To Kathryn Robinson, Huy Tat's Salted Sea has great strengths as it walks the line between approachability and creativity: "A starter of calamari, fried in a wok with restraint, arrives cloaked in Hue Ky Mi Gia's fried chicken breading—oops, just set off a rush on Salted Sea—but again it's a lighter version, forefronting the flavor of the squid and drizzled with a sweet chili-garlic gastrique that's unnecessary but fun . . . [However,] [t]here are times Salted Sea seems like it's being almost intentionally uninteresting—as with a crab cake banh mi at lunch that tasted like a bread sandwich, its pickled vegetables charged with supplying all the flavor and all the texture; or a tedious Full Tilt ice cream sundae for dessert, with too few toppings and chocolate instead of hot fudge—but this is not the rule."
Angela Garbes says that Cafe Barjot's deeply thoughtful (and local ingredient-driven) chef Nick Coffey has a gift with both vegetables and meat: "Two pieces of moist chicken ($16), a leg and a thigh, came slathered with a deep maroon-colored relish made of fermented cherries. Tearing into the meat, the cherry brine bled into the bowl and commingled with the chicken juices to form a lovely sauce that seemed to have notes of Chinese five-spice . . . I could have eaten an entire plate of just blistered shishito peppers ($9)—smoky, sweet, spicy, and just a little bitter—but they were made even better by the paper-thin slices of peppery, house-cured coppa they were piled on top of."