This review also appeared in the Florida Times-Union
“A deceptively simple dining concept” is the tagline restaurant industry veteran Michael Thomas has been using to describe his new Avondale venture, Terra. The restaurant takes over the old Patio at Pastiche space, which provides an intimate yet casual atmosphere that complements the new American menu well.
Dishes are indeed deceptively simple, but some ended up being a little too simple for my tastes. The Cheese and Charcuterie plates ($12 each) from the small plates menu would be great to order for the table during happy hour. Pork Belly Skewers ($6; with sautéed apples and a balsamic reduction) particularly peaked my interest. But even though the chunks of meat were tender and rich, I found them mostly bland in flavor. The French Fries ($6; with parmesan, truffle oil, and garlic aioli) completely lived up to the deceptively simple line — hand-cut, nicely seasoned, and not greasy. We couldn’t stop reaching for the plate.
Terra uses local, sustainable ingredients whenever possible, so the entree menu is made up of seasonal seafood and produce, handmade pastas and hand-cut meats. The Grilled Pork Chop ($24) was another item that would have benefited from more seasoning, but the accompaniments (sautéed apples, whipped potatoes) were a home run.
The Wilted Frisée Salad ($10 for entree size), clearly a re-creation of the classic salade Lyonnaise, was for me a bit unwieldy to eat because of the curly, slightly bitter frisée fronds. However, the other components (shallots, bacon, tomatoes, warm bacon vinaigrette, Black Hog Farms poached egg; add protein for $4-$6) complemented each other well, and who am I to question a classic? The fresh poached egg was a particular treat; I always enjoy the richness a warm broken yolk brings to a dish.
The newly formulated brunch menu includes mostly standard fare with a few interesting twists, like the Mahi Benedict ($14; blackened mahi, poached eggs and hollandaise) and Cristal’s “Soon-to-be Famous” Stuffed French Toast ($12; peanut butter and banana stuffed, topped with chocolate ganache syrup and candied bacon).
Service from the knowledgeable and attentive wait staff was excellent. During our leisurely paced meal, I snuck a peek at a neighbor’s catch of the day, and am looking forward to my next visit to try one of the fish items.
The management has been making small changes to the menu based on customer feedback since opening and, with a few more, Terra could become a worthy Avondale destination.