Claire’s Kitchen at Le Salon

Claire’s Kitchen at Le Salon (CKLE) does not hold back in telling you that it is a so veryFrench restaurant. The waiters are French (or they’re people who look French and speak perfect fluent French…), the decor tries hard to be parisian, and the food is…well we didn’t order escargot, but it’s definitely got a French taste and feel to it.

It also happens to be a fantastic restaurant!

Date Visited: 3/12/2012
Address: 35 Oxford Street Darlinghurst, NSW
Go-to dish: SOUFFLE AUX FROMAGES: twice cooked three cheese soufflé

You walk in, and it’s like you’ve stepped into a French bistro, which it kinda is actually, so that works out quite nicely. “Le Menu” is displayed prominently at the door – you can turn away now if nothing takes your fancy. But of course, that’s not going to happen.

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

Spy shots of French waiters isn’t exactly my thing, but I took one of this bartender, and yes his French sounds impeccable – I say “sounds” since I can’t actually understand a word.

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

I would not say the cuisine is fine dining, it’s definitely more down to earth…bourgeois stuff rather than over the top haute cuisine. That said, this is fantastic as it means large portions with reasonable prices. Get the more basic stuff right and you have winners all around.

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

sourdough baguettes

We start with some bread – baguettes of course, and they taste spot on like a good sourdough should. I’d have preferred them warm though, the toughness was a bit hard to get past otherwise.

Butter them up, and you’re ready to go.

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

seared confit Atlantic salmon terrine with toasted sesame seeds and red pepper coulis

The red pepper coulis is the key to making this dish work. You need a great cut of salmon to start with – which is provided. The coulis marries that fatty flavour of the salmon to the spicy and somewhat tangy mayo-like flavour and the result is a spicy (but not in the chilli kind of way) and flavoursome fish that delivers on all fronts.

The fish itself would’ve been great, but the addition of sesame seeds adds an additional textural element that enhances the dish further. Pretty good!

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

roasted scallops with pumpkin sabayon and micro herbs

“micro herbs” – how gastronomic! In the end, they were rather difficult to discern. These scallops were average in quality – you couldn’t make too much of their flavour, it was pretty much wet, slightly toughish flesh. The pumpkin sabayon (zabaglione) was rather dullish in its flavour – pumpkin was never really that good as a sauce, and much better as a soup. Not enough flavour, really.

Good looking dish though!

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

twice cooked three cheese soufflé

Now this is the opposite to the previous – doesn’t look like much, but is really, really YUM. If you don’t like cheese this won’t convince you, but if you’re partial then this sofflé is sure to impress!

I’m not certain whether it’s due to the double-cooking method, which elicits each individual texture and enunciates all the flavours sharply, or whether it’s just a really good ingredient set, but this simple-looking soufflé is rich with flavours. I couldn’t actually confidently discern just what cheeses are used in them, but I don’t really care and neither should you – you should just care about whether you’re going to order it or not. The answer is “yes”, you should.

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

duck and Pinot Noir pie with melted brie under the puff pastry crust

Definitely a pie to share, it would be far too rich for you to eat yourself. It’s a great pie though, the puff pastry is generously thick but not overdone to the point where you don’t feel you’re getting the right bang for buck. In addition, it’s crispy, crunchy and chewy in heaps of different places; textural awesomeness ensues.

The brie cheese keeps your mouth from getting dry, and of course tastes great, and the duck filling on the inside is aromatic and fatty. So fatty…and slightly alcoholic from the Pinot Noir! Red wine cooking methods seem to find their way into some of the best pies around, so who am I to dispute this marriage.

The pie never feels too heavy though, but you will fill up quickly nevertheless – there’s a lot to go around.

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

Check out those insides. Dayuuum.

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

braised pork belly served with Puy lentils and drizzled with beetroot reduction

Wasn’t too impressed by the pork belly – the lentils don’t really have anything to do with the dish. I personally ate them separately as they didn’t add anything to the belly itself. Pork belly is its own flavour and texture, the comparatively flavourless lentils…well they make the dish look better I suppose?

The belly itself was somewhat underwhelming, the fat ratio was a bit much, or rather it just felt like there was too much fat going around. The crackling was overdone, and pretty much made it an un-crunchable chip that doesn’t hold much flavour in it anymore. The lean portions were decent, but under-flavoured.

But really – beetroot reduction does not work with pork belly. At least, this version didn’t.

Claire's Kitchen at Le Salon

Tasmanian grass fed beef fillet with truffled mash and shiraz and star anise jus

We actually ordered a separate set of truffled mash for some reason, but this is the same type. It’s great mash – any “truffle mash”, should it legitimately use truffle oil/shavings is going to taste great provided the cooking is done right. They got it right woo! And baaad as I ate way too much before realising what I was doing and stopped myself. Oops.

The beef was a decent cut – overall a little too tough and lean (almost too well-done), but if you cut it into smaller pieces and liberally utilise the jus, you can pretend it’s some great, and soft beef jerky.
Overall, not impressive, but not disappointing either. “Neutral” beef it is!

We almost couldn’t finish this as we definitely over-ordered.

Dessert came around on trays, but we didn’t get them as we wanted to go to Messina later (and I hear that they’re SUPER expensive). Maybe next time if we feel our wallets are weighing us down.

Would definitely come back again, and get some of the other stuff on offer – and definitely that cheese soufflé.

As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀

The Good: great French vibe, some very nice dishes coming out

The Bad: it still does the classic “hit and miss”

I give Claire’s Kitchen at the Salon a grand total of seven and a half Caesars out of ten – 7.5/10

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