My daughter, Colette, was visiting from her home in Seattle, and we were eager to dress up and enjoy some special time for just the two of us. Where better than The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and its award-winning restaurant, Salt? Like a theme park outing without leaving the island, we were adventuring to a place of complete sensory experience, filled with colors, sounds, smells, and tastes. We sat overlooking the familiar ocean, where we both had swum as babies. A pink salt candle lit our table. We opened menus to find a personal welcome with our names!
Rather than thinking through beverage choices, we welcomed the evening’s two mocktails: Strawberry Margarita and Mint Cooler with Ginger Beer. Choosing the multi-course Chef’s Tasting Menu relieved us entirely of decision-making, placing ourselves in the hands of Chef Okan Kizilbayir. Having read about his background growing up in a family of food professionals in Turkey, I was eager to experience what he would present.
To begin our evening’s excursion, an amuse-bouche of Lobster Causa arrived. “Be sure to spoon to the bottom for the lobster pieces,” said our server Olga. Meaty treats awaited beneath layers of soft potato. Our mouths were tantalized with bright, peppery flavors and a texture lighter than a soufflé.
Naturally, we enjoyed a special salt course. Served with the rolls, delivered freshly-baked two at a time, were unsalted butter and an array of salts: The Black Garlic Salt was earthy and slightly sweet. Bolivian Rose Salt from the Andes Mountains was paler and milder than Himalayan, with which we were familiar. The third was a surprise for Colette: salt from her home state of Washington, a sweet, woody salt from the Yakima Valley. And bringing back happy memories of our own cheese toast creations, Salt’s cheese rolls, filled with melty Gruyere, popped perfectly with the newly discovered Yakima Valley salt.
Our first small course was a Cold Kanpachi Tartare and Zesty Radish with Burnt Tomatillo Vinaigrette. Our skilled server Olga reported this was her favorite, and we understood why, for the flavors danced and the presentation was beautiful.
Each entrée we enjoyed was sauced individually: First, tender Langoustine Au Poivre with Seared Leek Topped with Crisp Truffle. Next was Poached Salmon and Chanterelle Topped with Seaweed Caviar and Shaved Sunchoke, Chef’s favorite vegetable, we were told. Last were two different cuts of Wagyu Beef with Golden Rice and Spicy Gochujang Vinaigrette. Chef Okan is so expert in the preparation of Wagyu beef that he is hosting an event at RCAI Chef’s Theater. Other events of his include the upcoming Amelia Island Cookout, other Chef’s Theater gatherings, and holiday celebrations. You’ll find information on their website.
Our dessert course was called Paris Brest, a pastry named for the long-distance Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle race, shaped like a bicycle wheel, with swirled pastry cream making a tire tread. Ours was Lavender and Vanilla with Blueberry Ice Cream. Finally, we were given chocolate and a macaroon with our coffee.
The clouds were pinkening and we were just beginning to feel full, a benefit to the paced, small courses of culinary art that is the Chef’s Tasting Menu at Salt. Our evening had been a unified experience of glorious facets devised by Chef Okan, delivered with crystalline sparkle by the Salt staff.