Chef Ken Salmon, formerly of the now-shuttered Upstream Grille in Lake Hopatcong, has joined the kitchen at Salt Gastropub in Stanhope—which celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year—and is making his mark on the hearty, casual menu.
We arrived at prime time on a Friday night, and were happy we had called ahead for a reservation because every seat in the house, including the large bar, was packed. A lively guitarist was belting out tunes on a little stage, lending a festive atmosphere, but he was a bit too loud, which made it hard to communicate with each other and our very friendly waitress.
Salt has a big focus on beers with the “crafty drafty” list including Jersey favorites from breweries like Czig Meister, Carton, Flying Fish, Angry Erik and Brotherton. Each menu item suggests an appropriate brew pairing, but wine and spirit lovers will also find some attractive choices and titillating hand-crafted cocktails such as the “My Fat Ex,” a mix of Black Dirt bourbon, raspberry liquor, mint and lemon.
For starters, we went with the poutine of hand-cut fries topped with shredded pork, gravy and cheese curds, which was delicious, but would have stayed much hotter and crispier if it were served in the classic style, right out of the skillet. On the other hand, the risotto, enhanced with blackened shrimp, kabocha squash and a pomegranate glaze, was steaming, rich and creamy and perfectly sized to not be too overwhelming.
The main course hanger steak also presented a temperature problem. Although the meat was tender and perfectly cooked, the accompanying gratin of potatoes was stone cold and congealed. Our server quickly whisked it back to the kitchen, and the heated version offered the slender slices of potato in a now smooth and silky cheese sauce.
We had only raves for the pan-seared scallops and tiger shrimp over little pearls of Israeli cous cous, which was balanced by salty lardons of bacon, sharp horseradish and tangy lime butter.
The desserts, which change regularly enough to only be posted on a black board, sounded too intriguing to pass up. The Bailey’s car bomb cheesecake was smooth but not dense, with an extra crispy crust and the pot de crème was heavenly. The silky chocolate pudding, topped with a dollop of sweet whipped cream, was a study in the perfection of simplicity.
With just a little attention to detail needed, Salt Gastropub is a friendly and fun place to sip, snack or savor a substantial meal.
Salt Gastropub, 109 US Highway 206, Stanhope, 973-347-7258, . Lunch, Tuesday—Sunday. Dinner, daily. Sunday brunch buffet, 11 AM — 2 PM.Click here to leave a comment