When Salum opened in 2005, first impressions centered on the offhand charm of handsome chef Abraham Salum and the restaurant’s breathtaking interior design, as executed by wunderkind interior designer Julio Quinones. Salum has since shown legs by surviving the first-look crowd to win over diners from its Uptown neighborhood—from designers and artists to well-to-do couples who linger over dinner and a bottle of wine.

But lurking beneath the glossy façade is an old-world elegance, from the well-polished service to the impeccable French techniques that underlie the menu’s upscale American food. Uncovering the serious heart that beats within is an unexpected treat. Pâté, cut into appealingly thick squares and served with mustard and cornichons, had a fresh, tangy flavor. Rack of lamb in a mustard and truffle crust came with a savory bread pudding flecked with mushrooms. Shavings of sharp Serrano ham spruced up a Caprese salad, composed of extra-thick slices of tomato and mozzarella. The best thing about sautéed lobster tail was not the luxury shellfish but its side of spinach and butternut-squash ravioli in a sage-brown butter sauce. Roasted chicken from Windy Meadows farm came with a luscious “hash” made from potato, apple, endive, and Brie. Rectangular rolls—sourdough, some studded with black olives—arrived crusty and hot, begging for a slathering of cold butter. Paired with the signature appetizer of baked goat cheese with roasted elephant garlic and a glass of Scharffenberger bubbly, and old-world never felt so chic.

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