La Merenda is a small place with a chalkboard menu and you either have to go by or try and get someone to answer the phone to get a reservation, which is a must. Tables are covered by a paper runner, small and closely put together along each of the facing walls. They are close enough that you will probably end up in conversation with your neighbors which really adds to the experience as a number of nationalities were represented there that evening. At the end of the room is a tiny kitchen which produces all the food served by one nice waiter for seatings at 7:00 or 9:00 at dinner. He was friendly, helpful and amazingly efficient – attending to your needs yet not making you feel rushed. The wine selection is limited – about a half dozen wines. Portions are generous and we ordered way more than we could eat but wanted to be able to sample a number of the chef’s dishes.
We started with the fried squash blossoms. They were baby ones dotted with a bit of salt that really brought them to life. They were crisp, hot and delicious.
The onion tart was another wonderful dish. The crisp and short crust was filled with sweet caramelized onions. It was a wonderful example of a simple dish done right.
Bread is served and is a chewy interior with a very crisp crust. Perfect for snacking or for mopping up bits of sauce.
We split an order of the pesto pasta. The noodles were thicker than some but perfectly tender and the pesto stayed an amazingly brilliant color of green. The coloring was supplied by spinach. This dish was full of flavor and lovely.
Beef stew was filled with good tender chunks of meat with nice flavor. Unfortunately many of the beef chunks suffered from dryness that is so common when the meat does not have enough fat content. Accompanying it were sticks of chickpea pancakes that were cut and fried. They really looked like slices of potato but the taste was more interesting.
The lentils and really tasty sausage was a better entree. Nicely seasoned it provided wonderful flavor in a dish of “comfort food”.
For dessert a wine poached pear was nice with not an overwhelming sweetness. It was pretty and tasty.
A “torte de bliss” was a dessert pie of Swiss Chard. A new dessert idea for me; it was fun. Studded with pinenuts in a buttery, short crust it was different and again not too sweet but a good finish for the meal.