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Oct 4, 2007 05:01 PM

Lunch at Sel de la Terre, Natick (review)

Made it out to the Natick "Collection" today for lunch, at SDLT. I haven't made it to the one in Boston, so I can't compare, but I certainly think it's an excellent addition to the MetroWest choices. Started with a basket of their house-made breads, served with a garlic bean spread. The breads were vey good (I actually picked up 2 loaves at their "Boulangerie", literally a hole in the wall in the mall where they sell their baked goods), but I thought the bean spread was took garlicky and smooth, not "rustic" enough.

For a main I had to try the steak frites, reasonably priced at $15 fo lunch. I believe it was a flank steak, served sliced, a bit fatty, cooked exactly as ordered (medium rare). The red wiine reduction was delicious, perhaps a bit salty, but yummy. It came with big pile of their signature rosemary fries (which are also available as a side for $6.50). The fries are a bit too thin for my taste, really like potato sticks, but my DCs seemed to love them, as did most of the folks around us.

For dessert, we split the "grand dessert", a tasting plate of all of their desserts, a generous portion for $16. It had 1/2 portions of a chocolate bete noire, with caramelized banana and caramel sauce (the best one), a maple flavored cheesecake (#2), an "heirloom apple" tarte tatin with lemon-thyme ice cream (the apple was much too sweet, and not caramelized at all), and a hazelnut creme brulee, which was more of a flan, with no crust. Also, we were served a spice cookie and an oatmeal raisin cookie, and a single chocolate truffle with white chocolate exterior. All delicious.

The inside of the restaurant is handsome, and you don't feel like you're in a mall at all once you're inside. Service was friendly, and somewhat informal, but efficient.

I'll be back.

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  1. thanks for the review. I didn't know it was directly in the Mall. What is it next to? I must have missed it a couple weeks back.

    1 Reply
    1. re: joebelt

      It's over by Nordstrom's and Neiman Marcus. There is valet parking and a garage...also a small parking lot.

    2. Well, it's mall dining, you know? We went for lunch yesterdday, just to give it a try. To our left, two women shrieked and crowed to amuse a baby in a stroller, just like they were at Chuck E. Cheese. To our right someone was cleaning up after departing diners by spraying 409 in noxious clouds which drifted, then hovered over our drinks. Beyond that, some things went well and some didn't.

      The bread, of course, was very good and varied: some whole grain, some white, some olive bread, etc., and they had the wit to serve it with softened and unsalted butter. The drinks came, expertly prepared: one dry martini (avoid the kiddie martinis on the menu) and one perfect Manhattan. After a half hour or so they got around to bringing our lunches. My husband had ordered the steak frites which was NOT onglet as expected, but steak tips, like we wouldn't know the difference. And "medium rare" turned out to be nearly raw inside, charred to a crisp outside. Inedible, in short, and covered in a salty sauce. The frites were excellent.

      My entree was a revelation: A cornmeal crusted portion of fresh tilapia on top of cheesy grits, lightly sauteed spinach and warm cherry tomatoes, surrounded by an utterly delicious pan broth that captured the essence of the tomato. It was large enough that it fed us both handily. Dessert was a perfect vanilla bean creme brulee plus two complimentary and bliss-producing warm cookies.

      The service was uneven as well --the long wait for our food made no sense since lunch was already over when we arrived. Our waitress was excellent, thank God, because we saw a young oaf of a waiter boring two women behind us with a long soliloquy about himself. The women didn't even bother ordering dessert, just bolted their entrees and left. And while it might not bother anyone else, navigating the torn up parking lot for a space was hell, and we won't be back for that reason alone. It's hard enough to drive in Boston without brand new obstacles to confront and the valet service, I believe, isn't offered at lunch.

      So our conclusion was: eat at the Sel de la Terre downtown. It's no harder to park, the food is better and the service is exemplary. It's too bad, because this is a pretty restaurant designed to please, but it misses by a lot.

      2 Replies
      1. We went there for Sunday Brunch today (the Natick branch). First of all, thanks for the tip on the underground parking, kelly001. We came from Rt 30/Speen St and parking our car in the Ruby section was so easy. The escalator comes right up to Sel de la Terre.

        We opted not to get the bread basket ($7.50) but the regular free bread instead. Bread was excellent.

        Husband had the pork loin, guyere cheese, sandwich. Served with housemade potato chips. He said it's great.

        I had the forest mushroom, goat cheese quiche. That was wonderful, loaded with meaty and tasty mushrooms, and goat cheese flavor was lovely. A small side arugula salad came with this dish.

        Overall, we were very pleased with the quality of the food. If we weren't watching our weights or our wallet, we would have also gone for the farm cheeses and or the pate.

        1. re: SSqwerty

          I just had lunch at Sel de la Terre downtown and I"m not sure the food or service were any better. I'm thinking it's a better dinner destination. The bread basket was excellent. I had the prix fixe and had asparagus soup, which was a bit heavy on the cream but had a nice subtle citrus tang to it, a very meager portion of strawberry pancakes, and a truly uninspired chocolate shell with banana cream in it. The waitress forgot my drink. Then she brought us the check after the entree and I had to request the dessert. It was an early mother's day lunch for me, and it didn't feel special at all.