Tinned fish is about to become a thing in Boston. Brand new Back Bay restaurant Saltie Girl, brought to you by the local MET Restaurant Group, opened June 1 complete with raw bar and a tinned fish menu. MET Restaurant Group president Kathy Sidell (who by the way is Stephanie of Stephanie’s sister, who knew?) was inspired by tapas bars in Barcelona.
The skinny sliver of a space (just 30 seats, galley style, with four banquettes down one side and the bar down the other) is located adjacent to MET Back Bay (it used to be its private dining room). It’s a much needed addition to the neighborhood, which mostly lacks cooler restaurant concepts.
The Saltie Girl interior is design perfection. And I mean perfection. Even more impressive, Kathy Sidell decorated it herself. She is responsible for all of it: the Moroccan patterned cement tiles for the bar backsplash, the turquoise fish scale tiles that clad the bar itself, the perfect aqua paint color, the rope wrapped columns, the glossy wood banquettes, the copper light pendants, and the travel photos
As for the food, it is also exquisite. Gorgeous and insanely delicious. Chef Kyle McClelland (a culinary artist) works behind the bar to make the cold offerings, while hot dishes, overseen by MET chef David Daniels, come from the kitchen downstairs. Oysters are shucked barside, obv.
The bar is the restaurant’s focal point, and an on trend thing of beauty. Its back wall is lined with Moroccan patterned cement tiles(#trendalert); glass shelves hold the liquor. See those copper pineapples? (#trendalert) Exotic drinks for two are served in them. The second time I was there a young couple was sharing one, but it seemed rude to intrude upon their moment for a photo.
The bar is lined with aqua fish scale tile (#trendalert) by Mercury Mosaics. The first portion of the bar is dominated by a raw bar. Glass canisters hold garnishes and sauces are served in apothecary-like bottles with medicine droppers (#trendalert) .
Bloody Marys are topped with a raw oyster (#trendalert) . The straw is stainless steel (#trendalert) , which I quite appreciated. (I have an unreasonable aversion to black plastic straws.) The clipboard (#trendalert) lists the raw bar offerings: various oysters, clams, shrimp, king crab, and sea urchin.
Two young women sitting next to my husband and I at the bar ordered this spread of oysters. I did ask them if I could take a photo. Note the medicine dropper condiment potions.
Four banquettes line the deep turquoise (I’ll ask Kathy for the exact paint color) wall parallel to the bar. Columns are wrapped in thick rope. Worn copper pendants illuminate marble tabletops.
Kathy told me the name of the photographer who took all these travel shots (his day job is a globe-trotting position for Ralph Lauren), but I cannot recall. I will find out and update.
The floor is a simple white hex tile with black grout. A dozen industrial style metal stools(#trendalert) are used for bar seating. A handy black pipe means your legs don’t dangle.
Back to the tinned fish(#trendalert). They’re imported from Europe and the packaging is pretty. Options include tuna (for the unadventurous like me), sardines, anchovies, trout, and mackerel.
Time to order. Raw bar and tinned fish on a clipboard. Salads, sandwiches, and hot dishes on a paper placemat, diner style (but definitely not diner prices).
Obviously we had no choice but to order a tinned fish platter. Lamely, we got tuna, though I understand the mackerel is easy to eat too. Cockles are not for me. The tinned fish is served on a slate slab (#trendalert) with crusty bread, pickled peppers, some sort of delicious jelly, and OH. MY. GOD. The BEST homemade butter I have ever tasted. There went my diet.
And to make everything even better, Chef Kyle (complete with requisite tats (#trendalert)) treated us to a trio of exotic sea salts (#trendalert). A black lava salt (from Hawaii maybe) with a smoky flavor, a grey sea salt, and a white. I’ve probably not mentioned this on the blog before, but butter and salt are basically my two favorite foods.
As you can see we ate every bit of that tinned tuna fish, jam (#trendalert), and butter. Okay, I got seconds on the butter.
Next,Chef Kyle McClellan serves my husband a salad.
Have you ever seen such a pretty green salad?
Both times I ate at Salti Girl I ordered Stone Crab Toast with burrata and avocado. There is a whole section of toasts (#trendalert) on the menu. At $10 it’s a good deal; very filling. It melts in your mouth and tastes heavenly.
My husband, who is much more disciplined when it comes to sticking to his diet, ordered the tuna tartare. Scrumptious. Those purple flowers are chive blossoms.
Another shot of the Saltie Girl bar (aka, my husband’s new neighborhood haunt).
Some more travel photos above the banquettes. Looks like Capri.
Tinned fish packaging is cute and pretty. That squid looks like a Disney character.
At the end of the meal, there is this Japanesque presentation — a wood block with water and a compressed cloth.
Voila. It rises. Pull it apart and wipe your hands.
The bill and an empty tin. A mermaid is the Saltie Girl mascot. There’s a carved one mounted at the bar too.
Saltie Girl, 279 Dartmouth Street at Newbury Street, Boston
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