St. Paul Salut: The Preview

Categories: Restaurants

If the average night at the new St. Paul Salut Bar Americain is anything like the preview they ran this past Friday, we're all in for a glorious run. The Grand Avenue incarnation of the French-themed eatery offers a battery of entertaining house drinks, a sprawling 100+ person patio area, and — if the preview service was representative — the usual Parasole mix of reliable veteran servers.

Packed to the gills with Parasole chain employees, friends, and miscellaneous fortunate hangers-on, the restaurant hummed with a festive energy that, in a nutshell, sets joints such as Salut, Chino Latino and even the more upscale Manny's Steak House apart from many of their competitors.

Offerings were indistinguishable from the Edina location of Salut, but this isn't a bad thing; when you've got a formula that works, there's no shame in duplicating it for a new crowd.

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Salut brings in diners for the steak and/or fries, but there's also some incredibly comforting and delicious seafood going on. The Friday special bouillabaise (seafood stew) was chock-a-block with goodies — among other items, the forkably thick entree contained a crab leg, clams, squid, cod, and shrimp. The flavors were nicely melded without trampling of any of the individual aspects of the stew.

A jumbo shrimp cocktail proved to be a personal highlight. One can't typically order shrimp cocktail without feeling like a sucker — the seafood is inevitably low quality, and the cocktail sauce dumped from some 50-pound food-service plastic sack. Salut does it right; not only is the shrimp almost buttery in flavor and delicate (not rubbery!) in texture, the sauce has far more bite and flavor than the red-colored ketchup-y pap we've been trained to accept. All that... and dry ice. A chamber underneath the sauce bowl issues forth an inexplicably captivating fog, a nice visual metaphor for the goofily bubbly energy that defined Salut's pre-opening weekend.

Salut St. Paul opened its doors to the public yesterday evening, so if you're closer to Grand Avenue's Milton Mall than you are to Edina, it's worth a visit.

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