Cure for the Common Meal

Salt's Cure West Hollywood Spring '11
eat: Charcuterie & Pickles, Braised Pork Shoulder, Veal Burger, Yellowtail, Mussels, Blackberry Crumble, Bread Pudding, Homemade Ice Cream
sip: North Coast Coturri Rosé 2009, Alesmith IPA

When I spied the "I Love Bacon" paperweight, I knew I had come to the right place. This porcine valentine sits atop the kitchen/bar counter at Salt's Cure, a delicious, down-to-earth spot in Weho. As one would expect from a restaurant/butcher shop, the air is perfumed with roasted, smoked, and braised meat. The small chalkboard menu changes daily due to the fact that the food is admirably sourced from Californian farms. Inside, the sparse space forgoes fancy decor. Instead, the open kitchen, exposed brick wall, flickering candles, and hum of happy diners create a simple backdrop where the focus is on the food. Forget the Food Network and grab a seat at the kitchen bar, where the chef duo, Chris Phelps and Zak Walters, cook right beneath your nose.

The well-curated wine and beer list keeps up with the Cali-centric theme. We are wowed by the North Coast Coturri Rosé 2009, a gorgeous, ruby-red rosé. Made from Merlot, an uncommon rosé grape, this medium-bodied quaff is ripe with currants and proves that pink wines aren't just pretty to look at. San Diego's Alesmith IPA is a refreshing mix of bitter hops and sweet malt. As the back of the bottle rightly boasts, "It's Pretty Awesome".

Start off with a house-made Charcuterie Plate featuring a rotating array of cured meat morsels. Skinny, beet-red strips of duck prosciutto is a tasty twist on this buxom bird. Potted rabbit is packed with lardo-like fat, while thinly sliced, smoked pork shoulder is delicate, yet intense. The unique, in-house pickles, like black radishes and cherries, are delightfully original. A whimsical pretzel roll--imagine a doughy bun sprouting a crisp, pretzel appendage--and grainy mustard round out the plate.

Braised Pork Shoulder is melt-in-your-mouth good. Served with it's succulent juices, creamy grits, and a healthy handful of cilantro, this is southern comfort.

A juicy, Veal Burger topped with veal bacon proves you can't have too much of a good thing. Held together by a tasty, and squishy, poppy seed bun, it's a charred, smoky, meaty masterpiece. There's such a fight for the Belgian-style fries that we consider ordering a second round.

It's not just meat at Salt's Cure. After honing their skills at fish-centric Hungry Cat, these chefs know their way around the ocean. Yellowtail is served raw with green olives, shallots, dill, and drizzled olive oil--it's sashimi, American-style.

Plump mussels are bathed in a beer broth - the IPA adding a yeasty heft to the shellfish--as well as a delicious dunk for buttery, garlic bread)

Seasonal sides are plucked-from-the-fields fresh. A dish of Roasted Corn, thyme, butter, and aged goat cheese is farm fabulous. Our waitress earns mad points when, upon discovering the corn was sold out, she convinces the kitchen to scrape together a mini-version for our table.

The dessert choices are so tempting that we each gluttonously order our own. Normally, I shy away from liquorous desserts, but in the Whiskey Brioche Bread Pudding, the booze blends wonderfully with the butter. As we swirl the bread in luscious crème anglaise, my friend, Hollis, exclaims how good this would be for breakfast. I second that emotion.

Blackberry Crumble is a steaming bowl of summer. When warmed, the tart berries are mellowed to sweet goodness. With chunks of buttery pastry and vanilla ice cream, it's pure yum. Other homemade ice cream flavors include a lovely Lavender Shortbread, a delicate Wildflower Honey, and a bracing Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip.

Eating at Salt's Cure feels like a meal at an old friend's house, albeit one who is a damn fine chef. Here, the staff is so amicable that the lines between waiter/customer are blurred. It's a convivial, casual dinner party, where the menu and guest list change daily, but the deliciousness remains the same.