My girlfriend and I dropped-in on La Capitale at 6:30 PM on a Friday evening. The restaurant was very busy, and having no reservations we were expecting to be turned away. But we decided to try anyway.
We were greeted within seconds by the hostess. She had space for us, but it would have to be at the bar. Gladly, we accepted.
The bar is located in the northeast corner of the restaurant, right next to the open kitchen. Large windows facing both State St. and High St. provide lots of natural light, giving the entire restaurant a clean, welcoming feel.
The bartender greeted us as soon as we took our seats.
La Capitale’s menu offers several tempting choices for appetizers and entrees. The focus appears to be on local ingredients with a French twist.
My girlfriend and I each decided to start our meal with the French onion soup with croutons and cheese baked on top ($8.50). The soup boasted a rich, dark-brown broth with caramelized onions. The croutons and melted cheese acted as a nice contrast in texture.
Our entrees appeared within the next 15 or 20 minutes. My girlfriend chose the potato gnocchi ($16), the vegetarian option of the evening, while I chose the duck confit with polenta ($16).
The gnocchi had a crispy fried exterior with a creamy, tender inside. My girlfriend enjoyed the flavor, but I thought the taste was a little “grainy,” somewhat like oats. The unusual flavor was helped by a creamy fondue sauce and the accompaniment of sautéed mushrooms and asparagus.
My duck leg was quite good. It was served with a port wine sauce with dehydrated figs; root vegetables (turnips, I think), and creamy polenta. Seasoning was spot-on and the duck leg was flaky and tender.
We had eaten lunch at La Capitale the day before, but skipped out on dessert. This was our chance to indulge and try something sweet.
From the short dessert list we ordered the chocolate fudge cake with orange sauce. It arrived in a shallow bowl with orange sauce on the bottom and whipped cream over the top. As expected, the cake was very rich and dense with bold chocolate flavor. A delightful balance was achieved with the addition of the slightly acidic orange sauce.
Our bill came to about $60- a worthwhile expense for a delicious meal coupled with friendly, unpretentious service. We intend to go back soon for our next special occasion!
La Capitale Brasserie
508 State St. Salem, OR 97301