Salt Ayre Bistro opened in the tiny gem of a space once occupied by Gertrude’s at 7309 Ventnor Ave. in Ventnor. The beautiful new sign out front is very impressive and sure to catch the eye, I love the compass. The eatery is decorated with a coastal vibe, pale gray and white brick wall with striking black and white photographs of seaside architecture. The staff were at once very friendly and helpful. We learned that they were the owners son and wife. The owner is the chef and opened their new restaurant for his sons. They came from another local, LoBianco in Margate, where Salts’ owner was a chef. Did you follow that?
Salt Ayre refers to their style of cooking as American Bistro Style. I was glad to see they use local produce and organic chicken. (I would love to see more organic and free-range options). Tonight’s menu special, oysters from area locales seemed to be quite a hit with most diners we heard slurping around us. Not that we were eavesdropping! And the server was so nice trying to pronounce the names of the oysters just right. He did a great job! When I asked him what he would recommend for my main course, (he is the owners son after all) he immediately mentioned the oxtail, so I went with his first recommendation.
For the appetizer I decided on the roasted beet salad with goat cheese and almonds on a bed of spinach and the braised oxtail shredded over polenta with gorgonzola and pecorino Romano and my girlfriend had the carmelized onion soup with gooey gruyere cheese and the grilled shrimp with romanesco sauce and jasmine rice. The salad was delicious, everything was fresh and the beets were sweet and earthy. I would have preferred a sweeter dressing, but the almonds were a nice twist from the norm. The onion soup was piping hot with lots of yummy cheese but my friend said it needed a little more salt seasoning. My oxtail was so tender it melted in my mouth and was perfectly paired with the gorgonzola polenta which was soft, creamy and like a pillow for the beef to rest upon. The side of grilled asparagus with blue cheese was grilled perfectly with just the right amount of smokiness and the blue cheese added just the right creamy tang. Like potato chips, you can’t eat just one or ten.
The grilled Gulf shrimp were skewered and cooked just right with a lemony romanesco sauce for dipping. The Jasmine rice was salty and could have been a little more inspired. On to dessert! Homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream and cheesecake. What’s not to like. We took turns tasting each. The pie was flakey and buttery and the ice cream was uber creamy with strong vanilla bean undertones, the cheesecake was also creamy and needed no embellishment on top of a buttery graham cracker bottom. A nice finish to a tasty new restaurant in town. We definately plan on coming back to give them another try again soon. One small suggestion though, could you use the shuffle mode for the music. Salt Ayre Bistro are a welcome addition to the southern shore town of Ventnors’ growing list of fine restaurants. Ventnor has a Chefs’ Night Out event in April, it features 9 to 10 restaurants that offer small plates and everyone walks, bikes or rides around the town from one restaurant to the next. Great Fun! I will keep you posted for tickets! For reservations call 609-428-6952. Their website is www.saltayrebistro.com
Michele Errichetti is from South Jersey born and fed. She comes from an Italian family where they eat, live, and breathe FOOD. Michele was cooking and eating under her grandmom’s feet every Sunday for “gravy” and at home with her mother ( a Medigan’ or American) during the week. Nowadays, she cooks for her two sons, husband, and father most days of the week. She takes “Girl Road Trips” with her friends at least once a month that always culminate with you guessed it, FOOD. She hopes fresh, local, organic, and free range will become the norm. Michele is searching Atlantic County for everything that has anything to do with good food and she’s taking you along for the ride.