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Salt Kitchen & Bar, Wentworth by the Sea

Featured Restaurants by Stephanie Deihl / January, 2014

Great hotel restaurants appeal to an eclectic clientele, including locals, weekend guests, and business travelers alike. With several indoor seating options and a varied, regionally inspired menu, Salt Kitchen & Bar is Wentworth by the Sea's new restaurant, located in the renovated dining room, and was voted Best Hotel Restaurant in this year's Best of Taste awards. The staff, under the direction of Executive Chef Ken Lingle and Food and Beverage Director Gabe Cogley, is focused on executing their motto, "Fresh, Local, and Lively."

After a massive and speedy two-month renovation, the reimagined space, which opened in June, is decidedly trendy but preserves some of its historical charm. The ornate 19th-century painted mural remains on the domed ceiling in the main dining room, accented by freshly painted sky blue walls and wall art that evokes the area's natural landscape.

The menu has also changed almost entirely, except for the Lobster Bisque, a mainstay for over 10 years. "This is a longtime guest favorite, and a must on the Seacoast," Lingle says. Going forward, he plans to change the menu twice a year, "embellish it with local, seasonal cuisine, and establish some consistent guest favorites." A less traditional but equally delicious take on local lobster involves a generous serving of tail and claw meat folded into handmade Bucatini and served in a spicy harissa and crushed tomato cream sauce.

On a busy Saturday night, the lounge is an energetic place to grab a cocktail like the popular Hot and Dirty Martini, with Ketel One vodka, dry vermouth, and pepperoncini and olive juices. Or, enjoy a flatbread from the wood-fired oven at the Chef's Bar. Options range from the family-friendly Quattro, with four cheeses, to the aromatic Umbria, topped with wild mushrooms, Asiago cream, truffle oil, and arugula. Bruschetta feature seasonal toppings. Complete the meal with the Farmer's Salad, with roasted asparagus, prosciutto, and a soft-boiled egg, or the Baby Wedge Salad with blue cheese dressing.

Each of the four dining sections of Salt offers something special. If you're able to nab a seat at the Chef's Bar you can watch the friendly cooks bustle about, making dishes like Prosciutto Wrapped Maine Scallops, two large bay scallops topped with baby oregano salad and drizzled with lemon honey dressing. Local Rope-Grown Mussels come in various preparations with grilled bread to sop up the juices. The Wood-Oven-Roasted Meatballs are made with pork, beef, and veal and served with tomato sauce and Marcona almonds.

Fun to share and artfully presented is the Farmers Board, with five cured meats and five cheeses, served with fig jam, pear chutney, assorted breads and crackers, and dried black grapes on the vine. "This is a great option for people celebrating special occasions," Lingle says. The chef came here after eight years at The Sagamore resort in New York and says he gets his inspiration from the location and seasons. "I like to give a contemporary twist to classic technique."

The cool colors and deep comfortable chairs make the main dining room a serene spot to linger over rich entrees like the popular Hand-Cut Pappardelle, served with braised short rib ragu, or the Hand Crafted Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms; the Grilled Lamb Ribeye, with whipped potatoes, or the Vanilla and Anise Poached Two-Pound Maine Lobster, served with sweet pea risotto and grilled lobster mushrooms. East Coast Halibut is garnished with clams in the shell.

For a private group function, Cogley says, "our most popular spot is the glassed-in wine room, which seats 12 people at one long wooden communal table." In this unique space, diners would be remiss not to stay for desserts like the impossibly creamy Vanilla Crème Brûlée, or the popular Molten Chocolate Cake served with house-made Nutella hazelnut gelato.

"We're excited," Cogley says. "We've heard nothing but rave reviews about the change." Indeed, no matter where you sit, Salt delivers on their motto; locally inspired food and drink in a fresh and lively atmosphere.

Salt Kitchen & Bar
Wentworth by the Sea
588 Wentworth Road, New Castle, N.H.
603-422-7322

Photographs courtesy of SALT Kitchen & Bar

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