Honey Salt: A Taste of New England

Honey_Salt-placesettingHoney Salt is a farm-to-table restaurant in an upscale strip mall at 1031 South Rampart Blvd in the neighborhood of Summerlin. I first discovered it thanks to a post on Bite and Switch. This restaurant has been getting a lot of good press lately, and we stopped in on a Saturday afternoon to see what all the buzz was about.

The interior of the restaurant is bright and clean, with tables and chairs that evoke an upscale country feel. That feel continues with a smattering of kitsch and a wall full of pictures that are clearly Cape Cod (Massachusetts) inspired. Waitstaff are dressed in jeans and plaid shirts, the way Abercrombie and Fitch might envision a farmer’s attire.

Honey_Salt-Dining-RoomWhen we arrived we saw some very fashionable and well put-together folks dining right up front, and I thought that we might have been seated in a corner behind the bar due to my jeans-and-a-t-shirt sense of style. As the meal progressed we discovered that the party up front had reserved the area for a baby shower. Perhaps I was too quick to judge. There were a number of other casual diners in our little section, so we didn’t end up feeling at all under-dressed.

The mid-afternoon menu is brief, but had just enough interesting dishes to entice us to order. As we were not overly hungry, my girlfriend and I chose to split an appetizer, a burger and dessert. The waitstaff handled this request without a hitch or a grimace, though they did not go the extra mile and split the dishes for us. They simply placed the dishes in the middle of the table and gave us empty plates to serve ourselves. Having received this service at Omelet House and Coffee Pub recently, I’m afraid I’ve begun to expect it.

Honey_Salt-Red-DiaryWe received a bowl of warm rolls and very tasty cracker-like triangles served with a ramekin of house-made hummus as a complimentary starter. It all tasted good, but I would have preferred bread and butter or hummus with pita or pretzel chips. Perhaps I’m too much of a traditionalist. My girlfriend’s “Red Diary” cocktail ($10) was a bit sweet for my tastes, but it was obviously prepared with premium ingredients. I would have chosen the “Fat Tire Amber” ($6 bottle) from their solid list of micro-brews if I were having a beer, but I chose to forgo the alcohol on this occasion.

For our first course I put aside my usual reservations about ordering seafood in the desert and ordered the “New England Fry” ($14). This dish included fried clams, fried calamari, grilled shishito peppers and a lemon aioli. I grew up just a handful of miles from the world-famous clam shacks of Ipswich and Essex Massachusetts, so I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to fried seafood. Honey_Salt-New-England-FryThe serving was small, by New England standards, but that’s forgivable when you’re in the desert 2500 miles away. Both the clams and the calamari were lightly breaded, fried in clean oil (very important) and perfectly cooked. The clams were complete with bellies, and had a nice briny seafood flavor. The calamari, which I know is a challenge to get right, was tender, tasty and easy to chew. The aioli was okay as a dipping sauce, though I’m a bit of a purist and left it out after trying a bite. The peppers were good, but added nothing to the dish but color. They are not a traditional part of a “New England Fry,” and their flavor really didn’t match well with the rest of the dish. In the end, I was so impressed with the freshness and execution of the seafood itself that I didn’t really care what it was served with.

Honey_Salt-Backyard-Burger-and-FriesNext, we split a “Kim’s Style” (topped with a fried egg) “Backyard Burger” ($14), ordered medium. The burger was moist and delicious, with cheddar cheese melted on top and a homemade tomato ketchup already on the bun. The egg was fresh and cooked just right; it elevated the burger to a new level. On the side were fresh lettuce and tomato, tasty thin-cut french fries and a couple of pickle slices. It all looked and tasted so good that I didn’t bother to send back the burger, which was cooked closer to rare than medium.

"Medium Rare"

“Medium Rare”

For dessert we had the “Brown Bag Apple Pie” ($9). The brown bag is a bit of a gimmick, but the pie was delicious! We ignored the waiter’s suggestion of salted caramel ice-cream and went for the traditional vanilla. The ice-cream was smooth and creamy and a perfect complement to the warm apple pie.

Honey_Salt-Brown-Bag-Apple-PieOverall, I feel that Honey Salt is a good value. They are clearly sourcing premium ingredients, and except for the temperature on my burger, everything was executed perfectly. Service was solidly good, and the atmosphere was comfortable. They do seem to be trying a bit too hard in some ways, but I can forgive them wanting to stand out in the sea of great restaurants that is Las Vegas.

Update Feb 12, 2013: Honey Salt owner Elizabeth Blau took the time to contact me personally this afternoon to thank me for (the positives of) my review, and to clear up a couple of things. It is obvious that she is very passionate about the restaurant, and wants each customer’s experience to be just right.

Here’s three things I learned from our discussion:

  • Mid-afternoon seating is typically in the area behind the bar as the main dining area is used for staff meals and dinner prep.
  • The kitchen will plate split items separately when practical, however they choose not to sacrifice the presentation of a dish for the convenience of separate plating. Ms. Blau was pleased that her front of house staff handled the splitting request so well. (So were we.)
  • The brown bag in the brown bag apple pie is used to maintain just the right level of moisture. (I still maintain my assertion that plating it this way is a bit of a gimmick. Regardless, it’s delicious.)

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