I finally know the answer! The egg comes before the chicken. At least at my dinner at La Poste it did.
La Poste, which occupies the hole Tink’s left in the Clifton dining scene, was named for the site’s original business, a post office. It plays on the theme in a sophisticated way in everything from the menu categories (postage, salutation, body and postscript) to the mailbag that is a wall decoration near the front door to the transparent, miniature envelope in which your check comes.
The color scheme is a soothing pale blue and goldenrod that is even reflected in the colors of chalk used to advertise drink specials at the bar. The colors also happen to be the insignia of the French postal office, as General Manager Kelly Lough later told me.
Seating in the restaurant has expanded into the old business next door (Paolo) and includes a stunning wine room that holds around 700 wines. The surroundings feel a step up from its predecessor, but Kelly said that she, her husband Sommelier Bryant Phillips and their friend and Executive Chef Dave Taylor wanted La Poste to be a neighborhood restaurant, the kind you could go to on your way to the movies or the opera. Still, the lovely table linens and fresh flowers had me obsessing about keeping my elbows off the table at dinner.
On an earlier visit for appetizers and drinks, the bar staff seemed relaxed and easy to engage in conversation. The dinner staff was a bit more tightly wound, but not in a bad way. They reminded me of thoroughbred racing horses at the starting gate, pawing and snorting for the bell to go off because they were more than ready to run.
For them, the race was sharing as much of their knowledge and enthusiasm for the restaurant as they could. They couldn’t help but tell you every detail about the food and wine because they seemed genuinely excited about it. It was refreshing in a world in which lackadaisical service is the rule rather than the exception.
For our first course we picked the Wild Mushroom Flatbread ($9) as “postage” and La Poste Nicoise ($11) as our “salutation.” Based on these two selections and the Lump Crab Cake ($11) I had on the previous visit, I feel safe in saying portions from these categories are ample.
The flatbread appetizer included a house-made crust topped with a mixture of chopped sautéed mushrooms, pistachio pesto and a fried egg
For the Nicoise, the tuna was served atop a selection of pickled vegetables with a smoked salmon deviled egg. (Now do you get the earlier egg reference?) The veggies formed a nest enclosed by paper-thin slices of cucumber and were perched on a roasted cipolla onion.
And while we didn’t seek the staff’s advice on our wine selections, a Nickel & Nickel chardonnay ($16) and the Raetia pinto grigio ($9), tasted wonderful with our entrée choices. Of course, if we had asked about wines, we would have found out that Bryant is a self-professed wine geek, as I learned on follow-up. Like the servers, he can’t seem to help himself; the man opens his mouth and wine information pours out. He’s an advocate of educating the guest and he makes sure there is always someone on the floor to help with wine selections if needed. In terms of how he sees wine’s role on the menu, he said that he and Chef agree: “If it grows together, it goes together.”
For dinner we ordered the soy-marinated Pork Tenderloin ($21) wrapped in bacon with roasted fingerlings and mustard greens and the Chicken Fricassee ($16) with caramelized fennel, onions, carrots, parsnips and snap peas. The pork was tender and slightly salty from the bacon. Which reminds me — none of the tables have salt and pepper shakers. When we first noticed this I was a little irked, but when I realized Chef had the flavors under such control, I forgot all about the little seasoning stalwarts.
The chicken was a masterpiece of simplicity. It was tender and succulent and sat in a light broth with the most perfectly diced vegetables I’d ever seen. I know, this might not be important to everyone, but as someone who struggled with knife skills in culinary school, I bow down before a master.
We ended our evening with coffee and the Chocolate and Espresso Semi-Fredo ($5). The semi-fredo, made in-house and similar to a partially frozen mousse, was served in three mini-scoops on toasted pistachio shortbread. The phrase “to die for” might be trite, but this really was a dessert I would go to battle over.
I admit I was sad when Tink’s closed — I had many good meals there — but I heartily welcome La Poste to the neighborhood. The owners, management and staff are committed and crazy knowledgeable.
But the best part? For me it’s the food. The simple food, that is. I don’t need a flavor profile on steroids. Just give me good, expertly prepared ingredients like Chef David’s, access to good wine (and expert wine knowledge) and a server who is table-side the moment you make eye contact.
That’s the perfect recipe.
Go: 3410 Telford St., Clifton
Hours: 5:30-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5:30-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Entrée Prices: $10-$27
Red Meat Alternatives: Varied
Accessibility: Fully accessible