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Chef Luan “Louie” Duraku paid his dues in various North Texas restaurants, hoping eventually for his own place, a room large enough to let customers dine in leisurely European style and not worry about overstaying their welcome. With Salut, recently opened in the space formerly occupied by Saltimbocca, Duraku may have achieved his vision.

eats_1The average Italian restaurant’s equivalent of complimentary chips and salsa is bread with EVOO, and Salut’s version was delish: crusty bread accompanied by sweet and salty oil. The calamari fritti appetizer was a little less straightforward. Along with thick sticks of squid, the dish also contained sliced zucchini and yellow squash. Every bite was an adventure. Beneath the crust, were you going to bite into squid or a veggie? In both cases, the insides were cooked well, the breading was light and crispy, and the spicy marinara dipping sauce demanded repeated visits. The caprese salad, with basil and buffalo mozzarella, was a delightful surprise, thanks mainly to the addition of fresh pesto.

There are only two pizzas on the menu, but Salut is happy to modify them. The plain cheese pizza (“light on the sauce”) was rimmed by a wonderfully crunchy crust. It was one of the best dishes of the evening – and one of the least expensive.

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The list of sides includes way more than just spaghetti. The tender, buttery Atlantic salmon, gently pan-seared, came with rich saffron risotto and asparagus. Sides of crunchy broccolini and soft polenta proved perfect for soaking up the scrumptious wine-and-lemon sauce that dressed the generously portioned chicken piccata. The giant, salty caper berries provided a piquant touch to the wonderful dish.

On the night we visited, one of the specials was a beef filet with a heavenly, dense, mushroom-flavored portobello risotto and an espresso sauce. Another was a peppery grilled rib-eye served cowboy-style, with fried onions and roasted potatoes. The one quibble we had was that the beef dishes were not cooked to order – one was overdone, the other underdone. Stick to the menu choices and you should be happy.

The desserts at Salut aren’t on the menu – ask your server about them. Though “outsourced,” the chocolate cake – three moist layers of ganache-covered goodness – was superb. The crème brûlée is made in-house, and it’s absolutely flawless: creamy and crunchy, super-sweet and smooth.

The tempo at Salut is the opposite of sit-eat-leave. The lounge, with its hardwood floors, leather couches, and fireplace, looks like it’s going to be a hit, mainly because Arlington needs a restaurant-bar that’s not too crowded, not too loud, and not too chain-y.

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