Salt of the Earth, the anxiously awaited Kevin Sousa restaurant, opened last Monday, September 20th. Being Snickie and all, I decided I must visit ASAP. I made it to Salt last Thursday night (5523 Penn Ave – see website here).
To start, the Salt space is really warm feeling and quite lovely. Even as we drove past while looking for parking, I was excited to see how inviting the restaurant looked from Penn Ave. The downstairs of Salt features an open kitchen, a bar, long communal tables, and additional seating at a few high tops and overlooking the kitchen and bar. All this seating is first come, first serve. We did not make a reservation and ended up at a communal table. I was surprised and pleased to see the place was almost full. I felt pretty comfortable at the communal table but you may want to make a reservation if that is not your thing – the upstairs (which I did not visit) is reservation only according to the Salt website.
We started our meal with drinks. Salt has a pretty interesting cocktail menu but I went with a generous pour of Cabernet. The wait staff was definitely friendly and on point. After perusing the large chalkboard menu (no paper menu, only the big chalkboard), we decided to start with the brioche topped with crab and a poached egg. Just like all the dishes we encountered through the evening, the dish was much more than bread, egg, and crab. Shiso (a green in the mint/basil family) and tarragon (I think) were involved. Basically, it was really good. A step above your normal Pittsburgh fare, for sure.
For my main course, I chose “Walleye, Fig Touchi, Fennel, Butternut”. My plate included a nice portion of Walleye (a pretty mild and non-descript white fish), a fig “touchi” (reduced fig sauce), a butternut squash puree, barley, and a pile of roasted fennel. The dish had a very fall-like feel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sousa’s food definitely leaves you contemplating what exactly you are tasting or how exactly something has been prepared. In a good way 🙂
My date had the duck, a dish full of crazy flavors and textures. There was duck breast, duck liver, pears, carrots, an almond puree, “banana bread” (a small amount of a banana tasting crumble), and a pomegranate glaze. Wow. Overall, I think this dish could possibly be a little overwhelming. However, it seems a large part of the enjoyment of the dish was figuring out how everything was supposed to play together. Tasting this, tasting that, tasting them together.
After the entrées, we were pretty full and passed on dessert. We lingered over the bill, again taking in the warm space and perhaps pretending we had escaped the ‘burgh for the night. The bill came in around $65 – which I consider pretty reasonable for two drinks, one appetizer, and two entrées – especially ones of this caliber. Salt of the Earth is definitely worth trying – it is a unique addition to the Pittsburgh dining scene. This is a place you could return to multiple times as the menu promises to be ever changing and, with Sousa at the helm, always exciting.