Salty's At Redondo Beach
By Don and Peg Doman
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What could be better on a quiet April afternoon in the Pacific Northwest, than dining with friends at a friendly restaurant with spectacular views and fantastic food? Okay, throw in the Daffodil Parade and you've got paradise, but for most occasions, a wonderful outing to Salty's at Redondo is really close to as good as it gets . . . no matter what month it is.
Salty's at Redondo Beach (28201 Redondo Beach Drive S.), part of the Salty's Northwest series of fine restuarants, is located all by itself in Redondo (a small residential area just South of Des Moines and North of Dash Point). The restaurant is only a few feet away from the street and extends out and over Puget Sound.
The four of us (Zoobilee 2005 Food and Beverage Co-chairs Donn and Debbie Irwin, and Don and Peggy Doman) were seated at a table for four by a window. Not every table has its own window, but each table has a view. Our server, Valerie brought us our choice of refreshments which we sipped while waiting for Head Chef Gabriel Cabrera. We relaxed by talking, laughing, and enjoying the view.
Although I could have chosen a Thomas Kemper Root Beer, a personal love, I had the lemonade, which was excellent. It was tangy without being too tart or overly sweet. By the time we finished our dining experience, three large glasses of lemonade had been consumed. If I hadn't been afraid of sloshing, I might have had a fourth.
Being right on the water provides a great view of Vashon Island and the Olympics as well as Tacoma (to the South) and Des Moines (to the North). I can't imagine a Puget Sound day that would not offer enjoyable viewing from inside the restaurant. I'm willing to bet that a stormy winter day is as wonderful as a sunny summer evening.
Chef Gabriel Cabrera joined us and talked about this year's Zoobilee (July 15th - 2005 at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma), food in general, his career in the food industry, and Salty's. Born into a restaurant-owning Mexican family provided early training for Gabriel. He began working in the family restaurant by age eleven. Chef Gabriel trained three years in the South Seattle Community College cuisine program. (Co-chairs Donn and Debbie’s son Chad also went through the course.) He apprenticed for six and a half years at the Seattle Marriot Hotel near Sea-Tac Airport. Then worked at Salty's for 11.5 years before being selected as head chef. Gabriel's been executive chef for 4.5 years.
Salty's at Redondo has been providing samples of their Clam Chowder at Zoobilee for years. "I prepare about thirty or forty gallons," says the chef, "And then I prepare another thirty or forty." The chowder is cooked according to a strict recipe. The recipe is the same as it has been for over twenty years, and is in no danger of being changed. There are variations, however. Chef Gabriel decided we would have the Dungeness crab addition, the same as will be served at Zoobilee. A good choice.
An artistic arrangement of bread and butter was brought to our table. Normally, the bread would have been gone in an instant, but we didn't want to spoil our appetites.
Our server was Valerie, who has been at Salty's just a little longer than Chef Gabriel. She was cute, funny, and helpful. "I've never been to Zoobilee, but I hope I will be able to go this year," she beamed.
Good restaurants are made better by the people who work there. Great restaurants use a combination of teamwork and great food. Salty's is in this category. Servers like Valerie are worth their weight in gold. We hope she will be able to schedule an appearance at Zoobilee.
Valerie served the chowder to a chorus of "oohs" and "ahs." The chowder was thick and tasty.
The recipe includes onions, celery, bacon, roux, clam nectar, chopped clams, bay scallops, bay shrimp, and half and half. It is served with a drizzle of cream sherry and black pepper to taste. The chowder was almost thick enough to stick a spoon into the middle of the bowl and have it stand by itself. I suppose that most people prefer liquids that don't need to be chewed, and Salty's Clam Chowder is a crowd favorite . . . and mine, too.
We each chose the drizzle of sherry and a sprinkling of pepper. I like my food to bite back a little, so I prefer a nice healthy dose of freshly ground pepper. Besides, it looks nice in the creamy white chowder.
The chowder had a nice smooth texture with chunks and chunks of crab, shrimp . . . and oh, yes . . . clams. Excellent. It is easy to see why Zoobilee revelers like the chowder, but Salty's does offer more eating choices than chowder.
Chef Gabriel came back to our table to make sure we had enjoyed the chowder. We had, of course. We talked about his beginings in Mexico and asked if he went home often. He does. He had recently returned from a trip to Ixtapa in the state of Guerrero in Mexico. He came back with a recipe he borrowed from a local chef there.
The special recipe at the Redondo Salty’s has been selling about thirty to forty dinners a day. Its Mexican influence is subtle and unusual. It includes bay scallops, snapper-esque fish, white rockfish (Gabe uses halibut), mixed with parsley-garlic butter, and Kosher salt. The fish is basted with the garlic butter and put into the oven to cook. This is served over a risotto with leeks and a bit of carrot puree for sweetness and put into the center of the plate. The seafood is finished with carrot cream sauce and asparagus tips are arranged over that. The whole thing is served with cilantro infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar artistically drawn on the plate.
"Mexican cooking is often an fusion of Spanish and Mexican native influences," says Chef Gabriel. The chef was responding a question about the leeks. All four of us like leeks and use them in our own cooking.
I was looking forward to trying this dish, because I really like fish. The risotto didn't interest me . . . until I tried it. It was tasty. Really tasty. The leeks were still crunchy. The flavor was sweet and nutty and went well with the fish and scallops. The pairing of the dish with cilantro infused olive oil was great. No wonder it has been so well accepted at Redondo. Chef Gabriel willingly gave credit for the origins of the dish to the chef in Ixtapa.
We asked Valerie what her favorites were. She replied, "The special, and Romano-Asiago Halibut." In that dish the fish has a light coating of breading with Romano and Asiago cheeses. It's cooked so a light crust is formed. We'll have to try that next time. Valerie also made some suggestions for dessert. We settled on the Triple Chocolate Cake and the White Chocolate Mousse Cake to share.
The Triple Chocolate Cake was good, really good, but for all of us, even with its dark chocolate, it suffered in comparison to the light and fluffy White Chocolate Mousse Cake. The White Chocolate Mousse Cake disappeared, quite a bit of it into Debbie, while the Triple Chocolate Cake made a nice snack with coffee the next morning for Peg.
The White Chocolate Mousse Cake is a signature dessert at Salty's and always can be found on the menu, while other selections change.
Salty's bakes their own desserts and bread at a small bakery in the parking lot across the street from Salty's at Redondo. As we left, we met two bakers delivering more goodies to the restaurant. They declined our offer to carry their cakes. We would have been really careful. Go figure.
After dining, in addition to watching Scuba divers along the gravely beach and children collecting shells and rocks, we were all treated to a nice view of windsurfing. The surfers in their wetsuits had huge kites fastened to their waists with a harness that pulled them along the water standing on a skim board. The four of us would have probably joined them, except we were stuffed and happy . . . a nice way to leave any restaurant.
The Sunday Brunch at Salty's is highly recommended, also. Read a Sunday Brunch review from a previous adventure with Don and Peg.
Salty's At Redondo Beach
28201 Redondo Beach Drive S., Redondo, WA 98198
Restaurant (253) 946-0636.....Fax (253) 946-5099
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