Tucked Away in Tempe…
The Dishes: Hummus nachos, quinoa fritters, and mediterranean chicken kabobs
The Drinks: Lavender Lemon Fizz
The Place: Salut Kitchen Bar
The Location: 1435 E University Dr Suite 12 Tempe, AZ 85281 480-625-3600
By: Erica Cron
Tucked away in a plaza on University Dr is a hip little spot called Salut Kitchen Bar. I must admit, I do live in Tempe and have passed it many times, but pulling into a plaza containing a reptile store and pawn shop for a meal never really crossed my mind. Luckily, I was invited to a tasting last night as an early celebration for Salut’s two-year anniversary, and was really excited about what they have to offer. From the outside, Salut does look nice, but when you walk through the doors you will find yourself in a rustic-chic restaurant with a dark wood bar and tables dimly lit by edison lightbulbs. The open entrance to the dog-friendly patio, which is surrounded by foliage and wooden pallets, from the bar makes the space feel open and cozy at the same time. We were sat on the patio, from which point I quickly caught myself watching for the next round of the tasting immediately after finishing the one in front of me.
We began with one of their signature cocktails, the Lavender Lemon Fizz. If you are a fan of gin, this will become one of your new favorite cocktails. The ingredients for this cocktail include Bombay Sapphire gin, lemon juice, lavender syrup, and dry lemon soda. The cocktail is served in a glass cup made out of a gin bottle garnished with a piece of fresh lavender and slice of lemon. What makes this drink successful is that not one of the ingredients completely overpowers another. When I saw lavender, I expected it to be very perfumy, but the flavor was very subtle, which worked well for this particular drink.
The first dish our waiter brought out was the hummus nachos. This was my favorite dish of the night. Salut managed to take traditional mediterranean ingredients and use them with more of a modern twist. The pita is cut into slices about the size of a tortilla chip and fried until the outside has a nice crunch, but the inside remains doughy. The slices are then topped with hummus, red onion, a balsamic glaze, chives and a couple of pomegranate seeds. I liked the addition of the tart pomegranate seeds because they broke up the dense flavor. Another component that really made this dish so tasty was the hummus. Anastasios Tirkas, co-owner of Salut Kitchen Bar, said they make the hummus from his mother’s recipe. Authenticity was the last thing on my mind when I walked into the restaurant, but they manage to squeeze it into the dishes they serve.
The authenticity continued with the chicken kabobs. Although the kabobs were delicious on their own, the tzatziki dipping sauce really sets the bar high. The others around me thought the same, everyone kept talking about how good the tzatziki was. The strong cucumber and mint taste made for a light, fresh sauce, which paired well with the seasoned chicken and peppers. Salut is one place that definitely does not lack flavor in any of the dishes. The quinoa fritters were no exception. They were crispy on the outside with insides full of quinoa lost in havarti cheese. The red pepper emulsion and piece of fried crimini on top of the fritters were also very important flavor profile for the dish. To end our meal, our waiter brought out s’mores with fondue forks to roast over a mini hibachi. The s’mores were not anything too out of the ordinary, besides the fact that we got to roast marshmallows in a restaurant, but they were a really fun and playful way to top off a good meal.
If you want to celebrate Salut Kitchen Bar’s two-year anniversary and stuff yourself, join them tomorrow, Wednesday March 25 for $2 hummus nachos all day! A full menu and drink list is available on their wedbiste at http://www.salutkitchenbar.com/.