New restaurants in Hong Kong: Salt & Barrel in Shek Tong Shui – great flavours, but service slow
The newly opened Indian restaurant was short of staff when we tried it; despite the slow service, we’ll be back – the dishes on the small menu were delicious
We made the mistake of visiting Salt & Barrel within a few weeks of its opening in Shek Tong Tsui, a gentrifying neighbourhood near the western end of Hong Kong Island. It wasn’t the food that was the problem, but that the kitchen wasn’t up to speed, and it took 45 minutes before our first dish was served (we overheard diners at a nearby table telling the waitress they had been waiting for 90 minutes).
Restaurant owners, take note: if some of the cooks do not show up because they’re ill (as the situation was explained by the waitress), it’s a good idea to limit the number of diners to what the kitchen can comfortably handle.
Still, we can see ourselves visiting again – and by now, any problems in the kitchen and front of house (many of whom, apart from the waitress, seemed inexperienced) should have been ironed out. It’s best to go with a group, because portions are generous.
The “taproom and kebaberie” is a long, airy room with a bar at the entrance. The beer menu was quite limited when we visited. The food menu lists about 10 small plates, eight kebabs, and sides of breads, rice and vegetables.
Piquillo pepper samosas with three-cheese filling and tamarind chutney (HK$110) were a milder version of jalapeño poppers, but like them, were a nice bar snack to go with beer. Wrapped in crunchy pastry, the peppers were sweet and the filling was rich and savoury.
Tandoori trout fillet (HK160) – listed on the small plates selection, although it was quite large – was our favourite dish of the evening. The pink-fleshed trout was cooked so it was rare and moist, and there was lots of flavour and textures from the marinated roe, creamy yogurt and crisp, puffy buckwheat puri.
The kebabs – which have suggested beer pairings – seemed expensive, but they were large; two were plenty for three diners. The barra rhapsody – Jimba premium lamb with mint chimichurri (HK$350) featured slow-cooked chops, roasted rump and shoulder kofte. The kofte were delicious, with complex flavours. Surprisingly, we liked the rump more than the chops, which we would have preferred medium-rare.
I usually avoid ordering chicken at restaurants, but the murgh musallam (HK$250) sounded too interesting to pass up. The fresh local chicken was partially deboned before being marinated, stuffed with eggs, then cooked. The chicken was moist with a really nice spice blend that included annatto seed, saffron, green cardamom and Kashmiri chillies.
Salt & Barrel, 1 South Lane, Shek Tong Tsui, tel: 2761 4900. About HK$340 per person without drinks or the service charge.
While you’re in the area