Come as you are, the invitation said. What exactly does that mean, I asked the restaurant manager. It means you can come dressed as you like, dhoti, shorts, sandals or morning jacket. Alas, my wife vetoed my outfit when she saw me ready to go in my sandals and dinner jacket combo.
Salt is a laid back, five star restaurant. There’s no pretense here. The key differentiator, explained the manager, was that it had an out of city vibe, while being close enough for everyone to get to. This attitude of being chilled out extends to the staff as well, as we found out about an hour into our buffet when the waiting staff all broke out into dance to songs like Gangnum Style and What Does the Fox Say?
We were there to sample the newly launched Saturday brunch at Salt. The cost per person is Rs 1,799+ tax, so around Rs 2,000 after tax. This gets you all the food and unlimited non-alcoholic drinks. If you want unlimited alcohol, you can add another Rs 500 and you can order beer and various local spirits and Indian Made Foreign Liquour (called IMFL) with mixers. For kids over the age of ten, the buffet cost is Rs 1,399+tax, which is around Rs 1,600 after tax. There’s a special kids counter, balloon station and magician that will keep everyone entertained.
The Radisson Airport property has a medium sized swimming pool with sun loungers and outdoor seating. Dining guests can make the most of this by taking advantage of Salt’s Splash-A-Lot package. Turn up for the buffet with your swimming gear (or purchase from the shop in the hotel), pay Rs 500 per person and you have the perfect combination of pool, drinks and food – it’s like being at one of the ECR resorts but you don’t have to spend two hours travelling there.
Families with young children hoping to take a swim before eating might be a little disappointed. Even though there’s a life guard on standby at all times, children under the age of eight are not allowed in the pool for safety reasons. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
The concept behind the Salt restaurant is in the name. The restaurant uses salt blocks brought down from the Himalayan mountains. This salt has a distinct taste and can subtly alter the flavour of the many dishes that you might be used to. They also have a live counter where grilled meats and vegetables are seasoned on 3kg salt blocks. Fun fact: To heat the seasoning salt blocks up to the required 200 degrees takes a long time. If they simply heated the salt block as quickly as possible, the block would crack.
There’s also a salt menu where you can select various salts from around the world to help season your dishes. If you’re not sure which seasoning to choose (like me), the restaurant has a salt sommelier to advise you on the type of salt to use on the dishes you select!
There is a big range of starters and you can do anything from creating your own salad to choosing one of the ready made starters. I was feeling a bit lazy that day so just picked up some of the ready made starters which included some meat, eggs and vegetables.
To help wash down all the food there’s a big list of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails available – and they are unlimited depending on which package you’ve chosen. Do try the non-alcoholic South Side Cooler mocktail if you like a minty, refreshing drink. If you’ve chosen the unlimited alcohol package, try the blue margarita, with salt, of course. If you’re up for a little experimentation, try the cocoa with ginger mocktail.
The cuisine on the buffet is quite varied but it’s definitely skewed more towards Indian palettes. For a starter, ask for the watermelon, rocket and feta cheese dish. It’s brought out on a pink slab of salt and the salt sommelier suggests additional salts to really bring out the flavour of the watermelon and cheese.
I’m not normally a fish person and I actually skipped the fish items. But the manager insisted that I try some, bringing over a banana leave, inside of which was a small fish. With trepidation, I took a small bite and I have to say, I rather enjoyed it! So much so I went back by myself to get another one! Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone when it comes to trying the unusual dishes available, and if you’re unsure, just ask one of the waiting staff who’ll be more than happy to help you with ideas and suggestions.
As many carnivores in Chennai will know, getting good meat in Chennai can be a challenge. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if you’ve ever bought meat in the city, you know what I’m talking about. Fortunately Salt has us covered! There are plenty of meats to choose from which are grilled on the salt block. I chose two of everything, chicken, lamb, fish and devoured it all. Grilling the meat on the salt block really brought out the flavours of the meat.
There were plenty of other counters which I didn’t try because I had gorged myself silly on the starters and grilled meats. There are a variety of veg and non-veg Indian gravies (curries), a live pasta counter and various Indian breads can be ordered on demand.
In keeping with the unusual fusion of food, aside from the usual desserts like cakes, Indian sweets and ice cream, a chocolate mousse was brought out. What’s so unusual about chocolate mousse? This one was served on a block of pink salt and Himalayan salt flakes were sprinkled on top. The pièce de résistance is the pipette stuck in the mousse that contains extra virgin olive oil. I never would have believed it but the rich, thick mousse was brought alive by adding salt and drenching it in the olive oil.
The dessert station has an almost endless line of desserts, so make sure you leave enough room after eating from the buffet!
Eating and drinking at the Salt buffet was a culinary experience unlike anything I’ve had before in Chennai. A lot of thought and preparation has gone into each dish on the menu. If you don’t find something that suits your fancy, just ask the staff who are all more than happy to help. Better yet, be adventurous and ask them to bring you some of Salt’s specialty dishes.
When so many buffet spreads offer the same dishes, Salt turns everything on its head.
Visiting Salt Co. 531
Salt Co. 531 is located at the read of the Radisson Blu Chennai Airport property.[gmap title=”” show_heading=”0″ latitude=”12.9948174″ longitude=”80.1863229″ zoom=”15″ width=”100%” height=”300px” map_type=”ROADMAP”]
The Saturday buffet opens at 12 noon. Call the following number for reservations and enquiries: 044 2231 0101