Sunnyside has a new delicious restaurant option. Salt & Fat opened yesterday, and for what was certainly the first time in my life, I went (with the missus, of course) to an official opening night at a new restaurant. But just to back up a moment…
I’ve spent years (or at least two posts here on B&E) whipping up theories about a cursed block in Sunnyside. If I had more than six readers, it is a rumor that might well have taken off. To sum up, years ago, a fire destroyed the neighborhood’s finest pub, along with several other businesses, and then just after a few of those businesses reopened, some shoddy construction work cracked a foundation of the surviving building, causing yet another shutdown of the businesses on that block.
(To follow a quick tangent, if you’ll indulge me, which you’ll have to, because this is my blog… In one of those posts about the cursed block, I badmouthed the CVS drug store. I was either being unfair (moi?) or they’ve managed to get their shit together and keep it steady. It’s now our go-to drug store in a neighborhood that has a plethora of drug stores. So apologies to you, CVS, if there’s an intern in your corporate offices who reads the Google alerts. Anyway…)
There’s a small restaurant space on the cursed block that has struggled ever since. Noonah’s on Campus (a strange name, since Sunnyside is not a college) served delicious Korean comfort food, but couldn’t survive its two closings, and the space sat empty for quite some time. A new Korean restaurant venture opened up last year. It had the strangest faux Florentine decor you’ve ever seen, but delicious food (we were particularly fond of the bibimbap). But although the missus and I ate there a few times, apparently no one else did, at least not enough of us to keep the place open.
Which brings us to Salt & Fat, the latest food venture to grace us with its presence on the cursed block. It defies categorization to some degree, although it might almost be fair to call it Korean-infused, American pork cuisine.
Our server (who I got the feeling was the usual manager, although I didn’t ask her) informed us that there’s bacon in pretty much everything on the menu. They even give you some popcorn to munch on while you wait for your food. The kernels were popped in bacon fat. Where there’s not bacon, there’s another pork product. I did overhear her say that there’s one vegetarian dish on the menu (the pasta, apparently). But go prepared to eat some fucking bacon.
I like bacon and other pork products (it’s not solely pork, but mostly pork), so I was prepared. The other concept (perhaps too strong a word) behind Salt & Fat is that they’re smallish dishes. We were told to get two or three dishes a piece. The missus and I wanted to try most of the menu (something I can’t say that about many menus), and we’ll have to go back for some of the dishes we had to skip this time. And now prepare yourself for the requisite food photos (the shots on their website are, of course, more beautiful).
We preempted our guilt with a Caesar salad, which, knowing the pork to come, we got without the bacon option. It was a really nice, tangy dressing, and the croutons were some of the best I’ve had.
This little concoction (way more beautifully shot on the S&F site) was tremendous. Raw yellowtail with Italian speck (sorta like prosciutto, I guess), orange and grapefruit, radish, and pickled jalapeno. Stack your bite with a bit of everything, and enjoy the shit out of it. This is a certainty for a repeat visit.
The short rib buns with pickled cucumber and apricot mustard were also quite good. The bun is like a Chinese bao, a little sweet and quite spongy, which made the dish seem just a bit dry. But even as I say that, it seems almost unfair, because they tasted quite good, and frankly, that’s a bao, and one of the reasons I don’t love baos. But if you like baos (as much I as I like saying, “bao” – pronounced like the bow of a boat), you’ll like these baos.
Against the missus’ better judgment, we also got the “crack” & cheese, which is deep-fried gnocchi and bacon (naturally) in a bechamel sauce of Gruyere, cheddar, and Parmesan. It just sounded a bit rich to her (and delicious to me), and when I asked our server to recommend one from a list of three, this was her go-to. And it was pretty much exactly what you might expect from the description. The missus was right about it being very rich. It was also very salty, maybe too salty (based on the name of the restaurant, and that I do tend to watch my salt intake, I’m surprised this is the first time I’m saying that). I think other people will probably enjoy it a lot. But honestly, it’s the one dish we ordered that I’d probably not get again.
On the flip side of the crack & cheese were the braised pork belly tacos. I can’t imagine further visits to Salt & Fat that don’t include the braised pork belly tacos. Everything about them was just right. They were surprisingly light. And the kimchi salsa, pico de gallo, queso fresco, and pickled jalapeno made for an amazing, well-balanced taste of multiculturalism that could only be born of Queens. (The chef, I should note, grew up in Sunnyside.)
Do not go to Salt & Fat without getting the braised pork belly tacos. I already want them again.
Finally, the dessert. I’m mostly off desserts in general, although I did have a bite of this, the lychee panna cotta with yuzu (citrus) sorbet.
Also very good. The great news for dessert lovers is that Salt & Fat makes its own ice cream. In addition to the yuzu sorbet, they offered marshmallow ice cream last night. There was also “rice krispies” on the dessert menu, which I assume is some form of a Rice Krispie Treat.
I like the new layout of the restaurant itself. It’s a longish, narrow space, and they’ve made it feel full without being too packed-in. The fake stone tile on the walls may be a bit strange, but the lighting is good. (Noonah’s, for example, had these brutally bright fluorescent lights). It’s a comfortable space in which to enjoy the salt and fat.
Fellow Sunnysiders (the three of you who read B&E), let’s help reverse the curse on that restaurant space. I like having Salt & Fat as an indulgent option for eating out in the ‘hood. Go eat there, early and often.