September 17th, 2007

Sel De La Terre - new Natick Location


Sel De La Terre is the second restaurant of Frank McClelland, the chef/owner of L’Espalier. Think of SDLT as the younger, friendly and cheaper sister of L’Espalier.

The original SDLT is in downtown Boston, by the aquarium. I’ve been trying to make it there for ages, but for whatever reason have been unsuccessful. Two weeks ago, SDLT opened a second location in the “Natick Collection” i.e. Natick Mall. The Boston location is a parking nightmare, but Natick has ample parking.


R and I took Peggi and John out to dinner there on Saturday to thank them for caring for Zelda while we were on vacation (I like to call them Z’s grandparents on the dog’s side, as they have Z’s mother Lily, and sister Sweetpea). We had an array of appetizers: a Eggplant-goat cheese purée with olive oil and toasted black walnuts, a charcuterie plate with a pheasant pate, duck liver tart and house cured ham, fried calamari, a bacon tart with caramelized onions and seared diver scallops with a yam puree.


I really enjoyed the appetizers, the scallops were delicious, tender and briny. The calamari was crusted with cornmeal giving it a great crunch and texture, bacon tart was good, but not note worthy, and the charcuterie plate was the biggest let down. It was mundane and I could have gathered a similar plate from any gourmet shop.


I have to talk about the bread basket; a while ago I posted on about where the best bread basket is and several people said that SDLT has a great one. It is one of the reasons I’ve wanted to go for so long. However, the basket was a disappointment. The bread was good, but not anything special. There was an assortment of French breads and one fig bread which was good, but not anywhere as delicious as the fig bread from L’Espalier. It wasn’t even warm. It was improved by the garlicky chickpea spread that came with it and the eggplant goat cheese spread I ordered, but still, nothing special.


Our main courses were: 2 orders of grilled ribeye steak frites with red wine-shallot sauce, a pistachio and avocado "crusted" haddock , and a rack of lamb with Moroccan couscous.

I ordered the lamb and it was good, but I found the sauce too sweet and cloying. The couscous was saturated with it and soggy, not appealing at all. R’s steak was good, and I loved his matchstick thin fries. I didn’t try the fish, Peggi said she liked it and cleaned her whole plate off.


One thing I really liked about their dessert menu is that they offer a “Grand Dessert for two” which essentially was four of their desserts cut in half, so you could sample more. I wish more restaurants would do this. We were able to try the Vermont maple cheesecake,  apple tart tatin, chocolate turtle torte and a flourless chocolate betê noir with bruleed bananas. We also ordered an assortment of warm cookies. The betê noir was terrific, rich dark, and chocolaty, it was easily my favorite dessert. The turtle tort was a close second. The cheesecake was lighter in texture than I like. I prefer NY style cheesecake, rich and dense. The Apple tart was fine. Cookies were good, but I can do better.


It was a decent meal, but I guess my expectations were a little too high because I came away feeling disappointed. I’m willing to give it another shot sometime.