The sleepy neighbourhood of Sai Ying Pun is home to a charming mix of boutique cafes, coffee shops and independent restaurants, all doing their bit to ensure local residents are fed and watered. Amongst all this culinary action, Indian-inspired restaurant, BlackSalt, continues to attract locals and visitors with its contemporary take on sub-continent flavours.
From the casual counter seating to the upcycled tabletops and chairs, BlackSalt is a quintessentially boutique operation. In fact, chef Taran created the restaurant as a direct antidote to the corporate mindset, having worked in some of Hong Kong’s biggest restaurant groups for many years. Wishing to return the city’s dining scene back to its roots, Taran founded family-run BlackSalt as somewhere where the portions are large and the cocktails affordable.
A sense of warmth is pervasive as soon as you enter the small shopfront space tucked down one of Sai Ying Pun’s laneways, with Taran and his family members often there to greet you at the door. Take a seat in front of the open-kitchen or at one of the tables on the small terrace out front and order an homemade cashew nut milk while you peruse the menu.
From Chindian Char Siu to What’s the Mattar Paneer?, the cheekily named items are rooted in traditional Indian offerings, but take inspiration from all over the sub-continent, drawing from the West Indies, Pakistan and Nepal to Goa and Sri Lanka.
The intricacies on the menu are a direct reflection of Taran’s identity as a chef. Hong Kong-born with Indian ancestry, Taran first learnt the business side of F&B before helming kitchens in several establishments, as well as Chef de Cuisine at an upmarket 180-seater waterfront restaurant. Throughout his culinary career, Taran has focused on preserving traditional Asian-based recipes, applying his own innovative techniques that elevate old recipes without stamping out their roots.
The result is a cuisine that’s uniquely his own – refreshing, complex and exciting. It’s easy to be hooked from the very first bite; normally, a complimentary bowl of beluga lentils that arrives stacked with mini poppadums. Next up could be an Indian take on baked camembert with spicy tomato chutney, or the okra fries, delightfully crisp and seasoned with copious amounts of the restaurant’s eponymous ingredient – a black rock salt that’s known for its healing and therapeutic properties.
The journey through Asian-Indian fare continues with Lamb Rhapsody platter of roasted rump korma, pulled shank paratha, puffed rice & mint chimichurri roti, hand-shredded and packed full of flavour; handmade meatball dumplings that have a hit from wild sesame ‘Jhol’ gravy; ox-cheek vindaloo slow-cooked with Kashmiri chillies and black cumin; and hand-chopped barramundi fish cakes marinated in turmeric with a cashew nut aioli. From spiced, roast meats to the extensive vegetarian selection like the Keralan beetroot chops made with coconut, avocado, spiced spinach porridge, brussel sprout crisps & hung yoghurt. Each dish is packed full of punchy and exotic spices, flitting between spicy, savoury, sweet and sour.
According to Taran, variety is the spice of life. At BlackSalt, he’s hit the nail on the head with his unique and innovative fare served with a heavy dose of heart and hospitality. With passion and family at its core, BlackSalt is setting an exemplary standard for many more to follow in its footsteps.