Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sel de la Terre

The significance of the name which translates as salt of the earth escapes me but this small French restaurant at 74 Toorak Rd was recommended to me for its fine cooking and excellent sauces.
Our party was 'banished' to the covered courtyard because the restaurant proper was full - a situation that actually appealed to me. Despite the very basic decor it was pleasntly quiet and we throughly enjoyed being able to enjoy both food and conversation without strain.
Our attractive young waitress was very pleasant and showed us remarkable considerationas the meal progressed.
BYO is resticted to Monday and Tuesday (corkage $10) but I was quite happy to drink from their cellar. The list is modest and reasonably priced with only a few wines from France. We drank Merlot and when it was a little sharp on opening I gladly accepted the offer to have it decanted with almost immediate improvement.
Several entrees loooked appealing and we had the gnochi in walnut sauce which were as light and delicate as you could wish for.

The soft shell crabs - two- $14, were fried till the legs were crisp without destroying the taste of the soft body of the crab.
The aioli sauce and the sweet chilli went well without damaging my palate for the next course. The duck salad entree was unusualy large and, I'm told, tasted excellent
The most appealing man course seemed to be the slow roasted smoked porkbelly. Served with about 2 pomme frite broken in half and a teaspoon or so of pumpkin veloute at least it looked like a good size piece of pork.

Unfortunately looks were decieving Rather than being tender and succulent it was dry and tough. Even with the aid of the requested steak knives it was so hard that my wife left hers on the plate. Here our waitress showed star quality. Without being asked she offered to replace the dish with something else which she did., a large duck salad.

Another in our party left half her pork belly and the head waiter (he might have been the owner!) told us that he would not charge for either of the dishes or the salad and then sent a plate of petit fours. I'm not used to this sort of consideration and as a result am going back for another meal there next week!
Price: Entrees about $16 Mains $26 to $34 desserts about $10 to #20
Score 13.75/20 for now!

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