La Capitale Brasserie

(Now closed)
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?"


KandN said...

Great review, thank you!
Sounds like you two had as nice of an experience as we did. (we have pictures, but no one wrote a review. maybe we should've combined forces.:>))
I do take exception with your comment about Salem not having any hip and elegant places. Since I began participating in this blog, I've discovered just how many nice places we have in town. When there's an opportunity (birthday, anniversary, etc) for a special celebration, our family now has to pause and make a choice of where to go.

Lise M said...

Nice review! I'm glad you go to it before me. We also went here last weekend for my birthday. I would have to agree that this is a wonderful new addition to Salem's nice restaurants. The food is great, with the exception of the undercooked beef. Both steaks that were ordered at our table were undercooked by at least one level. Guess that night's chef has a different idea about medium rare and medium that we do. I had the halibut and loved it as well, and I'm very picky about fish. We took a few pictures in case I ever got to doing a review during this busy week. Here is a link to the pictures.

Anonymous said...

You are right about the pictures. The Gnocchi was KandN's. I tried one and they were so light and fluffy.

Vegan's Nightmare said...

@KandN: You're right, I was exaggerating -- and you were right to call me on that.

I didn't mean to imply Salem doesn't have any hip and elegant places at all, but I really can't think of many hip and elegant night spots quite like this place, especially in the downtown area. In my head, DaVinci's, and I suppose Bentley's, make the short list, but while they're good restaurants, neither leave me the impression of being both hip and elegant. I suppose it's subjective.

In any case, I look forward to a change in my opinion through additional experiences!

KandN said...

Sorry VN. . .
it took me several years (after moving from Rosieburg) to get acclimated to Salem. And once I did, my dander has become easily ruffled when I feel Salem is needlessly knocked.

For downtown, how about Alessandro's and JJames?
On the outskirts, Amadeus and Caruso's, are the first to come to mind.
Does anyone know about the new place in Dallas, L'Attitudes?

Avasmommy said...

Oh god, don't get me started on L'Attiude. I've been to tons of restaurants all over this country and I can safely say I had one of the worst experiences of my life there. Husband and I went there for lunch about a month after they opened. I was on my lunch hour, and ended up having to get our food to go because it took so long to come out. It took forever for someone to even get our order taken and they were not busy by any stretch of the imagination. I ordered a crab melt (crab, cheese and herb mayo on a croissant) and the baked potato soup. I got back to my office and found the soup was so thick it was like library paste. The sandwich? Oh was all bread and a teeny tiny amount of crab. It was more like a cheese sandwich with a bit of crab tossed in. I called the restaurant to talk to the owner, who copped a major attitude and starting going on about how much that crab costs her per pound. Um...ok. I don't really care. Perhaps putting that sandwich on an English muffin would be better, less bread to filling any rate she wanted to know what would "Make me happy". I told her I wanted a refund since I felt our lunch had been ruined. She said if I came down she'd give me a refund, and then hung up on me. I went back down and it took her 45 minutes to figure out how to process a refund on my debit card. 45 minutes. It seems she doesn't have much experience running a business and certainly cannot take criticism well. And it should never fall to the customer to come up with a solution to a problem. Never.

KandN said...

Oh Cripes, Jenna! That must've been a disappointment!
Ever since N and I talked to the owner when she was in her planning stages, we were hoping this would be another great addition to the area's dining scene.

Vegan's Nightmare said...

@KandN - I've had several bad experiences at both Alessandro's and J. James which have soured me on them. I haven't been to either in a while, so I suppose I could give them another chance. Amadeus definitely qualifies (their location is just plain odd though). I haven't been to Caruso's since they moved -- I absolutely love that place though.

KandN said...

I've never ventured into either Alessandro's or J. James, but I assumed both have a loyal following. Makes me sad to hear you've had several bad experiences. Doesn't make me all that eager to stick my toe in and give them a try.

Amadeus is where we usually go. It is an odd spot for a restaurant, and yet it's great for those us who live in the south end of town.

Alex said...

Eaten here 3 times and we've loved everything - the fries are fantastic! My only quibble is that the french onion soup was just a bit too salty for my taste.

Anonymous said...

We went to Alessandro's Friday night for our anniversary. There weren't very many people there, so, as one would expect, the service was fantastic.

I like their large menu, with dishes of differing quantities for different appetites.

They now have a great martini menu also.

Farmer bill said...

Back to La Capitale for a minute.
We could easily tell a long story of our experiences there late on a very busy Friday evening... but that is better done in person. Here is a short version:

We had a great meal, very cordial service, reasonable prices for the high quality of the meal and because we were seated a little late and two dishes we initially ordered were not available when the waitress reached the kitchen (we were the last meal prepared that night), the chef and owner paid for our entire meal, including our wine, appetizer, main courses and dessert. We did not expect to eat for free at all and have been very supportive of this restaurant ever since. Try it- you will like it!

Anonymous said...

We took my folks to La Capitale Friday night and it was fantastic.

We had reservations and were seated right away. They were out of the gnocci, which disappointed my SO, even though he's never tried them, he kinda wanted a vegetarian entree.

