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This French bistro tucked into the White Oak restaurant corridor in the Heights is a reflection of the neighborhood itself: charming and relaxed, and completely unstuffy for a French restaurant. Chef/owner Philippe Harel and his wife Béline specialize in crêpes — including that delightfully old-school classic, crêpe suzette — but you can find other dishes on the menu as well, including New Zealand lamb shanks and tournedos with foie gras.
Salé Sucré is located on a particularly unattractive span of White Oak in a small, generic strip center just off Studewood not far from I-10 but you'll see the restaurant's glow before you even enter. And once in, you will be quickly enveloped by a welcoming, warm sensibility.
There aren't any other places in the nearby area that offer such nuanced French bistro fare. This lack of competition is both a blessing and a curse, translating into generally higher prices than one would normally expect to pay for the inconsistent quality and simple menu.
Philippe Harel and his wife Béline are the husband-wife entrepreneurial duo behind Salé Sucré. Unfussy yet dignified, Salé Sucré is relaxed but possesses a certain sophistication. On a Thursday evening when we visited the live music's volume was much too loud for the small space, precluding any attempt at having a conversation with our guests while eating. The music was good but left our heads throbbing by the end of the evening.
The waiters know about the food, and they're attentive without being overbearing. While well-intentioned, the bartender and small wait staff can be easily overwhelmed resulting in service that is often slow. You will need to be patient.
The order of service was disjointed and somewhat surreal. After an extended wait, our bottle of wine arrived while we were still wondering what happened to our cocktail order. Our cocktails arrived half-way through the appetizers. After several requests, bread (a single small loaf) initially made an appearance mid-way through the meal.
Once the bread arrived it was a joy in the form of a single miniature, delicious peasant baguette. Unfortunately, it was too small to adequately share between our party of four diners. Luckily, after several further requests, additional loaves began arriving at oddly-timed intervals.
The small menu, still apparently a work in progress, includes a lengthy list of both savory and sweet crêpe dishes, plus starters that include pan-fried Camembert served with spinach salad and honey dressing. The chef uses fresh herbs, which are well sourced and typically incorporated in well-chosen combinations. Main lunch entrees are somewhat pricey, and dinners are even more expensive. We found many menu items to be either over or under-seasoned resulting in food that was generally good but inconsistent, missing the mark of being great. The moules marinières in particular were bland due to inadequate seasoning and cooked for much too long resulting in an unpleasant, rubbery texture. The baked camembert was very salty due to an overly free-hand with the seasoning.
Salé Sucré is a good choice for simple bistro fare, like savory or sweet crepes and frites. Dining at Salé Sucré isn't perfect --but unfortunately it's about as close as you'll get to Paris within this area of the Heights.
THE SPACE Situated in a nondescript strip center, this bistro has an interior that is an entirely different story, with a welcoming bar and a handful of colorful tables creating a dining area with a warm French bistro feel. Soft lighting, wood floors and scattered cushioned seats along with a long cushioned wall bench create a cozy atmosphere. Seating in the bistro is snug and it can get uncomfortably loud, particulary if there is live music. A small but pleasant outdoor front patio is ideal for lunch or brunch during good weather. Wheelchair accessible.
THE CROWD Runs the gamut, from couples out for a romantic meal and singles at the bar to groups and families (There is a children's menu available but rambunctious children would not be appropriate). Great date spot or for small groups. Dress is casual.
THE BAR The centerpiece is a nice selection of premium liqueurs and alcohols, The restaurant offers both specialty cocktails and wines by the glass or bottle. The small wine list features French wines of varying quality and price.
THE BILL Entrees from $19 to $26; specials as high as $34. Major credit cards accepted.
WHAT WE LIKED Baked camembert, French fries, mixed greens salad, New Zealand lamb ribs served with mashed potatoes and vegetables ($18) and Tornedos Rossini: beef with foie gras, fig chutney with vegetables and frites ($24).
IF YOU GO Lunch: Monday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner: Monday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are recommended, especially for Friday and Saturday nights. Free private parking lot across the street from the restaurant. The Harels also run a custom bakery business on-site for weddings and special events.
RATINGS Overall O.K. but not great. Fairly expensive for bistro fare with slow but well-intentioned service and dishes of inconsistent quality. Has the potential to evolve but would not visit again anytime soon. . Only the test of time will tell if Salé Sucré can survive long enough to mature and realize its full potential.
Attention all you Torchy's Tacos fans who aren't fans of the parking situation at the current location on Shepherd: The Austin-based taco shop is opening a second location in the Heights on 19th Stree... More »
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