I grabbed these photos from Lisa Anne's Picasa page. Those are some good looking entrees. Normally it takes a month or so for a new restaurant to get up to speed, but this place seems like it's hit the ground running. I'm guessing that's the Parisian Gnocchi, on top and the Steak Frites below with the fries.
This review came in via email from "Vegan's Nightmare." Nice work, thank you.
When you enter La Capitale off of State Street, you'll be greeted by at least one or two cheery hostesses. And if you show up twice in one day like myself, they'll be extra friendly. If you plan on going for dinner, make reservations otherwise you should be prepared to wait in the bar, or find something to do downtown until a table is ready.
La Capitale is located in the old Razzle Dazzle corner of the Capitol Theatre / Bligh Building on State and High streets. Chef David Rosales renovated the space and turned it into a elegant and hip French brasserie -- the kind of joint you might find in downtown Portland, definitely not in Salem. The space occupies the corner of the building, and windows cover the North and West walls, leading to a very open and airy setting. The main dining area seats 36, with an adjoining area that seats an additional 18. The bar area seats a comfortable 20 with large windows to State Street.
Since I was fortunate enough to have lunch and dinner at La Capitale in the same day, I'll share both of my experiences in the same review.
For lunch, I started with a cup of potato and leek soup. I'm not a soup connoisseur, but since I was in a new place, I felt compelled to try as much of the menu as I could. Just as the waitress described, the soup tasted like ultra creamy mashed potatoes -- and it was outstanding. The presentation of the soup was pleasantly attractive, and I would love to include a picture, but my camera phone reported that "The Battery is Too Low to Take a Picture." After the soup, I moved on to a smoked ham and gruyere sandwich with pommes frites (fries) and mixed green salad. I felt the plate was of very good quality and an excellent value at $7.50 -- but the sandwich was a bit more buttery than my doctor and wife prefer for me. The fries were exactly the way I like them -- thin and just the right amount of crispness. My total lunch meal of soup, sandwich, salad, and fries, was $10 even -- an excellent value for the amount and quality of food. My companion had
the open-faced crab and something sandwich, which was also good, but not of interest to me this day.
After lunch, I informed my wife of the new game in town. A few minutes later, after booking a sitter via text message, we reserved ourselves a table for 2 at 7PM that night. Obviously, I'm not embarrassed to say I ate at the same place for lunch and dinner. We arrived just before 7PM on a Friday night, and were not too surprised to see that the restaurant was exceptionally busy. I guess it is true that Salem-ites have been longing for a nice dining spot in the downtown area. It was really nice to see a new night spot doing so well.
La Capitale was having an appetizer special of three fried oysters with horseradish sauce for $4 which I found too irresistible to pass up, so I started there, along with a glass of Left Coast Pinot Noir (in another review, I might profess my love for Left Coast Pinot's). The oysters were very good, and tasted very fresh, although the breading had a little too much cornmeal on it which resulted in at least one end of the oyster being a little extra crunchy. For my entrée, I chose the lamb loin with mashed potatoes ($19), while my wife chose the halibut with mushrooms and leeks ($18). Neither entrée came with a salad, but we both agreed that while the plates were slightly less food than we were used to, they were still a reasonable value for the quality and quantity. The lamb was cooked to perfection and melted in my mouth along with what I believe was a hint of cumin. The halibut was moist and delicious, and was topped with something similar to a
mushroom tapenade that tasted naturally earthy, and was a delicate compliment to the halibut.
As a home-grown American, I am used to finishing a meal at a restaurant and being so full I have difficulty catching my breath, let alone catching a dessert. However, since our entrées were on the light side (or at least lighter than we were used to), we had just the right amount of room for dessert. We decided to order both a plate of cheese and fruit as well as the profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. The cheese plate was delivered with diced pears, crab apple jelly, hazelnuts, and 3 artesian cheeses: parmesan, blue, and brie. It was also accompanied by their signature bread with a sesame and poppy-seed coated crust which proved to be too powerful to be eaten with the gentle flavors of the fruits and cheeses. I mentioned to the waitress that they might want to try serving it with a plain bread instead and she happily brought back some plain sourdough to our table -- what service!
We ate the cheese first, and by the time we got to the profiteroles the ice cream had melted a bit, but I'm certain they were just as good as they would have been when they landed on the table. This dessert had three small éclair-type pastries served with ice cream in the middle, and a warm chocolate sauce. Between my wife and myself, she is far more passionate about desserts than I, and she gave this one a thumbs-up, so I believe I can safely recommend it.
With their very friendly and helpful wait-staff, quality food, reasonable prices, and a classy atmosphere, I strongly recommend making La Capitale the answer to the question -- "where should we eat next?"