BY ELENA MANCINI
Nestled among Upper East side retail boutiques and Lexington Avenue mid-scale eateries stands Sel et Poivre, a charming French bistro serving Classic French cuisine with contemporary flair. Established in 1989, by the dynamic and dedicated husband-wife team, Executive Chef/Owner Christian Schienle (originally from Austria) and welcoming hostess Pamela Schienle, Sel et Poivre is an elegant neighborhood bistro and a refreshing departure from the over-priced and pretentious, glamor-scenes in the Manhattan restaurant-scape.
The menu features a broad range of French bistro classics as well as a selection of pastas and Mediterranean-inflected dishes, most of which graze just above or below the $20 range.
A great way to begin the dinner is with the Fish soup ($7.75), a flavorsome tomato-based broth with deep seafood flavors harmoniously melding together and distinctive notes of mollusk and octopus. Although it was served with a platter of toasted slices of baguette, shredded Swiss cheese and rouille (red pepper aioli) I preferred to savor the delicious seafood flavors pure and without the accompanying condiments.
For a seasonal appetizer, the celery root remoulade with beets ($7.95) is an excellent choice. A bed of ruby red beets provided a meaty pedestal for a toothsome chiffonade of celery root with a cumin-seasoned remoulade sauce. The sauce was imaginatively seasoned with cumin.
The entree of skate was the pinnacle of this dining experience. The beautifully composed dish consisted of a wing tip of skate prepared with lemon, beurre blanc, and a drizzle of capers. The delicious and delicate skate was accompanied by a dome of steamed basmati rice. These high-quality ingredients combined for a symphony of bold, simple flavors on the palate ($17.95). This dish was well paired with a superbly dry German 2007 Weingut Himmel “Riesling Spatlese Trocken.”
A terrine of chocolate with raspberry coulis was a worthy coda to this symphony ($6.75). The rich, creamy chocolate lingered on the palate furnishing echoing the flavors of this delicious indulgence long after the deed was done.
Inspired cuisine, relaxed and intimate vibe and affordable prices make Sel et Poivre an obvious neighborhood choice and a worthwhile destination for everyone else.
Sel et Poivre has a full bar with an wide array of French and international wines. The staff is knowledgeable about pairings.