La Capitale Brasserie

La Capitale is now closed

Date night on a Wednesday = no extra scheduling to head downtown for First Wednesday.  It wasn't part of our original plan, but it's worked out to be a nice bonus.  Where to eat, where to eat??  I sought out inspiration at the Go First Wednesday website for ideas. Casey's Cafe was on the list. Munching on hotdogs sounded like the perfect way to encourage warmer weather. We took our time walking there, making a stop at Little Cannoli to pick-up a few calorie worthy "necessities". When we did make our way towards the hanging hotdog sign, we found the cafe closed.  Sad!  If not hotdogs ... how about hamburgers?
Time to execute Plan B!
While getting my hair styled, at happy hour, twitter and elsewhere, I've been hearing over and over about the amazing bistro burger served at La Capitale.  I grabbed N by the hand and pulled him across High Street.
I was sure we wouldn't have a chance of walking into La Capitale Brasserie and finding a table, but I forget that we dine later than most folks.  A choice of both the dining room and the bar?  We chose the bar.  Following people on Twitter has it's benefits, one of which is reading what wonderful drinks @robdrinkenstein (La Cap's bartender) is concocting for the day.  There are certain professions where I believe either you have "it" or you don't.  Rob has it!
Rob warmly greeted us after we were situated at our table.  "What's the special drink of the day?"  I asked.  "Rhubarb Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream Martini.", he tempted.  I asked him about the level of sweetness.  He said that the addition of rhubarb balanced out the sweet level.  Sign us up!  Not only was it beautiful to gaze upon, but Rob was right.  It was fresh, made with quality ingredients and perfectly balanced.  I don't know why I'd want to buy a cocktail anywhere else.
We both ordered our burgers medium rare.  N chose to add bacon and cheddar and I picked bleu cheese and mushrooms.  During my youth, my folks would raise a calf to fill our freezer every one to two years.  My Dad carefully fed them and then later took special care with the steaks--aging them for optimal flavor and tenderness.  The beef in our bistro burgers is the first beef since my youth that took me back to that time.  It had the same rich, complicated, beefy aroma and mouth texture (yes, even though it was ground).  What a heady (primal?) aroma it was!
After savoring burgers with housemade buns (both at La Cap & WBC) , I doubt I'll ever want to justify the calories from the standard store bought variety again.  Once our plates with burger and frites arrived, the experience began.  Directly under the hood of my burger lay a leaf of (I'm pretty sure) butter lettuce, tomato slices, red onion rings, a combination of my requested bleu cheese and mushrooms AND my medium rare beef patty.
First I admired that lovely burger and nibbled my frites.  Then I carefully cut it in half,  took my first bite and sat back to ruminate.  No way was I going to rush this.  Such a juicy, succulent, patty of beef!  No one flavor screamed out to get my attention.  There was just enough of each item to achieve a delicious blend and balance.  I had been transported to burger heaven.  {sigh}
I've always been a fan of the fatter french fry, with the contrast between the tender inside and browned exterior.  Now I see how a slender fry is not only crispier, but it's an opportunity to slow down and enjoy each bite.  And that's what N and I did--slowed down, enjoyed every bite and sip, the atmosphere and each other's company.
At our dinner's end, once again, Rob tempted us.  He brought over "reading material"-i.e. the dessert menu.  We ordered one Vanilla Creme Brulee to linger over together.  The two of us worked diligently to make sure each bite had a small shard of of the caramelized sugar topping to go with the vanilla custard.  The silky yet fluffy custard was just the right level of sweet for my tongue.  All the better to enjoy the taste of the caramelized top layer.
Completely, entirely, fully, thoroughly, totally, utterly sated, we strolled back to our car for the ride home.

508 State St. Salem, Oregon 97301

Mon - Fri 11:00am - 2:00pm
Sat 12:00pm - 3:00pm

Mon - Thurs 5:00pm - 9:00pm
Fri - Sat 5:00pm - 9:30pm
Happy Hour: 

Mon - Sat 2:00pm - 6:00pm

Mon - Thurs 11:00am - 9:30pm
Fri 11:00am - Close
Sat 12:00pm - Close


Anonymous said...

The burger at La Capitale is the best I've ever had, hands down, and I am a burger fan. I talk about the burgers with my hair dresser, too -- pretty sure it's the same person!

KandN said...

Anonymous, That would be hilarious if we both talked burgers with the same stylist!

Anonymous said...

We LOVE Rob! Best bartender in town. And the only one working with house-infused liquors and house-grown herbs as he does... He knows his stuff! Thanks for a good review... La Cap is the best, we want everyone else to enjoy them too. I am partial to their grilled cheese sandwiches -- never had another one like it, soooo delicious!

KandN said...

Anon, Is this the grilled cheese sandwich you meant?
"Croque Monsieur: Artisan smoked ham and gruyere cheese sandwich"
Sounds amazing!
I could be wrong, but I believe that Prudence Uncorked also makes their own infused liquors. Not sure about the herbs.

Anonymous said...

You might be right, I guess I shouldn't make a blanket statement that La Cap is the only place doing house-infused drinks.. I haven't been to Prudence Uncorked yet, but have been to most other higher-end restaurants with bars in town and kinda thought that might be the case. I shouldn't be quoted on these things apparently :)

The grilled cheese sandwich at La Cap isn't always on the menu -- when it is, it's usually on the bar menu of small plates/appetizers I think. You could probably just ask for one if it's not listed. It's made with aged Tillamook cheddar, grilled, sliced into fingers, and served with a slightly herbed bechamel sauce for dipping.... YUMMM! The Croque Monsieur does sound amazing as well!

Chuck Bradley said...

The first time we tried la Capitale, it was for dinner with another couple. The food was acceptable but pricey. The acoustics were horrible. It was impossible to converse at normal volume. I thought some Oregon wines would have been a nice addition to their list. We gave 'em another chance. My wife and I tried La Capitale again, this time for lunch. She had quiche and I had French onion soup. (Of course it was called something much more pretentious) The accoustics hadn't improved but it was much quieter at this time of day. Conversation was possible. The service was good.