In just a few weeks Saltaire Oyster Bar and Fish House will open its doors in Port Chester, NY, just over the Connecticut border. From the docks to the table diners will enjoy the freshest of seafood, plus the camaraderie and charm of a local fishing village. Owner Leslie “Les” Barnes is a second generation seafood buyer and aquaculture buff who has, over the years, developed deep-rooted relationships with the best fishermen from Rhode Island to the Jersey Shore. Printed daily, the menu will feature the “top of the catch” from the morning's run to the the Fulton Fish Market. Set in the Willet House Building, a century-old structure nestled on the banks of the Byram River, Saltaire offers a casually elegant design with a touch of nostalgic nautical style and contemporary comforts. Saltaire, for those of you - like myself - who do not know, is a type of oyster, though no longer available in these parts.
“I speak the language of salty fishmongers and oystermen,” says Barnes, who fondly remembers early morning buying trips to the original Fulton Fish Market where he sourced seafood for the family restaurant, London Lennie’s, in Queens, NY. “My father would wake me up at 3:00am and we’d go off to the fish market for glistening, standout whole fish. The kind that jump out and say ‘Buy me.’” Barnes went on to master every station at London Lennie’s, taking over the business at just 22. After decades of running the restaurant and raising a family of his own with four daughters, he found a beautiful historic grain warehouse with 30 foot ceilings and original exposed brick just miles away from his home. “A building like this is a rare find. The timing was right to open Saltaire,” says Barnes.
Executive Chef Bobby Will, a seafood aficionado with roots in coastal New England, focuses on minimalist preparations that complement the natural flavor of the fresh fish. The menu consists of composed dishes, shareable starters, as well as a section for guests to create their own fare. Among the dishes from which to choose are:
- Fried Point Judith Calamari: Orange-Poppy Seed Glaze, Charred Shishitos, Pickled Red Fresnos, Thai Basil
- Seared Palmer Island Skate Wing: Brown Rice-Whole Grain Pilaf, Heirloom Carrots, Spicy Cherry Glaze
- Red Snapper Ceviche: Charred Lime, Sorrel Verde, Cashew-Yuca Purée
- Grilled Octopus: Heirloom Tomato-Watermelon Salad, Crunchy Chickpeas, Yogurt
Serving as a visual and conceptual focal point of the space, an impressive marble raw bar manned by expert shuckers stands in the center of the barroom. The spread features a rotating lineup of ten to twelve of Barnes’ favorite in-season oysters, as well as seafood towers that range in size from “Hook” to “Line” to “Sinker,” with a generous selection of ultra-fresh lobster, shrimp, clams, oysters, mussels, and crab claws.
Consulting Mixologist Clinton Terry, an accomplished chef in his own right, makes everything from scratch, from the syrups and bitters to the house-made sodas and freshly squeezed juices. The emphasis is on fresh, local, and seasonal, with classically inspired signature drinks as well as barrel aged cocktails. Wine Director Brad Haskel curates a value-driven wine list featuring New and Old World favorites that pair especially well with seafood. In addition, Barnes’ daughter, Teagan Barnes, designs the beer program to showcase local craft brewers served on tap and by the bottle. Select cocktails include:
- Saltaire #2 – On Tap: Vodka, Fresh Cucumber Juice, Yuzu, Basil & Salt “air”
- Burgee: Mango Jalapeño Lime Shrub, Chili Bitters, Tequila, Orange Honey
- The Goose is Loose: Kumquats poached in Sauvignon Blanc, Prosecco, Orange Bitters, Aperol Soaked Kumquats
- The Fishonista’s Seasonal Sélection: White Rum, Rhubarb Juice, Sour Mix, Bitters
- DÉCOR & AMBIANCE:
Saltaire is housed in the Willet House Building, which was built by the Westchester Grain Company in 1903 when the Village of Port Chester was a thriving port. With the help of Interior Designer Kim Nathanson of Niemitz Design Group, the space was transformed into a bright, contemporary restaurant with nostalgic nautical charm. The dining room retains touches of its past incarnation with antique hay lifts and wood beam ceilings, the walls are covered in original black and white photos of fishermen at sea, offering an authentic snapshot of coastal life. At the bar, guests can settle in and enjoy drinks and oysters, as well as watch rival sports teams play on TVs placed at opposite sides of the bar.
Saltaire is located at 55 Abendroth Avenue in downtown Port Chester, NY and opens in late-August 2015. For more information or to make a reservation, call 914.939.2425 or visit www.saltaireoysterbar.com (reservations not required). Stay tuned for my review!