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Sel et Poivre: Romantic French dining on the Upper East Side

Lobster salad with spicy avocado puree
Lobster salad with spicy avocado puree
Naakai Addy

Walking into Sel et Poivre is like taking a warmly nostalgic step back in time, or a very quick transcontinental journey to Paris. Understated decor, soft candlelight, and a bistro-style layout give the Upper East Side restaurant an effortless sense of class.

Sel et Poivre can hardly be called casual, but it just about manages to strike a balance between upscale elegance and warm accessibility that many Upper East Side eateries lack. Though you are dining amongst a well-coiffed clientele of UES regulars, absent is the museum-like quality of other places in the neighborhood that makes you self-conscious of the volume of your chewing or the clatter of your fork when you set it down. Sel et Poivre has a surprisingly lively energy, and more importantly, delivers on the quality of its food without charging astronomical prices.

Chef Christian Schienle's menu is composed of a satisfying range of Parisian classics, all with a fresh and refined presentation. The cold lobster salad with avocado mousse is a standout amongst the appetizers. The delicate spiciness of the mousse pairs fantastically with the cool lobster. The dish is light and satisfying in flavor without weighing you down or tainting your palette for the rest of the meal. In other words, it's exactly what an appetizer should be. Try it with a glass of the invigorating 2012 Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, and you'll be well set up for your entree.

When it comes time for the main course, there are several worthy options, but the Skate is not to be missed. Prepared with lemon and capers and served with basmati rice, it's rich, moist, and embodies the updated take on French classics on which Chef Schienle focuses.

If you're watching your budget and need to prioritize courses, Sel et Poivre's terrine du chocolate could very easily put dessert at the top of your list. With a dreamy texture and served with a light raspberry coulis, it's the kind of dessert that could make you fall in love with chocolate all over again.

While Sel et Poivre isn’t quite a practical choice for regular dinners out, it is a fantastic option if you want to celebrate a special occasion with a loved one, impress an out-of-town guest without bankrupting yourself, or escape to Paris for an evening.

Sel et Poivre is located at 853 Lexington Avenue.

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