• Welcome

    Karl is an award winning food writer and restaurant critic for the St. John's daily, The Telegram. His Dining Out column is one of The Weekend Telegram's most popular features. Karl Wells is also host/producer of the very popular Rogers TV show, One Chef One Critic and a restaurant panelist with enRoute magazine. Karl has written for Harry Magazine, enRoute, Newfoundland Quarterly and other publications. He is a senior judge with Gold Medal Plates and a Canadian Culinary Championship judge.

Restaurant Review: Celtic Hearth

Review of Celtic Hearth is now available on the Video Channel.

Celtic Hearth, 298-300 Water St, St. John's

Celtic Hearth, 298-300 Water St, St. John’s

Visit Celtic Hearth’s website to view their menu, hours of operation, etc.

Restaurant Review: Black Sea

Review of Black Sea is now available on the Video Channel.

Black Sea, 193 Water St, St. John's

Black Sea, 193 Water St, St. John’s

Visit Black Sea’s website to view their menu, hours of operation, etc.

Salt Water… a review

Ground floor interior at Salt water
Saltwater
284 Duckworth Street
St. John’s
Ph. 754-5670

Chef Adam Gollop is now in command of the kitchen at Saltwater. I’ve always enjoyed his dishes because they are often influenced by French regional cooking. (He loves his soups, stews and braises.) Gollop has had a passionate interest in Gallic cuisine since he was a culinary student. Maybe longer.

Chef Adam Gollop

Chef Adam Gollop


His Saltwater kitchen is upstairs in the restaurant. That’s where we were seated and it afforded me a good view of dishes as they left Chef Gollop’s domain. Halibut was on special that night and there seemed to be a lot of it swimming past. (Some made it to our table eventually.)

The upstairs space is light and bright with contrasting dark wood flooring and black chairs. Saltwater was made for black and white photography. Those chairs and the virgin white table cloths with stainless cutlery would jump out of the frame.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche


Ceviche
One round of toast covered with a delicious tease of chopped halibut ceviche was served as an amuse bouche. The fish looked like it had been released from its tart bath just at the right moment. Barely opaque flesh hinted at a subtle transition from tartare to ceviche. The halibut may have been cured with citrus but I tasted vinegar too.
Tomato and arugula salad

Tomato and arugula salad


A summery assemblage of arugula and halved yellow, orange and red cherry (possibly grape) tomatoes dominated our salad. Basil infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar gave extra flavour and kick. A cap of slightly runny, fresh mozzarella cheese made the salad more satisfying. The fromage was warmly welcomed by my Las Moras Malbec.

Basic information was given about the calamari appetizer, i.e. “calamari, with roasted pepper and garlic aioli,” but the menu said nothing about how the calamari was prepared. Turns out it was lightly battered, deep fried rolls of calamari.

Calamari

Calamari


I’m not sure what the problem was (possibly membrane that hadn’t been removed) but the calamari reminded me of those TV commercials where the food fights back at the person eating it.

Stubborn

Although the calamari was tender there was a stubborn elastic thread in each piece that was very difficult to bite through. If I bit and pulled at the same time I feared the calamari would spring back and hit me in the face. Minus the pugilistic nature of the squid this would have been an enjoyable dish.
Meza of fruit, cheese, charcuterie

Meza of fruit, cheese, charcuterie


Saltwater offered something called meza. I asked our server to explain and he said it was essentially a charcuterie board. A bountiful one to be sure. It was groaning from the weight of cuts of excellent fried white and black pudding (boudin noir) prosciutto, cured salmon, stilton, white cheddar, figs, red grapes, olives, pickled veg and grilled bread. It was a meal in itself. Any Frenchman would have declared the boudin, “merveilleux!”

After some cheerful, palate cleansing berry sorbet we tucked into our mains. Three different preparations of halibut were on special. One with beurre blanc, another with pineapple chutney and the third (our choice) was Moroccan flavoured.

Salt Water's halibut

Salt Water’s halibut


Rub
The Moroccan style halibut had been rubbed in instant coffee, brown sugar and cumin. The rub wasn’t intensely flavoured but did provide the fish with a sweet and smoky exterior that enhanced the fine tasting flesh, despite it being somewhat overcooked.

The cut of fillet rested on a mixture of quinoa and kale, always appealing for its texture. I’m not a fan of most fruit and seafood combos. So, the halibut’s spiced strawberry and grilled pineapple garnish had a steep hill to climb with me. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it.

Salt Water's salmon

Salt Water’s salmon


Saltwater’s salmon was cooked perfectly. Gollop’s bourbon, rosemary and maple BBQ glaze, despite its flavour strength, did not overpower the fish. Commendable cross hatch grill marks presented well and the bed of roasted vegetables was a tasteful accompaniment.
Rack of lamb

Rack of lamb


Lamb
Rack of lamb à la Adam Gollop was the ultimate meat and potatoes dish. Five Frenched chops, fanned across a white rectangular plate, rested on a large mound of creamy mashed potato. Bright red roasted tomatoes and asparagus added colour. A pool of port, rosemary demi-glace had turned most of the white plate dark brown.

Using so much powerful demi was a hindrance rather than a help to this dish. The deep dark beefiness of the sauce, believe it or not, overpowered the lamb. I would have preferred a milder sauce that helped amplify rather than subdue the lamb flavour. Hey, it’s all about the lamb. Treat it as you would game. Game and lamb lovers enjoy these meats for their unique taste. Bring that taste out. Don’t cover it up.

Chocolate torte

Chocolate torte


Our meal ended with a shared piece of chocolate torte. Dense, very rich chocolate flavour combined with strawberries and fresh cream. The flawless dessert made a fine ending to our meal. A repast with much variety, many ups, and few downs.

Rating:
* *

Price:
Dinner for two with wine, tax and tip – $180.00 (approx.)

Sound level:
Moderate

* Fair * * Good * * * Excellent * * * * Exceptional

Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef, author of “Cooking with One Chef One Critic” and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Contact him through his website,
www.karlwells.com
Follow him on Twitter: @karl_wells