Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sole Restaurant and Wine Bar

83 Erb St. West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 6C2

If you want to go to a restaurant which provides relatively good food yet with casual atmosphere, try Sole. In the tri-city area there are several restaurants which fit in those criteria, but try Sole if you haven't.

Sole has been around for a while; the first time I visited this restaurant was back in year 2000. Some menu items come and go (e.g. Espresso-crusted rack of lamb) but nothing drastic. In "the early days", when I tried to convince friends to go to Sole instead of East Side Mario's, my reasoning was that we could get much better food by spending just a little bit more. I am not sure if I can still say it today; it is about $10-15 for an appetizer, $6 for soup, around $10 for single serving of pizza, $15-20 for pasta and $20-45 for main dishes.

The best deal you can get, other than free bread and olive oil dip, is probably their pizza. It’s around $10 for an 8” pizza. You can also get a custom-made one by selecting your own toppings. Occasionally we’ll see pizza dough flying and spinning in the air, which leads me to believe that their pizza is freshly made. My favorite is Sole Pizza – wild mushrooms, prosciutto, parmesan, mozzarella, garlic and oregano.

Some of the appetizers are quite divine. The calamari is nicely fried and seasoned, surrounded by abundant greens. Any greasiness from the deep-fry cooking is washed away by the fruity aioli. With a glass of white or a blonde beer, great for a lazy summer afternoon. I always remember the first time I had the tomato and cheese salad at Sole. Sliced tomatoes and mozzarella were placed alternately on the plate with few basil leaves, drizzled w/ extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was so simple, yet so delicious. Funny I never ordered it again; maybe just not sure if I will still feel the same way.

During our recent visit to Sole, I had "Cam-tini" to start, Lobster bisque blue crab dumplings brandy cream and the feature pasta – linguini pasta oregano cream sauce with sautéed tuna, baby clams, olives, arugula and tomatoes. J had spinach salad with walnuts, cantaloupe and goat cheese as appetizer and osso bucco (in truffle infused mushroom consomme, gnocchi).
The “Cam-tini” contains Campari, Skyy vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and splash of lemon juice. In my dictionary, Campari martini should be ONLY fully-chilled Campari and vodka served with ice in a frosted glass (martini or collins), maybe just a wee bit of club soda (or sparking water) for the fizz. But I must say Sole’s version is nice too.

I wasn’t loving the bisque I ordered; it was on the watery side. Also, the crab dumpling was cold. The pasta was on the salty side but nice. We are so used to tuna raw to medium-rare; we found it quite interesting that the stir-fried tuna can taste very meaty (its texture is almost like beef). By the way, if you can’t make up your mind on what to order at Sole, it’s always a safe bet to order pasta or pizza. I only sampled the candied walnuts from J’s salad; I still can’t take goat cheese. The meat in osso bucco was tender and the consommé had very distinct truffle flavor (even there was no sight of shaved truffle). We would probably enjoy it more in the winter time.

As a dessert fanatic, I have tried many desserts at Sole – tartufo, cheesecake in various flavors, tira misu and crème brulee. It is always nice to have a cappuccino and dessert to wrap up the meal. I stop ordering crème brulee after they burned my crème brulee…twice; the sugar in the center was black-brown (the color is quite far from “caramel”). It still tastes good but some people might not enjoy it.

Overall, food at Sole is good. It’s been around for several years and we rarely run into mediocre dishes. The service might be slow at times but they are at least friendly. It is probably the consistent quality (in food and service) which keeps us going back.