Simon Kardachi doesn't do things by halves.
Late last month he opened Melt Henley, his biggest restaurant to date. Today he opens its downstairs compatriot, 90-seater beachfront fish and chipper, SeaSalt.
For Kardachi, it’s been a long time coming.
“Before fast food and burger joints it was fish and chips,” he says. “But it hasn’t been paid a lot of respect. Seafood, in South Australia, hasn’t been paid a lot of respect in a long time.”
In Kardachi’s words, SeaSalt pays homage to the 1970s Aussie fish and chip shop. But that’s downplaying the offering here. Sure, you’ll find classic fish and chips – Coorong and locally caught mulloway coated in a crispy golden Asahi tempura batter and paired with crunchy house-made Daisy potato chips, skin intact (add a daub of freshly smashed peas or house-made curry sauce for an extra kick). But you’ll also find blue swimmer crab spring rolls; fish fingers with cured egg and soy; smoked eel croquettes; savoury doughnuts in a black pepper blue swimmer crab sauce; and the SeaSalt Sanga, a fish or chicken katsu sandwich with wombok slaw, pickles and tonkotsu sauce.
Your local fish and chip shop, this is not.
Chef Chris Robinson (former head chef at Goucho’s) heads up the sizeable kitchen, which features a shichirin or hibachi grill like the one found at Leigh Street “firehouse” Shobosho. It’s the setting for a line-up of chargrilled Ortiz anchovy soldiers, line-caught Fleurieu squid and Spencer Gulf prawns cooked over glowing coals.
A strong Japanese influence weaves through the menu, which gives a nod to the classics with contemporary twists. “People want clean, punchy seafood,” says Kardachi. “It’s salty and it’s sea-breezy and it’s hot down here … so you’ve got traditional fish and chips and you’ve got really fresh, clean, zingy flavours that cleanse the palate.”
For something lighter, go the Port Lincoln kingfish sashimi or ocean trout tartare from the menu’s “raw” section, or opt for an Ortiz anchovy salad with crisp iceberg wedges.
The “catch of the day” comes courtesy of sustainable fishery Fair Fish. “We buy direct from the guys who are out there fishing and they can get it to us that night or the next morning,” says Kardachi.
The cocktail list is suitably beachy. Expect a classic Blue Lagoon; a white miso and burnt caramel Espresso Martini; and a Pina Colada that subs in coconut water over milk. “It’s not as creamy and rich; it’s a little bit cleaner,” says Kardachi.
There’s also Asahi beer on tap and a house “beach wine” courtesy of Clare Valley producer Pikes: a tart and crisp blend of reisling, sauvignon, semillon and fiano that'll pair perfectly with a fillet of yellow fin tuna or chargrilled octopus.
The fun, casual and retro Studio-Gram fit-out was designed to emulate a beach shack, right down to the blue and white colour palette, yellow and white umbrellas and date palm centrepiece. A takeaway window, which opens today, will cater to those who’d prefer to eat their fish and chips on the shore, a literal stone’s throw away.
“We’re taking the formality out of it,” says Kardachi. “It’s supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be as simple as fish and chips, but clean fresh seafood at the same time.”
SeaSalt opens for takeaway-only today. The full menu is available from Monday.
269 Seaview Road, Henley Beach (beachfront)