The Salt Wood Seafood Boil features mussels, clams, shrimp, sausage, potatoes, grilled corn and baby squash.
David Baron, 34, has cooked at Michelin three-starred La Bouitte in France, as well as such revered San Francisco restaurants as Aqua, Incanto, Atelier Crenn and Coi, where he was chef de cuisine. But when the San Francisco native of Filipino and Nicaraguan heritages opened Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette last summer in the renovated Sanctuary Beach Resort on the Monterey Peninsula, he experienced deja vu.
The former restaurant here used to be your neighborhood place?
The first few days after my wife and I moved here, we were driving around one night, not knowing where to eat. We found this steakhouse online, so I said, ‘Let’s go there.’ It’s dark outside, and you stumble upon it like it’s a secret treasure right on the beach. We went inside, and they said they weren’t seating anymore for the day. It was 8pm! So we just left.
But you went back?
Yes, we ended up eating there a few times. It was a funky restaurant. They had steak, sushi and pizza. I tried to order the pizza once with additional toppings, but they said it was already made, as it came frozen, and they just heated it up. Then, one day, I got approached by someone in the company that bought the place. I never thought I’d be the chef here. I think everyone is amazed by the transformation. It’s the same walls, but everything inside has been revamped.
What’s your style of cooking here? It’s marina cuisine.
We do a lot of pickled and fermented preparations, like our Caesar salad with black garlic dressing. We follow the Seafood Watch guide. From the restaurant, you can see the boats fishing. If they’re fishing for sardines, that’s what we’re serving—grilled with fennel, citrus and radishes. If they’re fishing for halibut, we feature it with Padrón peppers, corn and heirloom tomatoes. We have at least five varieties of oysters on any given day. We do them grilled with kimchee butter or raw with bloody mary mignonette. Some people come in just for the oysters.
Now that you work here, is this still your neighborhood place?
My wife comes here with our kids, so it still is. But with my hours, I haven’t had a chance to enjoy it as much as everyone else yet.
Originally published in the January/February issue of Silicon Valley