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By Catherine De Orio | April 8, 2013 | Food & Drink
Honey Salt’s tempting pastry display.
Kim Canteenwalla and Elizabeth Blau
Honey Salt’s homey interior.
Nana’s Tiffin Chicken Curry uses three kinds of curry.
Open the latest issue of any food-focused magazine and there it is: the idyllic dinner party in an editorial spread filled with happy guests leisurely eating from envy-inspiring platters of food in a perfectly decorated setting of curated objects d’Etsy. At Summerlin’s new Honey Salt, the idea is to create that ambience every single night. The cozy restaurant, inspired by the farm-to-table concept, is the brainchild of esteemed chef Kim Canteenwalla and dining visionary Elizabeth Blau, who is often credited with turning the Strip into a culinary destination through her work with Steve Wynn. No strangers to opening restaurants, the husband-and-wife team behind Blau + Associates has spearheaded a who’s who of projects across the globe. For their first independent project, they gathered inspiration from their culinary home life and looked no further, literally, than their own backyard.
Around the corner from their house, Honey Salt is located in the former space of Nora’s Wine Bar, which Canteenwalla and Blau often visited. When the space became available, they decided to spin their frequent, famous house parties into a restaurant. “We do a lot of entertaining at home,” Canteenwalla says. “People want to be on the invite list for our parties because they always know they are going to get a spread, whether it’s for Easter or the Oscars.” In that light, every detail of Honey Salt is a reflection of how the couple live and what they eat, whether it’s a family recipe, their son’s favorite dish, something they experienced in their travels, or inspiration from a chef with whom they have worked.
For example, the New England Fry, featuring Ipswich clams and calamari, gives a nod to Blau’s East Coast upbringing, while Nana’s Tiffin Chicken Curry is inspired by Canteenwalla’s childhood memories of his mom’s cooking. His version uses three types of curry: Madras, Thai red curry paste, and Vadouvan, a gourmet French blend. Greek yogurt is blended with the Madras to balance the spice and lend the dish a creamy finish, and the red curry paste is complemented by coconut milk. The Vadouvan is added to finish it off, before the chicken is cooked à la minute and the curry is paired with a classic accoutrement of basmati rice, pappadams, and a cucumber-mint raita—all served in a traditional tiffin box. “It’s a great dish to share,” says Canteenwalla, who created the recipe with Executive Chef Joe Zanelli. Although any dish can be served as an individual portion, much of the menu is designed for family-style serving. “That’s how we dine with our friends,” he says.
Following the seasons and incorporating elements from a decade spent working in Southeast Asia with the bold flavors of the Mediterranean that he loves, Canteenwalla keeps the food simple yet sophisticated. “We start with high-quality ingredients, execute it well, and then present it with a sophisticated look that goes beyond the neighborhood restaurant,” he says. His Weekend Frittata, loaded with spinach, asparagus, crimini mushrooms, tomatoes, and goat cheese, is a healthy brunch-menu option, especially when made solely with egg whites (“Elizabeth’s Style”). And the wood-burning roasted lamb porterhouse, accompanied by morels, ramps, and a pea tendrils ragout, is a standout celebration of spring. As the restaurant’s name implies, you need some honey to balance the salt, so save room for homey desserts like warm bread pudding, drizzled with a bourbon-toffee sauce and topped with a honey and salt whipped cream. A solid wine list is on offer, but it’s the ever-changing, handwritten reserve list, selected by general manager, managing partner, and oenophile Stephen Jerome, that makes diners feel like special guests for whom the “occasion bottle” is being pulled from the cellar.
While Canteenwalla and Zanelli take care of the food, Blau is responsible for infusing the restaurant with warmth and making the house feel like a home. “We are approachable, and careful attention was paid to make this a welcoming venue,” Canteenwalla says. Collaborating with designer Randy Apel, Blau created a chic, comfortable space. Whitewashed brick walls impart a sense of age, and vintage chairs lend the space a lived-in vibe, while the citrus-green banquettes and antique chandeliers add refinement. Paintings and photos by loved ones adorn the walls to bring you further into their family fold. Alas, every party must end, so a small, but expanding, retail section lets diners take a bit of their experience home—from napkins and books to candies and artisanal jars of honey, salts, and mustards. From the ambience to the edibles, everything about Honey Salt says, “Be our guest.” 1031 S. Rampart Blvd., 702-445-6100
photography by Sabin Orr (honey salt); Joe Corrigan/Getty Images (wynn)