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Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Salt Cellar

If you want fresh seafood you have to go underground.

What do you do when your daughter calls you up and says “Hey Dad ... I’m coming to Arizona”? Naturally you say “great ... when you coming”. My daughter, from Huntley Illinois (Chicago) was totally disappointed that she was ordered to go for training in Scottsdale Arizona in the middle of winter, with tons of snow and -2 degrees. That’s how tough she is. Becky has never been to Arizona let alone has a chance to visit with me. I only get to see her maybe twice a year when we drive back.
Once her final plans took shape I asked her what she would like to eat when she’s here. She mentioned something like steak, shrimp, Italian, Mexican, Greek etc. I said honey ... we only have one night together and she said “I heard about this place called the Salt Cellar. They said it was really neat.” So, needlessly to say I booked a reservation there.

Coming from the East Valley, namely San Tan Valley, I don’t venture out too far for food. I prefer to cook myself most of the time. This was an opportunity to see what’s on the other side of town. I pick Becky up at the hotel and we drive to the restaurant, pull into the parking lot and she see’s the building and says “boy that’s a small restaurant”. I said yeah it’s very cozy. Little did she know it was 3 flights down underground. Surprise!

Quickly greeted by the front staff we sat in one of the dimly lit rooms. Very romantic. OK I’m with my daughter but I’d bring my wife here too. Our cocktail server Danielle was very cordial and answered questions about the wine. I asked for Moscato, was told sorry but we have a nice Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling which is very similar and Becky said she’d had it before and it’s good.  Next we were greeted by Chuck (hey hey a Cubs fan) and gave us a little history and some pointers on ordering. Very cool. We asked what were some of the more popular dishes or house specialties. Might as well zero in since I can’t afford to keep coming back until I've gone through the entire menu. 

Chuck said you've got to try the Nantucket Cape Scallops (seasonal) and he was right on target. Melt-in-your-mouth, buttery, very tender. As he said “It’s like eating candy”. I wanted more. It was served with a side of the best pickled, garlicky red cabbage slaw I ever had, sweet potato chips and homemade tartar sauce.

I asked what other appetizers you recommend because I want a variety to try and write about.  With little hesitation Chuck said the Shrimp San Remo and the Crab Cakes. So while that’s in the works we’re munching on the bread ... sourdough, sesame, and ciabatta. Normally I wouldn't be so excited about the bread but believe it or not, you can’t find good bread in the far east valley in a restaurant. Just ask the restaurant owners. Seems nobody wants to deliver to them. So for all you artisan bread bakers please open something out in San Tan Valley.

Here comes the Shrimp San Remo and Crab Cakes that we split. The shrimp is cooked in a
white wine and compound butter sauce served with sun-dried tomatoes and portabella mushrooms. Delicious! This is where the bread came in perfectly. Sop it up. Crab Cakes with REAL lump meat crab and a light but crunchy outside and creamy inside. Great flavor.

What’s next? Well the meals come with house salads which at this point are just going to fill us up more but they were good, no complaints but we filled up with the appetizers and now comes the main attraction. Becky chose to go with the Shrimp and Filet entrĂ©e. She’s more of a beef eater than I but look at her plate. Buttery filet cooked perfectly, juicy fried shrimp in a
light batter, and a great loaded baked potato served hot as it should be.

I deferred to Chuck again and he suggested I try the Yakimono Hawaiian Ahi tuna served with a medley of vegetables, lemon pecan rice, fresh pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce on the side. As much as I like wasabi, you don’t need it here. The tuna was Cajun blackened, served medium on the outside and rare in the inside. It just melted in your mouth. Why adulterate it? So far everything was (to quote a famous chef) “Money”.

Chuck said they had a dessert tray to show and I just looked at him like “Really?” But, since it was a special occasion with my daughter being here I said bring it on. Didn't take her long to zoom in on the chocolate Lava cake with raspberry sauce. What a way to end our visit. All Becky could say is this is “Heaven on Earth” and how am I going to get up in the morning.

Thanks Richard and Cindy ... you did us proud!

The Salt Cellar
550 N Hayden Rd
Scottsdale, AZ 85257
480 947 1963
Dinner Hours: Sun-Thu 5PM-11PM.
Fri & Sat 5PM-12AM.
Bar: 4PM-1AM (Daily).
Happy Hour: 4PM-7PM & 10PM-1AM
My beautiful daughter & I

Cocktail Server Danielle and Server Chuck

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