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claudia kwan/for metro vancouver
Salt Tasting Room
45 Blood Alley, Gastown
Open daily from noon-midnight
Dinner for four, including wine, tax, and tip: $160
**** 1/2 (out of 5)
Proprietor Sean Heather has set up the somewhat hard to locate Salt Tasting Room around the corner from his first Vancouver establishment, the Irish Heather. If you encounter difficulty finding the banner printed with an upended salt shaker in Gastown’s Blood Alley, call and staff will talk you in.
You’ll find a cleanly designed space that pays homage to industrial influences with exposed brick walls, concrete, and surprisingly comfortable backless aluminum stools, while mixing in tables made of solid slabs of wood. Built-in ceiling speakers let music set the mood without overpowering conversation.
The essence of Salt can be summed up as cured meat, bread, and cheese, but it’s the execution that elevates the experience. Tasting plates let you pick three items off the constantly changing meat or cheese lists printed on a giant chalkboard, and then three accompaniments.
Selections on this night include the elegantly presented corned beef, Danish bacon roll, prosciutto salami, wild boar prosciutto, cheddar, beautifully veined blue cheese, and a hard cheese that tastes like Parmesan. Depending on how much time they have, the incredibly knowledgeable servers will give you the stories behind where these products come from, and tell you what they taste like. The accompaniments may be the most fun part of the process, spreading grainy Guinness mustard to add zing, enhancing cheese with the sweetness of fig bread or pear slices, or having olives to munch on while you figure out what you’ll eat next.
Salt also has a small selection of salads, patés or hot items, like a smoked pork chop that ends up a little dry on this night. The top-notch staffers hired by Heather have taken a lot of care to assemble a wine list that matches beautifully with the bold flavours of the menu. Don’t miss dessert either — you’ll leave wanting to come back right away.