BY BRADLEY HAWKS
It arrives at the table resembling a toddler’s attempt at a sandcastle. A simple prodding with a fork and a cautious bite later, however, yields sensations—textures and flavors simultaneously familiar and exotic. Those grey pieces of down are actually shaved Hudson Valley foie gras, rendered light and feathery, cloaking a heaping mound of cinnamon-dusted mandarin orange segments that explode like sweet, tangy bursts of fresh orange juice. The blend of citrus and foie gras is reminiscent of a luxurious creamsicle, with a playful crunch of paper-thin stained-glass tiles of bacon brittle. It is one of the ugliest, most profoundly delicious dishes I have ever tasted. And it is a quintessential introduction to the technique and delicious whimsy of Daniel Yi, owner and chef of Salt & Fat in Sunnyside.
A native of Sunnyside, Yi grew up in a Korean-American household, which shaped his definition of New American cuisine.
“Eating spaghetti or a slice of pizza with kimchi was one of my favorites as a child,” explained the chef. “Because of eating American and Korean food growing up, it is deeply reflected in my cooking.”
Salt & Fat’s fluffy BLT bao buns look like Pac-Man savoring a power-up of tender pork belly medallions with shredded lettuce, ruby tomatoes, and spicy mayo.
Though Asian influences are undeniably sprinkled throughout the menu, the New American cuisine borrows influences from around the world. So we asked, “What is the inspiration for the name?”
“Even though salt and fat are associated with unhealthy eating, they aren’t necessarily bad or unhealthy ingredients. They are actually the backbone of anything and everything that is tasty and delicious,” said Yi.
Dinner begins with a complimentary brown paper sack of warm popcorn popped in bacon fat, an addictive replacement for traditional bread service. The one-page menu is comprised of 17 plates intended for sharing, all ranging from $8 to $23 and accompanied by a carefully-edited selection of wine and craft beer.
Must-tries include the oxtail terrine, which looks more like a sinful chocolate brownie, falling apart at the touch and melting on the palate, served with a caramelized onion puree and roasted mushrooms. Who knew pigs’ feet could evoke such a gleeful response? Here, the pork trotters are tenderly prepared in a torchon, then breaded like a gargantuan crab-cake, and topped with a slow-cooked egg that acts as a rich gravy. The sweet & sour duck breast with buttered lychee is gorgeous in every way. A salad of succulent lobster claw and tail meat over frisee and citrus segments is jazzed up with an ancho vinaigrette.
Absolutely plan for dessert, like the rice crispie treat with marshmallow ice cream, or a seasonal selection of ice creams and sorbets, which presently include Thai iced tea and miso apple. No room for a sweet ending? The check comes with mini Korean cran-yogurt probiotics, the perfect icing on the cake of an eclectic, excellent meal.
Salt & Fat
41-16 Queens Blvd, Sunnyside
Tuesday – Saturday 6 to 11 p.m.
Sunday 5 to 10 p.m.
MORE DINING PROFILES
- East “meats” West at Honoo Grill & Noodle
- The Thirsty Koala brings Queensland to Queens
- Authentic Japanese noodles and more in Astoria