I think that I always knew that I was going to love Sardine, after reading the review in The Isthmus about it. It also helps that the guys running Sardine are also the same people who have Marigold Kitchen, which is one of my favorite stops for lunch when I'm downtown (personal favorite: The Chutney Chicken Sandwich).
Well, Erich and I finally headed down there this weekend to check it out, and I've gotta say that Sardine is worth checking out. I'm still purring happily over the duck confit salad, a mix of salad greens, homemade potato chips (they can call it whatever, but to me, it's good homemade potato chips), green beans with snap, shredded duck and bits of smoky bacon. The poached egg on top bring a different taste and feel to the salad. Instead of it being just an appetizer or an entree accompaniment, this is a meal unto itself.
Other things show the emphasis in freshness and interesting tastes. We split the Parmesan polenta dish, which had smoky sausage, polenta and a sauce that had us ripping up pieces of bread to soak every bit of its goodness.
Erich's tomato soup was fresh and bright tasting -- obviously none of these tomatoes were the supermarket supertomatoes that can survive a book being dropped on them from a high building.
I've been known to bitch about not being able to hear myself in some of these newer restaurants -- the shiny, slick surfaces result in noise bouncing around and, as a result, people have to practically shout at each other to hear a conversation.
None of that at Sardine. Erich and I were able to talk about our usual topics with ease. The decor (and I mean this in the nicest way possible -- really!) reminds me of Pottery Barn. It's comfortable, rustic and urban all at the same time.
Perhaps the only complaint was with the lemon cake soaked in triple sec. It wasn't very lemony, and it was dry in the middle -- which indicated that it hadn't been soaked thoroughly in triple sec. However, the fresh berries helped make up for that.
In short, I want to go to Sardine again. I may crowbar Jeff out of his seat and drag him there before it gets cold so we can dine outside and enjoy the view of Lake Monona before it gets too cold.
Not to mention, Erich had a good point:
"You can't accurately gauge the quality of a restaurant without taking the quality of its fries into account," he said. "It's so common and basic, and at the low end of the complexity and sophistication scale, to the point where it's kind of the lowest common denominator of food, and how the restaurant treats such a food is an indication of their attitude on food in general."
Not to mention, it's also a great excuse to return to the place for another meal and explore the other side of the menu.