Fleur de Sel [Post Falls, ID]
(Although Idaho is filed under "mountain states", Post Falls, Idaho is a half hour drive from Spokane, and is referred to by all locals as part of the Pacific Northwest and Inland Empire, if this should be moved I apologize)
I've been tempted to make a review of this place since its inception about 3 years ago, but haven't for a very specific reason, greed.
Fleur de Sel successfully surpasses my expectations with every visit. I'm blessed to be a "regular" there, and memories of Fleur de Sel will be, I think, some of the fondest of my life. I didn’t want to write a review because I have a deep-seated fear that they will get too popular and Thomas Keller or television will sweep in and take Fleur de Sel away from me.
The location is small and stellar. Tucked in the back of the Highland's Day Spa, there is a window into the inconceivably small kitchen, and the decor is full of earth tones and quiet sophistication that is a direct dichotomy to "down home" Idaho living. The view over the city and prairie makes for incredible sunsets.
The service is probably my favorite aspect of the restaurant. The owner, Patricia (and husband of the chef) is the petite French hostess, who, if she's seen you more than once, always welcomes you with a hug and a kiss on both cheeks. The wait staff is prompt and friendly, and water glasses never go dry. Service in this part of the country is rarely anything more than ordinary, but at Fleur de Sel it shines.
But I would happily eat in a back alley serving myself if I was eating the food here. Although I consider the prices bafflingly low for the quality, there have been some complaints. Entrees range from $9-20, with salads ranging from 6-12. Their wine list is small, but bringing your own wine is accepted and encouraged.
They tend to have an appetizer du jour, which yesterday was tartar with almond lavash that was phenomenal. The crab and potato beignets are absolutely perfect with a mind-blowing texture of crispness melting into creamy crabby goodness, and fun to eat too.
Fleur de Sel also lays claim to many of my favorite salads. Their seared beef salad with roasted garlic, arugula, and truffle oil, is unfortunately off their seasonal menu, but I make a point of asking for it to return every time I'm there. This year’s winter menu includes a warm sweetbread salad that impressed even my offal-averse mother. Their fried goat cheese salad is well balanced despite its richness, and the avocado-shrimp salad has never been taken off the menu for fear of revolt.
The entrees suffer, however. They're all good, better than good, in fact, but every season one or two entrees is so fantastic that the others seem almost boring in comparison. Their staple entree, Chicken and Truffles, is rich and never disappoints, and the duck confit with sausage in red wine sauce is difficult to better, but they manage.
The special of the evening is usually a fresh fish, and is always good. I have a friend who orders the special without asking what it is, and is always happy. They are particularly fond of cooking in parchment bags, and last night their cod with mushroom-butter sauce was the star of the table.
A special mention, however, must go to something which I hope never leaves their menu, the pork cheeks. More succulent than any pot roast, short rib, or pork belly I've ever had, it's very difficult, almost impossible, for me not to order it every time I go. For winter it's pork cheeks bourguignon, with all the perfectly cooked carrots, pearl onions and red-wine sauce that implies.
They also make a type of caper relish, called ravigote, which occasionally pops up, and will haunt my dreams forever.
Also, the name? They do finishing salts very, very well, and there is fleur de sel on the table that I've never actually used, except to add a salty bite the pate and mushroom confit with toast and cornichons, I think.
I don't want to make this sound like a raving review. I know I wouldn't trust a review that didn't point out a flaw. The fact that I have to struggle to find something wrong with Fleur de Sel should tell you something. I once had fish that was a little dry, but upon hinting at that to the wait staff they immediately took it away from me and returned with perfectly cooked fish.
I had to look up other bad reviews to make sure my vision was not clouded. It can get loud later on in the night, but it’s never been enough to distract from the experience. I guess you could complain about the lack of fish, because a fresh fish special is so limiting? I once heard a man complain that the meat was cheap, but I think he meant he doesn’t want pork cheeks and braised meats when he goes out, he wants steak. Honestly, I’m not really sure I'd order steak anywhere outside of Wolf Lodge, and certainly not at a French restaurant when there's more eminently French food available.
If you’d like to prove this admittedly overly-positive review wrong, go yourself, I implore you. Better yet, go frequently, and get to know the chef and his wife the owner.
And that Thomas Keller line? I’ve taken dedicated food snobs here, who said it was the same quality as the French Laundry, though noticeably more honest and a fraction of the price. People from cities say it could stand up to any New York or Chicago establishment, and even the locals, who are humble at best and gritty at worst, can love a place that serves mac and cheese as rich as any and French fries to die for.
I apologize for the long review. I apologize that this food makes me so happy. I apologize that life is so fleeting, and that we cannot spend it all eating.
Fleur de Sel
4365 Inverness Drive
Post Falls,ID 83854