Summer is in the air, and the smell of fresh seafood is quite prominent. Seafood restaurants are popping up all over LA. Michael Cimarusti's Connie and Ted's has brought the New England shores to West Hollywood, and David LefLavie's Fishing with Dynamite is giving the South Bay fresh mollusks and crustaceans in his tiny new outpost in Manhattan Beach. The westside has not being ignored, and now has Salt Air for locals to get their seafood fix.
The restaurant sits on uber trendy Abbot Kinney, in the former Capri and Wolf in Sheep's Clothing location. One of the principals behind Salt Air is David Reiss from A-Frame and Sunny Spot fame, and you can see his touch in the remodel. The room is now more open and bright with white washed walls, and a nice long zinc topped bar behind the dining room. While pretty to look at, the room is extremely loud when operating at full tilt, and the other bummer is that if you're a table for two, you'll be wedged, plastic chair to plastic chair with other couples along the wall, so don't plan on a romantic evening of secret telling while eating here.
The good news is that the food is worth yelling over and sharing elbow space with your neighbor. The menu is pretty simple with fresh oyster options from the raw bar, a collection of interesting small plates, and a handful of fairly straight forward entrees with a couple of sides.
Before our oysters arrived we received a complimentary amuse bouche of jalapeno corn fritters with an herbed butter. It looked promising with a crispy exterior and gooey center, but it was just ok with a tepid interior and excessively fried shell.
No worries because our assortment of oysters from the east coast and WA soon arrived, delivering a variety of salty, briny and rich tastes from the sea, which was a nice companion to the Sancerre we were drinking.
We ended up diving into several small plates that were all excellent. A tender, grilled octopus was sprawled on top of a bed of warm lentils, flavored with smoky chorizo and pickled onions. A wonderful, savory plate with nice bright notes.
While pea toast is not something I'd order on my own, I was more than happy to be guided to this outstanding dish of warm, slightly toasted, thick bread layered with caramelized onions, ricotta cheese and pea leaves. Delicious.
The mussels were perfectly cooked in a coconut curry broth that packed a surprising punch when I went in for a dunk with the grilled bread.
Our dishes were all excellent, and we didn't even touch the entree list of standards like fish and chips, steak frites, and pan roasted chicken. There was enough magic in the small plates for me, but I'll need to return to try some of the mains and have some dessert. Next time I go with just one friend, we'll try and belly up to the beautiful bar for a little more room, and hopefully to be able hear each other better.