Venue Review: Salar Restaurant and Lounge
DAYTON — Side Bar first opened as a bar only on the ground floor of a downtown Dayton office building that housed several attorney offices — hence the legal theme.
Since then, owner Brian Higgins has moved Side Bar to the former Pacchia location in the Oregon District and a few weeks ago launched dinner service as a full-service, fine-dining restaurant under the same name.
The verdict is in: Side Bar’s a winner.
Executive Chef Margot Blondet, a native of Peru, has created more than a dozen “small plates” and a handful of entree-sized dishes that deftly blend Mediterranean and South American influences. The flavors are bright and lively — spices are used to enhance, but do not overwhelm.
Highlights of the Small Plates menu — servings are comparatively generous for a small plate but can be doubled for an entree — include Beef Tenderloin with Cabrales Cheese Sauce ($12), chunks of grilled beef tenderloin topped with just enough of the Spanish blue cheese to complement the tender beef; Sole Paupiettes in Saffron Cream Sauce ($12), consisting of thin sole fillets rolled and stuffed with Prosciutto, Provolone and Basil; and Chicken & Shrimp Skewers in Spicy Green Almond Sauce ($12) — the sauce is creamy, accented with cilantro and utterly addictive. Ask for some extra almond sauce on the side. All are better choices than the Scallops Parmesan in Huancaina Sauce ($14), in which the cheese sauce overshadows the scallops.
From the Entrees menu, the Pork Filet Mignon in Porto & Raisins Sauce ($18) boasts deep, complex flavors, with the slightly spicy rub on the pork tempered by the sweetness of the creamy sauce with port and raisins. Served on a bed of sauteed purple cabbage, it’s one of the best pork dishes in town. South Pacific Corvina in Delicate Anchovies Sauce ($20) is also excellent. Don’t be put off by the mention of anchovies; the creamy sauce with diced tomatoes is neither fishy or salty, and enhances the nicely seared fillet of sea bass.
The Lamb Shank Roasted in Malbec Sauce is decadently rich and earthy, served off the bone on a bed of risotto. It seems a bit out of place on a summer menu, but perhaps fine comfort food deserves a year-round presence.
Well-made salads include a House Salad ($8) — mixed greens with pecan dressing topped with strips of roasted red pepper and Manchego cheese, and Goat Cheese Salad ($8), studded with walnuts and dressed in a flavorful raspberry-Balsamic dressing.
The wine list is worthy of special mention for its bargains and generous pours. Assembled under the direction of local wine shop/deli owner and blues musician Eric Jerardi, the list features 16 well-chosen selections available by the “quartina” (a small carafe that holds slightly more than a glass) mostly priced between $7 and $9, with bottles ranging from $19 to $34. Highlights include a crisp Italian white, 2008 Vitiano Verdicchio/Vermentino blend ($7/$19); an intensely flavored 2007 Adelaida Pavanne White ($8/$22) blend from Paso Robles, California; 2007 Marchesi Di Barolo Barbera Monferrato ($8/$22) red from Italy; and a 2005 Chateau Jourdan ($8/$22) that is among the best red Bordeaux values around.
The Tres Leches dessert ($7) — soft vanilla-flavored cake filled with Grand Marnier and three milks — caps a dinner beautifully.
This is a menu that invites further discovery, but the early evidence suggests that Side Bar sets a high bar for food lovers. You be the judge.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2258 or email@example.com.