If you visit anything around Kadriorg such as the gardens or the park or the presidential palace, I do recommend a trip to Salt for lunch or dinner. Even if you’re not in the area, it’s a quick tram ride. It’s worth it, trust me.

Salt
Vase 14
Tallinn, Eesti

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