The Midwest isn't particularly known for its fresh seafood. This isn't a surprising fact. For years we were stuck in a situation where the best we could hope for was some quality fish and chips (and even those were hard to come by). But, as Bob Dylan once said, the times they are a-changin'. No longer must we follow Anthony Bourdain's once sage advice of never ordering fish on a Monday due to the fact that transportation is much easier than it was even 15 years ago and restaurants all around the country can receive fresh, daily shipments of any in-season product they desire.
Look at me, I'm burying the lead. What all this comes down to is we have a new seafood restaurant here in Indy and it's damn good. Salt on Mass opened last night (guess what, it's on Mass Ave.) and I can attest to the fact that their fish is fresh and, according to the bartender, flown in daily.
I made my way through the door shortly after they opened and took a look around the modern, coastal chic room. The place is replete with grays and whites and tan, nautical ropes, the room light and inviting. As I ambled up to the bar I was happy to see the only televisions were at the bar, nothing is worse than having a nice meal with friends and family and everyone being distracted by a screen.
A quick glance at the menu showed me they are using as many local ingredients as is possible in a seafood establishment, I noted Viking Farms lamb, Miller Farms chicken and beef from Fischer Farm. After ordering a Carson's Red Dawn to start out I asked the bartender if they had any other local products on the menu and he was excited to reveal that much of their produce is locally-sourced and so is the pasta.
If you're going to judge a seafood restaurants quality, the place to start is with something fresh. So, while the crab cakes sounded and looked incredible, I had to go with Kona Tacos, which featured tuna poke, avocado and a caramel-soy glaze nestled in wonton taco shells. I was about halfway through my beer when they arrived. The tacos were unbelievably good, the tuna was fresh, the taco shells crisp and the blending of flavor, as I put in my Instagram post, "perfection."
The three tacos had left me feeling satisfied, but if I'm trying out a new seafood place, I'm not going to leave without getting an entree cooked by Chef Neil Andrews (formerly of Oceanaire) and his team. Though many dishes sounded fantastic, including the Crispy Florida Red Grouper or the Seared Atlantic Yellowfin Tuna with kimchee (I'm a sucker for kimchee) and sambal, I had to go with the Pan Seared Panamanian Cobia, (I'm even more of a sucker for meaty, white fish). I ordered a glass of chardonnay to accompany the dish, their wine list was a nice detail, as I have to say a good glass of wine pairs with fish better than nearly any beer or cocktail.
While I waited for my meal — and I have to say it was quite a wait, which I expected during the opening night, and you should expect for the first month or so (this goes for any restaurant opening) — I took in the rest of the place. One thing that set it apart from the other seafood options in the city is it is definitely a more relaxed atmosphere. The music was bluesy rock, the workers were in jeans, I was in flip-flops. I'm not saying it was better or worse, but it is nice to have a place to get quality seafood without feeling like I have to dressed to the nines and the waitstaff's garb feeling moderately pretentious.
When my food finally arrived, I looked down at the dish and immediately noticed the fish was seared perfectly, with nice crispy edges. Atop the fish sat a healthy helping of Dungeness crab and below was an even healthier portion of asparagus. One bite in and I was in Heaven, a garlicky, buttery Heaven. Nothing is worse than undercooked fish, it's slimy and when overcooked, while not as apt to cause a gag-reflex, it is rubbery and tough. This fish, was right in the center. The crispy edges were toothsome and gave a nice crunchy texture while the middle was tender. The massive amount of asparagus was a nice addition and added a welcomed third texture. Throughout the meal I was asked by no-less than three workers if my meal was going well. I will always prefer a restaurant that is over-attentive, and they all seemed genuinely happy when I said it was great.
I finished my dish in unison with my chardonnay. In the just over an hour I was there the place had finally started to fill up with guests, I had seen many people come in that had made reservations. I grabbed my bill out of the glass in front of me, $67 for the meal (prior to tip), so if you're planning on going, expect to spend some dough. All-in-all it was a quality meal and I have to say I'm excited for new seafood here in town, the fact that it's a couple minute walk from Old National Centre and mere seconds from the Rathskeller makes it just that much better for a pre-concert meal.
See the menu and make your reservations at saltonmass.com