I only choose beef when I think it's going to be exemplary. Solé's didn't let me down
FOR THE RECORD
Thursday, May 02, 2002
With the 1999 introduction of Solé Restaurant and Wine Bar in the former Seagram's machine shop in Waterloo, the Cerny family continues to build on a long-standing reputation for fine, casual dining that began with the Blackshop in Cambridge.
John Cerny, a second-generation restaurateur, runs the upscale eatery in tandem with brother Alec. He told me his vision was to create an atmosphere that celebrates the Mediterranean values of sunshine, fine wine, warm colours and, of course, good food.
The rough-hewn but gracious heritage building holds an eclectic energy that combines old and new, which set the stage for a very comfortable evening. The former foundry is fitted with historic Seagram's artifacts that have been put to functional reuse. The pizza oven, for instance, is made from an old scotch still, with the top of a massive copper kettle used for exhaust.
The high ceiling is supported by original wooden beams, and there are plenty of large paned windows to bathe the room in warm light.
Solé's printed menu is limited but interesting with contributions from Europe and several Mediterranean regions. And executive chef Dan Potter more than makes up for his brevity with a generous offering of daily features that Cerny told me account for the lion's share of his dinner business.
Appetizers include butternut squash soup or a daily creation ($4.90 each); calamari with lemon and chili aioli ($8.90); steamed mussels in wine, garlic and pommery mustard cream sauce ($8.90), and sun-dried tomato hummus with tahini, olives and pita ($5.90).
I wasn't sure what to expect when we ordered shrimp fritters, but the result was wonderful. Four butterflied jumbo shrimps are fried in seasoned corn meal and served with a spicy mango chutney ($11.90). We also shared the ragout of escargot, a delicious mixture of tender snails with wild mushrooms, fennel, pearl onions and whole roasted garlic cloves in Pernod cream sauce, spilling from a vol au vent shell. The pastry was a quite soggy, but the ragout itself was exquisite.
Entrees run the gamut from basic to exotic. There's grilled provimi veal chop with saffron orzo, caponata and Bermuda onion frites ($24.90); baked Atlantic salmon with honey and pistachio crust served with sweet and sour raspberry sauce, wilted spinach and orange/anise scented basmati rice ($16.90), and roasted chicken breast with cassis jus, stuffed with black currant cream cheese ($16.90).
For the pizza and pasta set, there are several tempting options at very good prices. The Quattro Stagione pizza comes with kalamata olives, artichokes, roasted red peppers, Italian sausage and mozzarella ($8.75). There's linguini with salmon, shrimps and mussels in tarragon rose sauce ($14.50), and a vegetarian eggplant manicotti ($13.90), just to name a few.
Cerny told me the rack of lamb is a popular specialty, and my companion agreed that it's worthy of its reputation. The four, long-boned chops were delightfully tender and light tasting, with a deliciously complex crust of fennel seed and pine nuts. They were arranged alongside a parsnip puree infused with Pernod and a medley of Mediterranean vegetables ($26.90).
I only choose beef when I have a pretty good idea that it's going to be exemplary. The flavour of Solé's tenderloin didn't let me down, although it was a tad overdone. The thick cut of succulent meat was crowned with a very rich mushroom duxelle, finished with Madeira wine reduction ($22.90) and served with tiny roasted potatoes and al dente vegetables.
The wine list at Solé is extensive but not necessarily expensive. There are many pages of labels in all price ranges, from the low $20s to over $100. I sipped on a glass of Heywood 98 Sonoma, a crisp Californian chardonnay with tones of tropical fruit ($8), while my guest enjoyed a refreshing glass of Bamfi Fumaio, a Tuscan chardonnay sauvignon ($8). I'd also recommend the Wynns 98 cabernet shiraz from Conawarra Estates, a peppery white wine with tobacco notes ($10).
Desserts are priced in the $5 to $6.50 range. We ended our meal with a decadent chocolate cappuccino creme brulee and an order of baked mango and chocolate phyllo rolls.
Both were excellent.
Sole Restaurant & Wine Bar
83 Erb St. W., Waterloo 747-5622
Monday - Saturday - 11:30 am - Midnight
Sundays - 4:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Wheelchair accessible. Plenty of parking -- access off Father David Bauer Drive. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Enroute and Interac accepted. Dinner for two with wine, tax and tip $70-$80.