Our first review of Salt Air can be summed up with the shrugging person emoji. Which was certainly true when we wrote it a year and a half ago. But we’re back talking about this seafood spot on Abbot Kinney because, for once in the line graph of a restaurant (where x equals time and y equals quality), Salt Air’s y-axis has risen steadily over time.
This is no longer the place you go to because you couldn’t get into Gjelina or Tasting Kitchen or even the new pasta spot Felix down the street. This is the place you go to because you actually live in Venice (or at the very least, wish you did), you’d like to get a table somewhere tonight, you don’t feel like dealing with a scene, and you want the food to be great. The space is basically what you’d find if you Googled “stylish beach house,” and the vibe ranges from sleepy at lunch (although there will probably be some friends drinking pink champagne over burgers) to a few people deep at the bar on a Saturday night. But it never feels full of tourists from Sydney who rented Venice Airbnbs (unlike those other restaurants) - just people who live around the corner and wanted some seafood.
That neighborhood feel is a big reason why we’ve upped Salt Air’s rating, but the food here has also gotten a lot better in recent months. Although there are still a bunch of Salt Air classics on the menu - pea toast, mussels, the LA Dessert Hall Of Fame monkey bread - the rest of the food has stepped up its game. There’s Thai-inspired squid and Indian-spiced octopus, and the steelhead trout tartare is fresh and citrusy and we’ve become addicted to it. The thing to do here is to go heavy on the small plates - the entrees can be a bit too heavy, and rarely quite as good as what you’ll have to start.
Salt Air is no longer your Abbot Kinney consolation prize - it’s worth getting to on its own terms. This is the place for an impromptu dinner with your two best friends, or for a date night you forgot to plan but still want to feel special. No battling with Eastside food tourists, no three-hour waits - just excellent seafood and the feeling that you’re part of the Venice club.
Start with a couple things from the raw menu, one of which should always be the steelhead trout tartare. It’s light but with a kick of horseradish and it comes with a giant crispy thing to load up with tartare.
Traditional poached shrimp served cold with old bay and cocktail sauce. Proof that the classics don’t have to be boring.
When something comes slathered on top of a giant piece of bread, we’re probably going to be ordering it. This is no exception - mushed up peas, lots of goat cheese, and a battle over who gets the last bite.
One of the few small plates that disappoints, this just isn’t that great. There isn’t enough richness, and the bread to lobster ratio is generally pretty off. Skip.
Mussels have always been a Salt Air winner, and though these have become more traditional with time, they’re still excellent. You’re ordering fries to go with them.
This is Richie Rich-level rich. Which is fine if that’s what you’re in the mood for, but a little much any other time.
This pasta is also super rich, which is probably due to it coming in a bath of lobster broth. It’s certainly tasty, but definitely not the thing to order if you’re also getting the cod. Pick one.
We cannot stress this enough. Order. The. Monkey. Bread. It’s sugary, doughy, and comes hanging out in a pool of creme anglaise. Maybe place your order first thing so you don’t forget.