|Restaurant:||Salara Dessert Lounge & Bistro|
|Location:||14825 John J Delaney Drive
|Rating:||3.5 out of 5 spoons|
Y’all know how I feel about dessert by now, so it won’t surprise you that when my sister Sarah offered to take me to the widely recommended Salara Dessert Lounge & Bistro a few nights ago, I jumped at the chance. We made the trek down to Ballantyne, eager to try the dessert Charlotte’s been buzzing about. The Lounge boasts that it’s not merely a restaurant, but also a social destination with a snazzy bar and patio. Check the event calendar on the website for entertainment and drink specials.
I was thrilled when, upon arriving and being seated in the chic lounge, we learned that executive pastry chef Bill Foltz would be creating a sugar sculpture at the front of the restaurant throughout the evening. It felt like a Food Network challenge was being completed before my eyes! Foltz is a master and has been recognized as such nationally, winning U.S. Pastry Chef of the Year in 2006, two gold medals at the International Hotel and Motel Food Show, and two silver medals at the U.S. Pastry Competition. The evidence of his expertise was all over the restaurant — a beautiful sugar geisha, sugar ribbons, sugar statues, and an entire under-sea world created with sugar. The lobster below was one of my favorites.
Salara Dessert Lounge & Bistro Under the Sea display and Sugar Lobster
The menu at Salara is designed to feature desserts and, as such, offers entrées in half or full sizes. Sarah and I wanted to try two different dishes while still leaving room for dessert, and the half entrées proved to be the perfect size for doing so. We knew the instant we saw the menu that we had to try the Lobster Macaroni and Cheese, lobster tail with orzo pasta, guyére and two other cheeses. It was a delicious flavor combination and the lobster was generous for the price, but it had a few oddities. A broad carrot on top seemed out of place and the orzo didn’t quite provide that homey “macaroni and cheese” texture. I also can’t decide if the orange “halo” formed by the abundance of cheese in the dish is appetizing or off-putting. Nevertheless, the smooth cheese and lobster flavors melded well and Sarah and I both enjoyed it. Our verdict was good, but not stellar.
Salara Dessert Lounge & Bistro Lobster Macaroni and Cheese
Sarah and I also tried the Wild Mushroom Ravioli, described on the menu as “mushroom broth, truffled milk, micro celery, parmesan reggiano.” The half-sized entrée boasts four plump raviolis in a flavorful broth and a beautiful foam of truffled milk on top. The dish was herby and savory. Sarah appreciated how clean and light it tasted, which was particularly important in a restaurant that specializes in dessert. You don’t want to feel bogged down and heavy after your entrée.
Salara Dessert Lounge & Bistro Lobster Wild Mushroom Ravioli
All in all, dinner was good but Sarah and I both agreed it didn’t play a starring role. If it were just for the dinner alone, we might not return. However! The best is definitely yet to come. We were giddy with excitement about the main feature of Salara, the dessert! The dessert menu includes plated desserts, samplers, crepes, and frozen desserts. The sample menu was the most exciting for me — I’m indecisive and hungry, so it’s perfect! We chose the Quartet Pastry Case Sampler (unfortunately that’s not the actual name and their online menu is outdated, but you’ll know it when you see it!). This sampler allows you to choose any four prepared pastries from their case to be plated beautifully (and subsequently devoured).
Salara Dessert Lounge & Bistro Pastry Case
We asked our server to choose four of his favorites for us (I mentioned that I wanted something “amazing and delicious” and he replied that unfortunately he wasn’t on the menu — HA, smooth!). When he reappeared with our gorgeous plate of desserts, he had chosen (clockwise from top) Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Cashew Cheesecake, Coconut Cake, and Orange Marquis. Just look at that beautiful presentation!
Salara Dessert Lounge & Bistro Quartet Pastry Case Sampler
The pineapple upside down cake was our least favorite. The cake was actually a little tough and toothache sweet. We preferred the less heap-o’-sugar sweetness of the other pastry choices. My favorite was the Coconut Cake, which is saying a lot considering I’m usually not a coconut fan. It combined light white cake, marshmallow, and coconut to produce a pillowy, soft sweetness. It was delicious with the blackberries on the plate.
A Closer Look: Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Cashew Cheesecake, Coconut Cake, and Orange Marquis
Sarah’s favorite was the smooth Cashew Cheesecake. It had a deep and delicious sweetness and the cashew flavor was subtle enough that the dish didn’t come across as overtly “nutty.” The Orange Marquis appeared to be a simple, rich chocolate mousse tort until we cut it open to reveal sweet orange slices hiding in the middle and a white cake base. The pastry was topped with crystallized pineapple and an unraveled fortune cookie for a little flair. All around the plate, decorations proved to be delicious accompaniments — a blackberry smear, dots of sagey sauce, and a strawberry syrup drizzle were delicious.
By the time we’d finished our meal, Bill Foltz had turned a blob of white sugar into an elegant, detailed and dynamic sugar ballerina. I wish my photograph did justice to the detail of her hair and her dainty little feet! Foltz graciously posed with his creation as I did my best impression of the paparazzi. Look at the sugar ribbons!
Executive Pastry Chef Bill Foltz and his Sugar Sculpture
After our meal’s fantastic finale, Sarah and I decided that, while dinner was good, Salara is ultimately a dessert destination. The service was prompt and attentive, and the location of the restaurant is great. The Village Theatre sits nearby and shows independent films in style, with a bar and comfortable seating. Several other restaurants are also within walking distance if you wanted to grab dinner elsewhere and then hit Salara for dessert (save plenty of room!). For the great atmosphere, expert staff, and their focus on a sweet finish, you should definitely give the Salara Dessert Lounge & Bistro a try.
Have you tried Salara Dessert Lounge & Bistro? What fantastic dessert did you sample? Want to recommend another great dessert location? Share your thoughts by clicking on the “Comments” link below.