Palm Beach Gardens: Salute Market transitions into restaurant-bar

7:00 a.m. Monday, March 14, 2016 Community

Like any global traveler, Salute Market is in the process of finding itself. And this does not seem to be a painful thing for the establishment’s food and wine-loving soul.

What first opened as a sparsely stocked market, sandwich counter and bar in July 2015 has transitioned in recent weeks into a full-service restaurant and bar on the PGA Boulevard dining corridor. But the trio that owns and operates Salute (twin brothers Tommy and Rob Lefkowitz and Rob’s wife Michelle Lefkowitz) are not ready to ditch the “market” from the name.

Still central to its operation is Salute’s small, well-curated wine market, from which diners can choose an interesting bottle or two, pay a corkage fee (from $10 to $20, depending on the price of the bottle) and enjoy. More tangential is the inventory of gourmet products and cocktail mixers – sold along with freebee recipes of your favorite cocktail at the bar – though these items do support the quasi-retail concept.

Most important to the hungry, discerning diners of the area is this: Salute’s grub is pretty delicious.

From generously portioned, nicely presented charcuterie and cheese boards (from $21 to $32) to a diverse selection of tapas (starting at $6), the kitchen’s starter offerings are ideal for sharing between sips of wine. (And plenty of Salute’s customers do just that at the popular outdoor bar and tables.)

We devoured an antipasto platter ($32) of sliced, cured meats, cheeses, olives, Marcona almonds and relishes, spreading a creamy, dreamy St. André cheese on thin crostini. We had to try Salute’s rendition of classic deviled eggs, and found the filling on the bacon-topped eggs ($6) to be particularly kicky and delicious.

We sampled a foie gras mousse with raisin-orange gastrique on warm baguette slices ($16), an item from Salute’s monthly special menu. February’s special menu, titled “From Paris, With Love,” offered a selection of French classics along with half-price corkage fees on bottles of French wine. Thanks to that special, we got a nice deal on an Orin Swift “Locations” series French red blend — $19.99 for the bottle, plus 5 bucks for the corkage fee. (Less successful on that special menu was a rather bland French onion soup.)

Also shared as a starter: a respectable naan bread topped with smashed meatballs, mozzarella and basil ($10), and a creamy, rewarding dish of polenta crowned with a bell pepper-accented sausage ragu.

Larger plates do not disappoint here. I particularly enjoyed the decadent cheese ravioli ($18) in a Parmesan and black pepper cream sauce sprinkled with crispy pancetta bits and peas. The short rib ($26) is a hearty and satisfying choice, served with earthy mushrooms, carrots and barley. The seared salmon ($21) is particularly flavorful, its sear deepened by a spice rub. The fish is served atop lentils that are dotted with diced carrot, celery root and potato and presented with a smear of creamy whole-grain mustard.

I wanted to love the shrimp risotto ($24) with its plump, nicely cooked jumbo shrimp. But the rice seemed off. It wasn’t the pearly Arborio rice I love in a risotto, and it didn’t have the creamy consistency that’s achieved when the round rice grains are allowed to soak up the cooking liquid before more is added, one simmering veil of stock or wine after another. Plus, it was overloaded with peas.

But, again, Salute is finding itself. This is a sense that’s reinforced at dessert time, when we enjoyed both a dense and delicious chocolate pot de crème ($7) and a popular item from the market’s retail shelves, a sweet-salty popcorn made by the Boca Raton-based Brownbag Popcorn Co. ($6). The local purveyor sells a variety of flavors at Salute. On the night we tried the stuff, the flavor proved a winning combination: sea salt, caramel, white chocolate and peanut butter. Crisp and perfect – and served right in the bag, DIY style – the popped, caramel-coated kernels shared the bag with rich, dense bits of white chocolate and other bits of peanut butter. It was so good, the bags were sold out when we returned some nights later.

So, as our hybrid dessert reinforced, Salute is a market. And a restaurant. And a cool place to hang out. In addition to the popular outdoor area, there’s a bar and market inside, and a large separate dining room appointed with rustic wood touches. (Quibble: The metal chairs are unbearable. Thankfully, the dining room has a handful of grown-up Parsons chairs and we found a couple of them empty.)

The service is friendly. The servers are informed, but the place could use more of them. On one occasion, we noticed our server was doubling as a bartender, leaving us unattended for long stretches. By contrast, the kitchen seemed on its game, sending out dishes quickly and beautifully presented.

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