Welcome to our very first review in a new series we are calling “Drop The Knife” – where we get OUT of our own kitchen and hit the streets to find the best in innovative cuisine, cocktails and ambiance while uncovering healthy options and house specialities.
Our first outing is to Citrus & Salt located at 142 Berkeley Street in Boston. Chef/Owner, Jason Santos, opened this New Orleans-themed restaurant in 2017 and managing partner, Colleen Hagerty, is our new BFF. Taking note that it WAS “El Dia de los Muertos” the night of our inaugural visit to this Back Bay hotspot, we were greeted by a super-friendly staff all wearing appropriately themed skeleton masks and makeup (only adding to the incredible whimsical vibe inside) leaving me to wonder why all we wear at CK is our baseball hats and aprons (memo to my staff: bring your skeleton masks on Monday!).
It was 7:00pm on a Saturday and, though the place was packed, the attentive bar staff found us an empty barstool and pulled up a second stool from a nearby table, so we could get down to the business of sampling almost everything on both the cocktail list and the dinner menu. I am always a sucker for the “house classic” cocktail so I opted for the Citrus & Salt Margarita while my dining partner-in-crime, Mr. CK, ordered the “Tequila Is Cheaper Than Therapy” (a blend of ghost tequila, mango & jalapeno) – and I was instantly jealous of the cool color and chili-lime salt rim (then he “made it a double” and received an upside-down mini bottle of Casamigos and, as we love everything tiny and small, we were extra jealous) even though my house specialty was a solid take on a classic favorite and was really, very delicious. My next move from the cocktail list was the “Beautiful Liar” (prickly pear, orange flower water, lava black salt rim) and I was in heaven with the pinkish-purple glow and unique combination of flavors.
So, what’s my take on the cocktail menu at Citrus & Salt? These bartenders are incredibly talented and the cocktail menu is so fun and whimsical that my advice is to skip the classic and go right for “I Didn’t Text You, Tequila Did” and let the night unfold as it may. While you are at it, if you can’t wait for brunch the next day, order the Frozen Mimosa and be prepared to be psyched when you see a wine glass filled with creamy citrus sorbet arrive with a mini bottle of champagne to pour at your leisure (or you can be like us and just dive right into the bright orange sorbet with the end of your straw, too).
After so much stimulation testing out the uber-creative cocktail menu, it was time to start getting down to the business of FOOD. I LOVE FOOD. I love reaching for a menu and seeing a perfect mix of authentic dishes, creative twists on classics, healthy options and a clear way to sample a bunch of new flavor combinations. Chef knows what he is doing and this Coastal Mexican mix of sea, land, veggies and fun appetizers was an instant “win” for me, before I ordered my first dish (and that says a LOT because I love a solid menu so descriptive I can almost taste the umami sight unseen). Anyone can make a taco or mix up a batch of guac, but, not everyone can do it in such a way that all of the flavors burst and you are left thinking “OMG, that combination is pure brilliance”.
Mr. CK, being from Buffalo, NY, is eyeballing the wings from the appetizer menu that the couple to our right was devouring. Being a self-proclaimed connoisseur of all-things-chicken-wings, he actually voted to pass on trying them in favor of diving right into the ceviche-of-the-day (and I was not going to put up a fight as I am not a chicken wing girl and I had been thinking about that ceviche dish since the second we sat down). Ceviche selection was salmon or ahi tuna and we opted for the ahi. Not all ceviche is created equal and, if you are a purist when it comes to this citrus-marinated favorite, you might want to see it delicately poised over a pool of lime, lemon and chile/jalapeno…OR, you can jump on the Citrus & Salt ceviche train and have it arrive at your table inside of a mini TACO (yes, we said “mini” and we said “taco” – all things amazing at once) topped with mango and an incredible crunch. Bright, fresh, light and SUPERB. If you want to skip the taco shell, the ceviche itself was the star of the dish so, that’s an easy way to cut a few calories and leave more room for the guacamole that you absolutely, positively MUST order.
So, we ordered the guacamole…(of course we did) and it was awesome. Loaded with chunky, fresh avocado, the perfect amount of citrus and spice and a super simple presentation in a wooden bowl with housemade jalapeno kettle chips. Again, if you are looking for a healthy twist here, take the ceviche out of the taco shell and top with a giant scoop of guac. You will be happy, satisfied and not quite ready to have to “Take Your Pants Off” (another creative cocktail selection from the bar) from overdoing it in the “fried stuff” department.
Cocktails sampled, appetizers inhaled, we decided to order a few things off the dinner menu to sample since we had the best seat at the bar and were quickly becoming buddies with our awesome bartender who had a few recommendations. The Lobster Tostada (people who love lobster will genuinely freak out over this one) is a MUST ORDER at Citrus & Salt. Our bartender was not wrong – the crispy tostada comes topped with a ridiculous amount of succulent, perfectly dressed lobster for a price point that will have you doing a double-take once it arrives (seriously? Am I reading this wrong? $16?). As we describe above, if you love the crunch of the tostada (me, right here!) just go for it – but, if you want to lighten this up, just ask for the lobster salad on it’s own. You are also going to need to order the featured Kale Salad so, your lonely lobster is going to go right on top of that salad and you are going to be so happy.
Back to the Kale Salad. We, at CK, make a kale salad a LOT (and I eat a lot of kale outside of the CK kitchen, too) so, when I see it on a menu I generally say “I can make this at home” and I skip over it. For some reason, the cojita, spiced peanuts and jalapeno vinaigrette put a spell on me and I found myself ordering the salad I usually ignore. This kale salad was fresh, crisp (no soggy baby kale leaves here, thank goodness) and the spiced peanuts and vinaigrette turned a basic bowl of greens into a flavor bomb I want more of right now (this morning – kale for breakfast can totally be a thing). Mr. CK ordered the ribs and, as he was so busy devouring every single morsel, I didn’t really get much of a description or any photos because they were gone so fast – which, in my book, means they were amazing (and, he confirmed the amazingness, btw). So, to all of my meat-lovers out there, you better try those ribs that come simply stacked, carnitas-style on top of a beautiful bed of esquite corn (did I steal several forkfuls of this glorious corn? Yes, I did.) and is totally a meal in and of itself for $14.00.
By now, we are having so much fun with Colleen (managing partner) and Eric (bar manager) and the awesome staff, that we couldn’t leave without trying the Churro Bites with Vanilla Dulce. Did we need churro bites? No. But, YES. Obviously, if you are scoping the healthy dishes here (of which, as I describe above, there are many ways to turn almost of all of these dishes into “healthy options”), you are not ordering churros but, you will be so satisfied with your kale salad (with or without our twist to add the lobster), ceviche, char-grilled octopus and other light, bright and flavorful options, you can save the churros for another time (and, if you can, I will be extremely impressed).
Overall, our trip to Citrus & Salt was an awesome dining experience and we are going back to test out the brunch menu as soon as humanly possible. Authentic flavor, unique presentation and one of the best cocktail menus we have ever seen make Citrus & Salt a destination for anyone that loves food, loves fun and loves a super-cool atmosphere that makes you feel like you went on a mini-coastal-mexican-vacation.
Note: Please Uber or take a car service if you are going to dive into the cocktail menu. Our Uber from Hingham was around $40 and it is the only way to go when you plan to have “Tequila Take The Wheel” (another creatively-named concoction on the menu!) as you dive into this menu that you will be dreaming about for days.