WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Salú is in the center of the busy sidewalk-dining scene that has bloomed along Magazine Street just past the Garden District. The name is a made-up hybrid of the Spanish, French, and Italian drinking toasts, all of which mean “to your health!” That should not be taken literally. Although the menu is built around good, fresh produce,they are not holding back on the butter, cream, bacon, cheese, or carbs. And even though Salú positions itself as a tapas restaurant, you will find it difficult to eat more than three courses. Despite that, almost all the prices are under $10–some well under.
The kitchen hews to no particular cuisine, mixing the various Mediterranean flavor palettes with a few Latin American and Creole touches. A large part of the kitchen staff came out of Emeril’s restaurants (Khodr is a partner in NOLA), and they bring a penchant for adding swirls and wings to perfectly good basic dishes, sometimes lessening the interest level in the process. Example: deconstructed steak tartare.
Salu is the second restaurant attempt in this spot by Tarek Tay, Gabriel Saliba, and Hicham Khodr–the owners of Byblos and a few other restaurants. The first one was Catch, a casual seafood café the troika closed during the height of the BP oil spill last year. (I think Catch’s bigger problem was that it wasn’t as good as we expected.) Before that, this had been the location of at least six previous restaurants since Flagons built the first dining room here in the mid-1980s. The building dates back another hundred years before that. Its marvelous facade has landmark status.
Salu inherited its space nearly unchanged from Catch. Over its brick-walled antiquity is a coat of contemporary fixtures. You choose from rows of banquettes, standard tables next to the big windows, and (most popular) sidewalk tables. The service staff is sharp (another benefit of the distant Emeril connection), and you can count on them for honest advice about the menu.
Soup of the day
Caesar salad with garlic-anchovy vinaigrette
»Sliced duck breast over assorted baby greens, dried cranberries, walnuts, crumbled blue cheese and shaved apples
Mascarpone stuffed medjool dates, bacon, arugula, roasted peppers, lemon-caper vinaigrette
Deconstructed beef tartare, roasted peppers, capers, chopped eggs, diced onions, olive oil
Roasted red pepper, fava bean hummus, grilled flatbread
»Coriander seared tuna, mango verde, lime sour cream
Cumin spiked crawfish timbale, goat cheese, green onions, plantain chips
»White wine poached mussels, roasted pepper coulis
Smoked salmon pate, shaved red onions, capers, olive oil
Country liver terrine, chopped eggs, onions, watercress, red wine syrup
Chicken, mango salad, beets, buttered crostini
Charcuterie and cheese plate
»Empanadas two ways (chorizo and manchego; wild mushroom and goat cheese)
»Grilled lamb lollipops, red pepper-fava hummus, goat cheese
»BBQ pulled pork, corn fritter cakes
»Prosciutto and potato croquettes
»Seared sea scallops, black bean couscous, guava coulis
Wild mushrooms, sherry cream
»Chili-garlic marinated shrimp, tostones, salsa fresca
Crispy fried manchego cheese sticks, quince membrillo
»Duck breast and manchego flautas, avocado, salsa fresca, cumin crème fraiche
Grilled North Atlantic salmon, corn salsa, baked potato salad
Fried new potatoes, roasted garlic aioli
Crispy chicken, wilted spinach, portobello, roasted peppers
»Grilled skirt steak, wild mushroom cream
»Crabmeat and four-cheese flatbread, wild mushrooms
»Chicken, duck, chorizo and mushroom paella
Mussel, shrimp, crawfish and bay scallop paella
»Mushroom, artichoke, asparagus and tomato paella
Tres leche, seasonal fruit, sweet cream
Crispy cheese cake egg rolls, guava coulis
Raspberry crème brulee, fresh berries, sweet cream
Housemade ice cream or sorbets
FOR BEST RESULTS
Ask with earnestness about the composition of the dishes. Nothing here is straightforward, and some of the best dishes are counter-intuitive. Parking in this popular neighborhood is tight, but Salu customers can land cars in the Liberty Bank’s lot a half-block down.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
When the dining room fills, the ambient noise is uncomfortably loud. The desserts are just okay.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +2
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Sidewalk tables
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open most holidays
- Open after 10 p.m.
- Open all afternoon
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Salu is the second restaurant attempt in this spot by Tarek Tay, Gabriel Saliba, and Hicham Khodr–the owners of Byblos and a few other restaurants. The first go-round was Catch, a casual seafood café they closed during the height of the BP oil spill last year. (I think Catch’s bigger problem was that it wasn’t very good.)
This restaurant is tying its fate to two trends: the Magazine Street bistro boom and the tapas phenomenon. The first is a no-brainer. In the second, the place comes across as trying a little too hard to be cool, like a parent trying to dig his teenager’s styles.