TAMPA — Star owners and chefs from some of the area’s best restaurants attended the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa’s grand opening for Grey Salt in November. The stylish 250-seat Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, under the supervision of celebrity executive chef Marc Murphy, replaces the Americana fare’s Green Room.
Murphy is a frequent judge on the Food Network show “Chopped.” In New York City, he owns Kingside restaurant at the Viceroy hotel and Landmarc restaurants in Tribeca and Time Warner Center.
Other notable attendees at the grand opening included Ulele’s Keith Sedita and the Ava duo of Michael Stewart and Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Hard Rock representatives included Tampa casino manager John Fontana, who also addressed the crowd.
With the prep chefs and the kitchen out in the open, a pair of hogs on a spit roasted as Seminole medicine man Bobby Henry presented a special invocation. Afterward guests approached buffet tables set up through the spacious restaurant’s open verandas.
The restaurant’s name is not meant to be symbolic of the extensive Tampa Bay coastal areas and wealth of salt water, Murphy said, but rather it derives from his roots.
“I grew up throughout Europe – predominantly in southern France and Italy where grey salt is a staple,” Murphy explained. “When I was thinking about the menu for this restaurant, I decided to incorporate the finishing salt into some of my dishes to serve as a reflection of my childhood and when it came to think of a name, I realized that the words ‘grey salt’ felt very much like what I wanted the restaurant to feel like – tranquil, soothing and calm. It’s hard to explain, but it just felt right and the more we all thought about it, the more it clicked.”
Coarse, moist, unrefined and gray, sel gris (grey salt in French) hails mostly from the Brittany region of France’s Atlantic coast and is collected by hand using traditional Celtic methods and wooden tools. Not well known in America, grey salt is used extensively by chefs across Europe.
Grey Salt’s menu features a variety of dishes, such as grilled Gulf shrimp spiedini with charred lemon and scallion; spicy Moroccan lamb and tzatziki grilled flatbread; thick wood-grilled Berkshire pork chop with Italian eggplant caponata; simple roasted duck breast cooked on a Himalayan salt block and served with dried fruit mostarda and baby greens; crema catalana, the Spanish version of crème brûlée; and margarita pizza.
Exactly 216 clear glass jars, each filled with 12 plump lemons adorn a wall, establishing a bright, relaxing tone for the high-ceiling space. Smaller booths and a series of huge, curved cubicles fill the center, as well as various tables near the open kitchen.
Like a Mediterranean seaside village, a boardwalk leads guests to a round zinc bar, while white textured walls and a sand-colored floor channel the beach. Spice jars, olive oil, wine and split log fuel add to the casual, elegant decor of the restaurant.
Grey Salt is open daily for lunch from 12-4 p.m. and dinner from 4-11 p.m. Call 813-627-8100 for reservations or visit www.GreySalt-Restaurant.com.