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Salisterra, a Latin phrase that translates to “salt of the earth”, is derived from the Bible’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:13-16), which alludes to commoners who were worthy and virtuous.
Upon visiting newly opened Salisterra at The Upper House, we can comfortably say that the restaurant is anything but “common”, although its menu is based on the humble bones of classic Mediterranean flavours.
Occupying the illustrious space occupied formerly by Café Gray Deluxe on the 49th floor, the brand-new concept is based on the coastal cuisines of France and Italy, as narrated by London-based, Michelin-starred chef Jun Tanaka of The Ninth. Due to travel restrictions, Chef Tanaka was unable to work on-site with The Upper House’s kitchen team, led by Chef de Cuisine Krzysztof Czerwinski. Instead, they got creative with technology and curated a menu with test-kitchen trials and live screen chats.
While the chefs were busy interpreting flavour profiles via Wi-Fi across two continents, the venue went through a complete metamorphosis under the creative guidance of André Fu. A stunning five-metre-long chandelier, illuminated by 80 glass lanterns, commands the main dining area, which is awash in earthy, mineral hues of orange, blue, turquoise, yellow and red. Cosy, curved banquettes tucked into nooks with spectacular views provide a sense of intimacy as well as demure elegance. Three semi-private high dining tables allow guests to look across the open kitchen and get a slice of the action (a different menu from the main dining room is served to specifically cater to these three tables). There’s also a 10-seater private dining room for special occasions.
Our favourite space, however, has got to be the “green room”, a dining area adjacent to the long, burgundy marbled bar encased in high-gloss lacquered walls and furnished in muted green and golden tones.
In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint and empower social enterprise, Salisterra has teamed up with the UK-based Belu water-filtration system to provide guests with filtered and sparkling water for a nominal fee. All profits are donated to global water charity WaterAid in order to provide clean water to communities in need around the world.
Our tasting began with a round of cocktails, as inspired by the bevy of botanicals in The Upper House’s gardens. Our favourite was Verdant ($130), a refreshing mix of Tito’s vodka, dill, yuzu, cucumber and apple vinegar that’s perfect for the upcoming hot, humid Hong Kong summer. Terra ($130), an heady blend of Jose Cuervo reposado with yellow chartreuse, lemon, morel, maitake, rosemary and cinnamon, reminds us of an earthy old-fashioned owing to its intensity. The Horxata+ ($130) is an opaque concoction of Goslings Black Seal Rum, Enrico Toro amaro, horchata and sesame, served uniquely with a side of popcorn.
Freshly baked Beaufort and truffle gougères ($50), topped with fresh cheese shavings and infused with the aroma of truffle, made for scrumptious, comforting starter bites. The glossy focaccia, served to us piping hot from the oven, was infused with the flavours of olive oil and herbs.
A dish that reminds us of breezy summer days is the panzanella ($195), a light vegetarian plate made with crisp sourdough bits, fromage frais, tomato consommé, pickled onion and fresh tomato. The crisp bread soaked up the deliciously sweet juices of the sun-ripened tomatoes.
The duck agnolotti (part of a 3-course lunch set at $415) was tossed in duck consommé and egg yolk upon arrival at the table. We particularly liked the crunchy enoki mushrooms that dotted the dish, although we found the pasta parcels to be on the gummy, heavy side.
The flamed saba mackerel ($195) tasted of the ocean with its sharp brininess, helped further along by the accompanying sea asparagus and capers. The sweet and tart pickled cucumbers add balance to this dish.
Our favourite of the small plates, the roast sweet potato (part of the lunch set) is blended with kimchi and topped with pickled red radish and yoghurt. We loved the contrast between the sweet tartness and slight heat from the kimchi, as well as the comforting texture of the sweet potato mash against the crunch of the radish. This is a dish we could happily eat over and over again.
The pan-fried herb gnocchi (part of the lunch set) comes with ribbons of asparagus, morels and fat flakes of Parmesan. The gnocchi was rather fluffy, but it still felt quite substantial for us. This would be an ideal sharing dish rather than a single main.
The grilled poussin (part of the lunch set) with preserved lemon, sugar snaps and radish is infused with so much flavour. The poultry was juicy and had golden, blistered skin.
The pan-fried sea bream (part of the lunch set) comes adorned with clams and an electric-green pesto minestrone. This dish is light and fresh, although not a standout for us in terms of flavour impact.
Crisp Belle de Fontenay spuds with a tongue-in-cheek name, the FOMO potatoes ($95) require quite a lot of delicate knife work and plenty of TLC to create. The thinly sliced potatoes are repeatedly doused in butter and herbs during the baking process to produce crunchy edges and fluffy centres. Do eat these right away though, as they loose their crunch quite quickly.
The house-made fresh conchiglie with morels, egg yolk and tarragon ($245) is an earthy version of carbonara that is every bit as indulgent and addictive. This was our favourite of the mains thanks to the toothsome texture of the fresh pasta and the creamy mushroom sauce.
Warm rice pudding (part of the lunch set), dotted with kumquat, honeycomb and crème-fraiche ice cream, and a lemon yuzu tart (part of the lunch set) rounded out our lunchtime feast. Our favourite was the yuzu tart for its sunny, zesty flavour, pairing well with the accompanying house-made espresso ice cream. Warm madeleines added a cosy farewell hug to conclude our meal.
Offering delicate, well-executed dishes in an ethereal space, Salisterra moves with the sun, offering a different experience with a unique menu for each mealtime. The standouts for us at lunch were the vegetarian dishes, notably the sweet potato and morel pasta. We commend the kitchen team for this achievement – it’s quite difficult to create vegetarian options that are easily appealing to the average palate.
We will definitely be back to try the scrumptious-looking breakfast menu in order to sample Chef Czerwinski’s already famous buttery kouign-amann, as well as to tuck into afternoon tea in one of the curved banquettes with panoramic views.
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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