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Honey Salt celebrates 10 years as its founders explore expansion

Updated October 22, 2022 - 2:06 pm

Where in the world is Elizabeth Blau?

She might be at home in Summerlin, where Honey Salt, the restaurant she founded with her husband, chef Kim Canteenwalla, is celebrating its 10th anniversary in October. (Click on Ticketed Events at honeysalt.com for Tuesday’s party.)

The CEO of Blau & Associates might be down at The Venetian checking on Buddy V’s Ristorante, which the company co-owns and operates. Or she could be in Henderson, where the couple are creating a restaurant for the chichi Pinnacle residences.

Perhaps Blau is wheels up, on her way to Honey Salt in Vancouver, British Columbia; to the Conrad Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, where the couple helm the food and drink; to Dallas and a steakhouse in the works; or to the Middle East, where the company is consulting on two projects in Saudi Arabia and the Wynn resort northeast of Dubai (a place Canteenwalla once lived and worked).

Or Blau might simply be scouting around Las Vegas, because after 10 years — after creating hordes of loyal customers, after a cookbook and James Beard Award nominations, after thousands upon thousands of fried chicken sandwiches and helping to guide Vegas restaurants through the pandemic — after all that, the founders of Honey Salt are finally thinking about expanding locally.

“We did have a time we didn’t want to expand, even though we had opportunities,” Canteenwalla said. “We have time now with our son in university.”

“We’ve gotten out all the operational kinks,” Blau added. “Honey Salt has a maturity to it now, a proof of concept.”

The other afternoon, as late lunchers filled the neo-rustic dining room, the couple sat down with the Review-Journal to look back, look ahead and tout the Tuscan bean soup.

Creating community

A decade ago when Honey Salt launched, it stood in the vanguard of a new trend: culinary professionals with Strip or big restaurant group experience deciding to go entrepreneurial and open fine dining spots in the neighborhoods of the city. That trend has since continued with restaurants like Black Sheep, Esther’s Kitchen and Sparrow & Wolf.

Honey Salt’s pioneering move arose from serendipity, Blau said. “We weren’t looking for a space. A friend wasn’t going to take a lease on this space, so we decided to take a look. We thought, ‘What would we do here?’ ”

What the couple decided to do was “an extension of entertaining in our home,” Blau said: friends, family, a comfortable vibe, approachable dishes made with great ingredients. “We brought that same feel for 20 to 30 people to several hundred people.”

Over the years, Honey Salt has expanded this sense of community through wine dinners, theme nights, special events, holiday meals, charitable efforts (like meal delivery for the hungry and fundraising for Ukrainian refugees), and partnerships with small farms, rising and established chefs, and female distillers.

“What’s really gratifying is watching people we’ve grown with who have grown with us — to have people here from day one is very gratifying,” Blau said.

Old, new, global

Some day one dishes remain on the menu at Honey Salt. Among them: Grandma Rosie’s turkey meatballs, the fried chicken sandwich, caramelized sea scallops (currently on supply chain pause). Newer signature dishes include a lavish arrangement of crudité with hummus for dredging, sticky ribs from the heritage Duroc pig, and seasonal Tuscan bean soup with a Parmesan baguette riding sidecar.

“There are things that can never change, and there are things (you serve) to keep your clientele excited,” Canteenwalla said.

As much as Honey Salt draws from home and community, the far-flung projects of Blau & Associates draw from the founders’ love of travel and their ecumenical tastes. “It’s easier,” Blau said, “when you don’t have one particular cuisine that’s your particular passion.”

Canteenwalla’s background supplies an essential (and confident) internationalism. He started as a sous chef in Toronto, then moved on to executive chef gigs at Raffles in Singapore (one of the world’s greatest hotels); in Cambodia, Bali and Bangkok; and at Le Méridian in Dubai (plus, of course, his years on the Strip).

Canteenwalla, in other words, knows from global cooking (and customers).

It went ‘crazy fast’

“I’m loving this right now,” Blau said, as she requested an order of the Tuscan bean soup to go. (A guest followed suit.)

As Honey Salt looks to expand in Vegas, as Blau & Associates prepares to go global, the couple returned to the past 10 years. They remembered the restaurant as a construction site; they recalled Blau choosing farm tables, a vintage host stand, an antique server station; they thought back on risotto with truffles, a dish from the early days a customer reminded them they used to serve.

“It’s crazy how fast it went,” Blau said. “This is an incredible community. It has supported us from day one.”

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at jwright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ItsJLW on Twitter.

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