Salt and Ash
1390 North Kraemer Blvd.
Placentia, CA 92870
I have become quite obsessed with lists of restaurants. For awhile I was fixated on wings. Then I went crazy trying to hit up all the burgers spots on another top 10 list. Now I'm trying to hit up as many of the OC Register's Restaurant Critic, Brad Johnson's top 75 restaurants in OC list. I've already been to almost half of them, but I consider that not to be good enough for someone that's trying to eat their way through OC. So, I've made it my mission to tackle this list, at least until another list strikes my fancy, and I attack that one.
For a restaurant that has only been open for six months, the food community has really embraced Salt and Ash. Not only has it been listed as one of the top 75 restaurants in OC, but they also got a glowing review in Orange Coast Magazine. Pretty good for a restaurant that is well hidden, and in the suburban spread of land locked Placentia. When we walked in, we also spied two of our good friends, and prominent members of the OC food scene, Anita from Diary of a Mad Hungry Woman and Bobby of 100 Eats. Really good catching up with them, and proof that Salt and Ash has some great buzz surrounding it. Let's see if we thought this was the case after eating here.
Salt and Ash, as stated earlier, is in kind of an odd shopping center, which is situated right next to the Placentia Post Office. Lots of wood all over the place, and a nice relaxed atmosphere is provided. Not too hipster, but still with a youthfulness about it, even though they still serve beverages in mason jars, which was so yesterday, as any hipster could tell you. They have a small bar that straddles the back portion of the restaurant and the outdoor patio. Maybe about twenty or so tables in this rectangular floor plan, which are nicely spaced, and provide a chance for actual conversation in this rather loud environment.
The menu here encompasses appetizers, sandwiches, entrees, desserts, and side items. There are about five options per section, with some extra appetizer options being offered. According to our waitress, the menu here changes with the seasons, which is a bummer because the much hyped duck empanadas were not on the menu when we dined here, so be aware that your favorite items might take a little hiatus on your next visit to Salt and Ash. For now, let's take a look at what was on the menu during our visit.
Since my duck empanadas were not available, we spontaneously went with these Dry Ribs ($11). These ribs were sans sauce, but seasoned with sea salt, coriander, and black pepper. These had plenty of meat on them, but the salt really overpowered here, and detracted from the flavor of the meat. Not one of my favorites.
Entrees came out rather quickly, and the first one to hit the table was my dad's selection, the Coastal Catch ($20). This plate changes with what's available on any particular day, and on this day it was Grilled Ono, served with lotus red rice, baby corn, sweet peas, and an herb crema. My dad was pretty quiet about his meal, but usually that just means he's very intent on not raising awareness about liking his plate, and having to offer bites to anyone that would want some. Very selfish big guy.
Cuban sandwich on the menu? Yep, that more than likely means my mom is going to order it, and she held true to form by ordering Our Cuban ($15). If you are an avid reader of my blog, you know how I feel about Cuban sandwiches. They are the most balanced sandwiches ever, and a good one can be life changing. This one was good, but not life changing. Roasted pork, pickles, mustard and cheese is sandwiched between grilled bread. A Cuban usually includes ham, but this version did not. Still good, but the bread seemed off to me. It was a little on the hard side, and had too much of a panini feel to it. We liked the house french fries that she chose as her side item. They came out with a tomato jam, and the much better aioli. My mom ended up liking this sandwich, and took half of it home for lunch the next day.
I was torn between the burger and the steak, and as you can see from the pictures above, the Hanger Steak ($24) won out. Hanger steak is quickly becoming one of my favorite steaks, and this one was right up there. The steak was tender, and cooked to a perfect medium rare. I would have liked a more substantial sauce, as this one was too watery. The borsin mash was good, but the turnips kind of got lost here. A solid plate, but not one that I'd have to revisit.
Katie zeroed in on the Fried Chicken Sandwich ($13) at Salt and Ash. She reported that this sandwich was inconsistent. She liked the crunchy breading coating the chicken, but some bites were bland, even with the inclusion of a chimichurri sauce and peppers between the focaccia. She absolutely loved the calabacitas that she picked as her side item. I have to admit that I had no idea what calabacitas was before this evening. I learned it's a Mexican flavored vegetable side dish, and this one contained squash, queso fresco, corn, and herbs. Very unique, and Katie was pretty stoked with this.
I was advised by reviews of this place to save room for dessert, so we saved just enough room to try two of their four offerings. This Layered Chocolate Cake ($9) had some of the best frosting around. Very smooth, and not overly sweet, it was a great vehicle for the cake portion, which could have been a little more moist. Still tasty, and definitely worth having again.
Salt and Ash rotates a pretty impressive selection of pies, which they feature on their Facebook page to alert guests as to what they will be featuring on any particular day. On the night we were here, they had this Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie ($8) as their seasonal pie. This kind of fell flat for us. The texture was there, but the filling was a little on the boring side. There was not a lot of chocolate included here, and the peanut butter was way too subtle. Good crust though.
I kind of had mixed feelings about Salt and Ash. I might have had it hyped up too much in my own head, with it being named one of the top 75 restaurants in OC. Based on this one visit, it was good, but I'm not sure it is top 75 good. Not any of the items we had on this evening would I consider to be crave worthy. In other words, I would not go out of my way to come here again, but if my parents suggested it, I'd come back and give them another try. Our server Kaitlin was right on top of things, and really extended great service to us during our stay. Now we're off to tackle more of our restaurant wish list.
Out of five tennis rackets, (because the city of Placentia was once home to Hall of Fame tennis player Michael Chang, who I once scooped ice cream for when I worked at Baskin Robbins), five being best to zero being worst, Salt and Ash gets 3 tennis rackets.
For more information about Salt and Ash, head over to their website here: http://saltandash.com/