When my friend invited me to dinner at Sel de la Terre with her family, I was ecstatic-- I had wanted to try this restaurant for awhile now. It's not new by any sense of the word, but it had elusively slipped from my brain's "to try" list.
However, it was not until RIGHT NOW that I realized that I have been to Sel de la Terre before! How embarassing that a confessed foodie like me could forget such a detail. To give myself a small break, I had visited the Sel de la Terre in the Natick Mall - oh, excuse me, Natick COLLECTION-- over Christmas with my sister in law, not the Boston location. We had shopped at a furious pace for hours and needed a pick me up, which happened to come in the form of a pressed sandwich and frites.
In any case, walking into Sel de la Terre last night, I felt the excitement of a first-timer. Right off the bat I was struck by the fact that there was no wait, and it was 7 pm on a Friday (red flag alert, or a welcome break from un-earned, long waits at places like Clink in the Liberty Hotel?) We were seated at a large round table in the middle of the dining room. There were other large parties around us, so at some points it was kind of hard to hear. . . (For all you Office fans out there, I compared this to the episode "A Benihana Christmas" when Dwight is seated at the wrong end of a hibachi table. Great episode.)
But I digress. We ordered a bottle of white wine, and one Petit GoÛter of balsamic roasted shallots ($5) and one of eggplant & goat cheese puree in a pool of olive oil ($5). The puree was so creamy yet light and the olive oil was so delicious I could have taken a shot of it on its own.
I ordered for my entree the boneless beef shortribs ($26). Usually I opt for lighter fare and eat off my shortrib-loving-boyfriend's plate, but in his abscence, I had to "man up" and order them for myself. . . They came on top of olive oil whipped potatoes and some cubed winter vegetables. As I've already written, I have a penchant for mashed potatoes, so when the dish was dropped off in front of me, my fork instantly was drawn straight to that glorious starch.
And whipped they were, into light as air, smoothy and silky perfection. I am a person who likes to take a bite with all elements on my fork, but I actually would have appreciated some differentiation between my starch and my vegatable in this case, as it was hard to get a purely potato bite without a sneaky carrot butting its way in.
The short ribs were nice, but maybe I'm used to a less tough version? I like the kind where you barely even need a knife...These were a bit hard to handle. And without even cleaning my plate, I was so full I couldn't even manage one bite of the cranberry-almond crisp that my friends got. So tragic...
In terms of decor, I was a bit disappointed-- it reminded me of a subdued Cheesecake Factory with lower ceilings. It's no surprise it fit so well into its mall location at the Natick Collection.
After Gaslight, Eastern Standard, and Sel de la Terre, I think I have officially OD-ed on French food for right now. But it certainly was a delicious meal, perfect for a dinner with parents from the 'burbs and old and new friends. And if someone were to ask for a solid, delicious meal in this town without all the fuss and pomp of other desperately-trying-to-be-hip establishments, I'd definitely recommend Sel de la Terre.
And who knows-- maybe in a few months I'll forget I've eaten here and try it "for the first time" again.