13534 Bali Way
Marina del Rey, 90292
By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
Dining at a hotel restaurant can prove a dicey proposition. Sometimes the gamble pays off; however, more often than not, hotel restaurants can feel overpriced and thankfully overlooked.
SALT, Marina del Rey’s explosively colorful restaurant, not only falls into the former category, but may actually top them all.
At once upscale and idiosyncratic, the menu at SALT is a skilled expression and extension of its owner, Chef Mark Gold, who opened five years ago.
Gold, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley and today lives in the Beverly Grove area, served as the executive chef and owner of Eva in West Hollywood prior to 2014, as well as a consultant for Sadie LA in Hollywood.
With SALT, Gold takes command of the menu to provide a fresh Californian cuisine and, with a market-fresh approach, packs a depth-charge on the palate rarely experienced at West Los Angeles restaurants. There is no doubt that—with every bite of the food at SALT—every dish, every product is locally sourced.
What’s terrific about SALT, in addition to its cuisine, is its isolated location and wondrous environment. On the chilly night that we supped at SALT, crackling firepits illuminated the lounge furniture-laden patio and augmented the glorious boat-populated harbor views.
And what goes better with a nice fire and beautiful scenery than a nice program of drinks, here devised by house mixologist Cole Woods? Signature cocktails here are fun and lively, from the fresh summer flavors of For Purple Mountain Majesties, which incorporates Nolet’s gin and grapefruit liqueur with a nice head of elderflower foam, and the best-selling Salt, basically their house margarita, also with grapefruit liqueur.
The new, not-yet-listed Marina Cosmo is Woods’ solid take on the classic Cosmopolitan; the Smoke It If You Got It—my favorite—is a particularly creative and super-tasty version of an Old Fashioned with cinnamon and currant house infused Jim Beam bourbon, barrel-aged maple, black walnut bitters and a nice ice rock of coffee floating in the center of it all.
Our meal kicked off with a Little Gem Caesar. In all honesty, I didn’t have much expectations for what might’ve been the 10,000th Caesar salad I’ve tried on our review assignments.
I wound up eating my words on this one—or rather, devouring this mix of little gem lettuce, housemade dressing with garlic and lemon, all beautifully counterbalanced texturally by toasted pine nuts, capers and buckwheat. Accompanied with the house’s freshly baked and darkly toasted country bread, I would eat this item again and again on every visit. It was that good.
We went rogue off the program that Gold had in store for us and insisted on trying a wild card of a starter, Clam Chowder … and we were glad that we did. Clam Chowder, as presented here New England-style, has a richness of ingredients, including Little Neck clams, bacon, fingerling potatoes, shallots and chives.
The depth of taste with these fresh ingredients is so delicious and earnest, you won’t need to resort to the salt or pepper shakers to add any superfluous flavor to this mesmerizing bowl. This is definitely a highlight and should not be missed.
Back on track with the restaurant’s four-course meal, Gold brought out a plate of his Alaskan Halibut, a plate that offers the most perfectly and succulently made white fish topped with grilled morels, first of the season English peas and spring garlic essence.
One can also order Maine Lobster Pasta, which is adorned with yuzu and brown butter dashi and vaudovan; or Prime Filet of Beef, presented here with roasted artichoke, shiitake and a potato puree.
But at the chef’s request, we partook in what is listed as Snake Rivers Farms Wagyu ‘Cap,’ which offers a sensational slab of American wagyu beef with Japanese sweet potatoes from Milliken Farms. The results are outstanding; the meat at once cooked tantalizingly medium rare on the inside, and deliciously smoky and crusty on its surface.
For vegetarians, the menu highlight appears to be Zucchini & Basil Ravioli, with dried tomato, fellen pollen, a butter fondue and Reggiano.
Dessert, which offers five basic choices, is probably the menu’s most pat section. Here, SALT sides with comfort selections, from a Smores spread replete with strawberries, to a Meyer Lemon Tart and Banana Split with Neapolitan ice cream. We partook in Brown Butter Cake, made from scratch and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and fresh berries, and this order did the trick with a cappuccino accompaniment.
Whether on a first date or celebrating your anniversary of 30 years, you’ll be smart to consider Gold’s restaurant, an attractive and romantic hideaway in plain sight, as your dinner destination. I’ll take the risk using a tired bromide and say that this is one hotel restaurant that is most certainly “worth its SALT.”