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Finally a Great Gnocchi...at Sel de la Terre in Natick

I decided to boycott gnocchi a while back because 3 times in a row, once each at La Campania, Taranta and Antico Forno, they ranged from gummy to heavy. We tried the new SDLT in Natick tonight, and I was forced to get the gnocchi with mushrooms and leeks because it was the only vegetarian entree on the menu, and hallelujua! Light, melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi with oodles of flavorful wild mushrooms and leeks in a creamy, slightly peppery sauce. Ahhh....

My DC had the Scottish salmon with almonds and apples over some kind of risotto, and said it was divine.

To start, there were three breads served with butter: country white, light rye, and olive, all with a nice, chewy crust. Our server told us that they'd been using the same bread starter for 30 years. Maybe the original baker at L'Espalier brought it with him from somewhere else.

I started with a refreshing champagne and raspberry cocktail--can't remember the name, and finished with the apple tarte tatin with 4-spice ice cream. The pastry part of the tarte was very good, but the pumpkin-pie-like spices in the ice cream had too strong a flavor for both me and the apples. After a bite of my ice cream, DC ordered a dish of it for herself.

Service was perky and efficient. I liked the atmosphere. All the seating I could see in the main dining room was booths, which I like. They were booked solid on a Saturday night; the only reservation available with one day's notice was for 9:00, but none of the FOH seemed rushed because they were well-staffed. The bar and cafe were lively since the Sox were playing and winning by a mile. Lighting and temperature were just right. I'd never been to the one in Boston because I'd never heard anyone rave about it, but I'll be frequenting the Natick locale since it's close by.

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  1. I was there for a quick lunch yesterday at the bar! I had the grilled chicken pannini w. avocado and bacon aioli w. a pomegranite martini. Nice flavors in the sandwich with the bacon, avocado and really great bread (as polly mentioned above!) martini was a little tart and very refreshing.

    DC had Croque Madame w. their smoked salmon and an egg on top w. delicious frites. It was a hit !

    They had 3 bartenders on but service was slow... apparently they were more interested in watching the TV (and no the red sox weren't on yet). Next time I'll give the dining room a try.

    Polly, how did you handle parking ? The lot was small and we had to drive around about 10 times before finding something.. Did you do valet and was it worth it?

    6 Replies
    1. re: Trufflebaby

      We really lucked out and got a spot in the lot right in front of the restaurant. I'm not sure what we would have done otherwise; we drove by one of the parking garages and were surprised to see you had to pay to park in it. I hope they don't charge for all the garages now. I always think valet is worth it somewhere like the North End, but I don't like the thought of doing it in Natick. What next, valet parking at Dairy Joy?

      Yes, do try the dining room next time; it's pleasant, and you should have better service. I'm glad you liked it, too, otherwise.

      1. re: pollystyrene

        The garage that connects to JC Penney is free, large, well-lit, and has never been full when I have gone (though it hasn't been a Saturday afternoon). You drive in, keeping Sears on your left, go under the connector between the old mall and new, and you will see the garage on your right. It has a bridge that connects it to JC Penney.

        1. re: AnnieP

          Thanks, Annie. That's a big help, and I appreciate the specifics.

      2. re: Trufflebaby

        What are the prices for lunch? Also served Sat.? Do they price dinner the same way as in town, with all apps, entrees and desserts the same?

        1. re: Joanie

          Hi Joannie,

          Our sandwiches were about $13 each with the check for the 2 of us coming in around $45 with drinks before tip. Sorry, I'm not sure how it compares price wise to the the Boston location, I haven't had a chance to try that one yet cause I usually end up somewhere in the North End when I'm down that way!

          1. re: Joanie

            Yup, price structure is like in Boston. For lunch, apps & sandwiches are $9, entrees are $15. For dinner, apps are $11, mains are $26.

        2. I have been to SDT two times now. Both times were for lunch and both times we sat at the bar. I should also say that we enjoyed the food and the service each time we have been there. The first time we went we shared a Salad Nicoise which was served with slices of lightly grilled tuna. The dressing and other ingredients all worked very well together and it was an adequate portion for sharing. For the main course I had the grilled haddock served over white beans with chorizo. This was really excellent. The fish was perfectly cooked and the combination of the white beans and chorizo tasted wonderful. My wife had the grilled salmon which was served with fresh corn, potatoes in a light creamy sauce. This was also very good. We shared a Tart Tatin for dessert which was very good but IMHO the version served at Petit Roberts is better.

          On our seconf visit my wife had the salmon again but I tried the Steak Ftitte which came with a poached egg that had been coated in panko bread crumbs and then somehow deep fried. I know it sounds strange but it was a very tasty combination. Especially with the house made Hollandaise sauce served with it. I am sure that this dish would be called "heart healthy" but this was a special treat and very delicious. The frittes they are are sprinkled with sea salt and rosemary and tasted wonderful. We will definitely go back to SDT again any time we are out at the Natick Mall.

          3 Replies
          1. re: RoyRon

            I have been for lunch - had the salad nicoise and brunch - had the lobster salad. A welcome addition to Natick.

            I can't wai to try the gnocchi -- it's so hard to find light, pillow like gnocchi!

            1. re: michela

              The best gnocchi I've ever had (outside of Italy) was at Blu, when Dante was the chef there. Light, pillowy, melt in your mouth. I still haven't been to his (new, well, not so new anymore) restaurant yet (Dante) but my guess is that gnocchi is just as good.

              1. re: michela

                I can't claim gnocchi connoisseurship, but I can say I've had divinely light, pillow like gnocchi at Grotto in Beacon Hill and at The Butcher Shop in the South End (perhaps by extension at No. 9 Park also). My one experience at SDlT by the waterfront was sufficiently excessive in pretentiousness and price and sufficiently deficient in pairing of food to wine and flavor that I'm not tempted to return, great gnocchi or no.

            2. Where is it located -- what stores are near it? I saw it the first time I checked out the new section of the mall, but then the next time I walked through, I couldn't find it!

              3 Replies
              1. re: taterjane

                If you are inside the mall walking toward Neiman's, just before you get to it there's a hallway on the right. Go down it, and SDLT is at the end, on your left.

                1. re: pollystyrene

                  Thanks for the directions --- I'm hoping to try this some time soon!!

              2. I'm bumping this up because I tried Sel de la Terre at the Natick mall (excuse me, "collection") last night, and I remembered the gnocci recommendation. They weren't my thing, but I certainly get the difference between these and others I've had---the lightness to me turned out to be a bit mushy (I hate mushy), and I felt like the mushrooms needed something a bit firmer to go with them. But I can see that, if this was the ideal, other versions would be seriously lacking.

                The goat cheese salad was fantastic. Nothing particularly special about it, but it all just went together very well--mixed greens, a big round slice of slightly melty goat cheese, and a slice of baguette crouton.

                We also tried a creme brulee, which came with a side of cookies (??). Didn't try the cookies, but the creme brulee was ok (not too eggy, but not amazing).

                I don't have a lot of call to go out in Natick (a friend was there for business, so that's where I met her), but I'd go back when I'm in the area. For downtown, there are other places I'd rather go.