Mom and I had the Salade Lyonnaise, and she raved about how it was just like the one she had that one time in France.

The entree and appetizer prices are very reasonable, although their "special" wine of the night was $9/glass. So between cocktails, wine, desserts, the bill added up, but we were very satisfied with the amount of food and great service.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me you left a tip. Free or not, good quality service deserves to be rewarded.

tracylee said...

Well, I met Mom at La Capitale for lunch today and was not quite as impressed.

We were the first ones there at 11:30, so I was a bit miffed when they seated the next two groups of people on either side of us. The guy to the right dragged my manila envelope under him as he sat down, and the lady to the left took off her coat right over our table. By the time we left, the place was packed, so I felt better about the seating.

We both ordered the croque monsieur sandwich, this having been a favorite of ours in Southern France. We were disappointed that the sandwich was not topped with cheese sauce, like we were used to. According to Wiki, it can go either way, though:

Between us, there were enough frites that I took home the leftovers for the "leftover king".

For $16 it was a great lunch overall.

Anonymous said...

i love their happy hour. i cannot wait to try the gnocchi dish!

Anonymous said...

We've been a couple of times...the food is good but the service is horrible. I called to make reservations and was treated so horribly I will never go back again - even for the food!

Anonymous said...

I've eaten at La Capitale once. The service
was quite good. The food was a different matter. The onion soup was topped by a cheese which just didn't taste like a mature gruyere, but even worse the cheese was not browned and bubbling. The broth, though rich and complex with subtle hints of alcohol (don't ask me which) was good, though a bit sweet. I would have preferred plain french bread in the soup to the seeded crust version. The flavors in my dish - mussels and sausage topped,with frites just didn't work me. My husband's steak, ordered medium rare, was overcooked. He complained to the waitress (this is a guy who winces at the thought of sending food back) who was kind and apologetic and replaced his steak in a timely way with one cooked to his expectations. The meat, however, was "veiny" suggesting that the meat selections need attention. As for the tarte tatin, the apples, rather than being in distinct slices were mushy and the consistency of applesauce. The chantilly cream and the caramel decorating the plate were very tasty. The coffee was good. The kind waitress informed us that the steak entree would be deducted from our tab. I had
been thrilled to think there would be a worthy
French restaurant in town again. I was so

Anonymous said...

My wife and I finally got around to Le Capitale. The food was excellent, but the service was so slow our hostess comped us dessert. The decor is modern bland and the kitchen is exposed and extremely noisy.

If you crave good food, good service and a great atmosphere, nothing beats Alessandro's.

And the martinis are indeed great!

Anonymous said...

I had a great experience there and an average experience. Give them some time to get their legs under them.

I always give places two chances - only two though.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to register my extreme irritation at being charged $2 for hot tap water with a side of lemon wedges.

The food was very good and our server was sweet and attentive. I understand the business model for finer dining.

Charging for hot water just strikes me as rude. I'm tempted to avoid this place for a while as a result.

Anonymous said...

I went to La Capitale for the first time with friends on a Friday night and went into the bar. Let me just tell you that bartender is amazing!!! I didn't know what I wanted, but ran off some qualities that I liked in a cocktail, and what do you know, placed in front of me was the most delicious beverage I have ever enjoyed! So perfect, I went on to be adventurous and try other suggested drinks that all turned out to be very ingenious and perfectly delicious!
That being said, the food I had in the bar was limited, a burger, some lamb ribs, olives. But, one of the best burgers I have ever had! I feel like the menu is just a little too limited, and has put me off going there for dinner. Perhaps as they are open longer, they will expand their options.
A very enjoyable place to be!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more, Anon April 8. Rob, the bartender, is the very best you will find. We love to go in for drinks and a chat, and the bar menu is my favorite! Nothing like getting off work late at night, exhausted and starving, and heading to La Cap for a strong drink or two and their delicious and gormet grilled cheese, or creme brulee. This is my FAVORITE place to eat and drink in Salem! They're doing it all right. So lucky to have them.

Unknown said...

The majority of the reviews given to La Capitale are quite positive. My wife and I had a wonderful time, great service, and fantastic food. She loved it, and she has worked in many big-time restaurants on the Northeast coast, since she was 16.

People often have unrealistic expectations when they walk into a place where they are served. It always makes your experience better when you call ahead for a reservation. You can also make the restaurant aware of any food allergies or intolerances you have, and make a seating request at that time. These simple preparations on the customer's part go a long way to improving your restaurant experience.

Also, I think that people should have to work in the service industry for 5 years before doing any other work. They then would have a realistic outlook about what service entails, and what etiquette involves on the customer side as well.

Also, when I looked up the restaurant, and noticed the directions to this site, the only thing I noticed was from one of the few negative reviews. This could easily give a potential customer a false impression. I suggest the webmaster at this site post part of a review showing the majority impressions of the reviewers.

Again, our experience was wonderful!

Thank You,
The Wine Man

Jia said...

I went here for happy hour yesterday, and had a very nice experience. I had the mussels, they were fantastic. And the staff was so friendly!