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Monday, May 05, 2008

Salt of the earth

Barbara and I went to Sel de la Terre to celebrate her birthday yesterday. As always, the food and service were excellent, though I found the entire experience a bit pricey: $200 in total, including wine (one of the least expensive bottles on the wine list!), tax, and tip. And then there was the parking, an astonishing $34 for anything over 80 minutes at the garage (which is shared by the Aquarium, an Emack & Bolio’s, and a Legal Seafoods restaurant). We hadn’t realized that valet parking would have been a bit cheaper, although the expected tip would eat up most of the difference. Maybe this won’t be an issue once Sel de la Terre moves to the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel. But anyway...back to the food...

For our first course, Barbara had giant white prawns, which came with spinach, creamy polenta, bacon, and greens. She reports that it was all delicious, as long as she could ignore the fact that the prawns came with their heads on. I had flatbread pizza with caramelized onions, spinach, lamb bacon (!), Comté cheese, fried capers, and créme fraiche. It sounds overly elaborate, but all the flavors melted seamlessly together to create an excellent dish.

Barbara then had steak frites with asparagus, cooked perfectly and very French. My main dish was described as follows on the menu:
Braised lamb shank with spring bean cassoulet, merguez, caramelized rhubarb and sweet onion compote.
I’m not sure how much merguez there was, but everything else was there in perfect balance — a great combination.

The service was wonderful. Perfect, you might say. The waitress was friendly without being intrusive, knowledgeable but never pretentious, and attentive without hovering.

Not surprisingly, we had no room for dessert and both of us even had leftovers to take home. I suppose it was worth the $200 for a once-a-year (or perhaps twice-a-year) experience.

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