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Mar 31, 2001 02:54 AM

La Salette; new thread

  • l

In wondering who may have gone here & what they thought, I ironically had a portugese friend visiting who went there with his wife this week. They emailed me with a few disappointin thoughts.

" La Salette. Well, frankly, we weren't impressed and don't think it's worth the drive for you. Paulo & I felt it wasn't very Portugese. We ordered a vihno verde, the dry white wine of the north which is usually served very cold and is very refreshing. We were brought two glasses & it was wrong. Off. Not corked, but something, and not cold. So we did the uncomfortable thing and sent the wine back, always hard when it happens, and the waitress wasn't gracious and when Paulo ordered from the menu, she kept saying excuse me even though he was reading off the menu and finally she said she's sorry but she doesn't speak portugese and has to watch where people point on the menu to see what they order."

"My impression is that it reeked of "consultancy." Someone must have told this man, the chef, who's from Azores, that he must name the restaurant something that doesn't sound Portugese so he won't scare people, and then the decor must be Napa/Sonoma and he must lighten up the dishes, not make them too hot or ethnic."

"And so, we liked a few things ( the codfish cakes, as appetizers, called Pasteis d'Bacalhau, were good, light and hot through, and Paulo adored the leit creme dessert with its crackly caramelizes crust and began speaking of his grandmother, but main dishes were insipid), even when the poor waitress brought out a fresh bottle of the wine and apologized for not tasting it herself first, but when Paulo asked her to confirm that it was quite cold, she said both, "yes, SIR", very condescendingly and "we don't overchill our wines here." Oh well. The new bottle proved that the previous glasses has actually been from a bad bottle, and she was trying to apply Napa wine chilling or lack of chilling to something she knew nothing about (and which her distributor unfortunately didn't give her a clue about). They also had the white port on the dessert menu; it's actually an apertif wine, very refreshing, so it wasn't just the waitress, but the overall knowledge was lacking".

Alas, these are true chowhounds. Much said in a short visit. Any other comments out there?

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  1. m
    Melanie Wong

    Lucy, I haven't been to the restaurant, but my take on your friends' comments is that this is an example of how an ill-informed, ungracious server can ruin a meal. I can't believe she hasn't learned the Portuguese names for the dishes! There's no excuse for serving vihno verde less than ice cold which emphasizes it's crackling fresh character. Otherwise, there's not much else there. Yet, personally, I don't downgrade restaurants that much for lack of wine knowledge. Just goes to show you how low our expectations have become in that area. It would tee me off though to have such attitude overlaying ignorance and not acceding to the customer's wishes. If the person paying the check wants to serve Cabernet Sauvignon over ice, so be it.

    I'd appreciate knowing exactly what mains they ordered because the app and dessert sound great. With only a two-top, sometimes it's hit and miss on getting the kitchen's best.

    A friend who sells Portuguese wines to many restaurants in Newark's iron triangle area had recommended La Salette very highly to me. He described the food as authentic and made with better and fresher ingredients and more finesse than in NJ. Maybe this is lightening it up too much.

    Here's a link to Jeff Cox's review from a year ago. Wonder if his comments on spicing cause them to tone it down? Also, he describes the decor much differently.


    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Thanks, Melanie for the added revue. I truly believe it has to do with a personal "personna". I am sure Paulo had his own idea's of what a "true" Portugese Restaurant" would represent. I just wanted to express their opinions after my inquring on site of this place. I have to say, I have my own "quirks" when it comes to regional dining expressions. I am a born & raised Minnesotan, & when I go on line to the chowhound site there, all my sensory perceptions go off on what I believe is "True" for the area. I totally loved your friends review of La Salette and will go there for myself. I truly enjoy Portugese influence in anything. I will also admit, I don't know if/when it is as good as it could be.

      Thank-you for the feed-back.

      1. re: Lucy Gore
        Melanie Wong

        Paulo's opinions are as valid as anyone, I was just trying to read between the lines and separate the wheat from the chaff. My experience with the cuisine is limited to a few festas at the Portuguese hall growing up in Salinas, and its expression in Brazilian food. If you caught an earlier thread on this board, La Salette seems to be the only place in Northern Calif. that promotes itself as Portuguese. If you're headed over there for dinner sometime this month, let me know and maybe I'll be able to join you. I think I might even have one bottle of Portuguese table wine in the cellar.

        I did note your posts on the Midwest board re: Twin Cities. Having spent a total of 9 months there over a two year period, I'm an honorary Minnesotan. Will we be seeing "hot dish" on your menu anytime soon? (g)