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La Terraza
11/2005 Restaurant Now Closed.
Gennaro's now open in this location.

47B State Road (Route 206 North)
Princeton, Mercer County, New Jersey
(609) 497-2774

By The Artful Diner
Special to New Jersey Online

Spanish cuisine is a sumptuous syncretism, a rich and diverse tapestry that has, over the course of the centuries, been woven from colorful and exotic threads representing Roman, Moorish, Celtic, and French culinary traditions. In light of the fact that chef/proprietor José Martin-Serrano is a native of Spain, you may rest assured that La Terraza remains faithful to its prestigious, palatable past and the marvelous multiplicity of its modern regional cuisines. And since Mr. Martin-Serrano's wife hails from Italy, the menu is enriched with a host of other exciting Mediterranean influences as well.

La Terraza, which means "the terrace," has brought al fresco dining indoors. The light and airy precincts charm patrons with stucco walls, terra cotta tile, lace window panels with colorful draperies, and white-over-green napery. Or, should you prefer, you may also elect to enjoy your repast on the "outside" terrace, weather permitting.

If you really wish to get into the spirit of Spanish conviviality, begin with corrida de tapas, a tantalizing array of appetizers placed at the center of the table for all to share (priced according to the items that may be offered on a particular day). We recently sampled such delicacies as chorizo sausage, marinated mushrooms, prosciutto, grilled asparagus & red peppers, arugula, Belgian endive, and Fontina, Málaga & mozzarella cheeses.

On the other hand, if you'd prefer to stake a claim to your own personal prelude, you might try the pimientos de piquillo rellenos ($7.95), a specialty from the Navarra region. Piquillo peppers are stuffed with goat cheese and smoked salmon -- a perfect combo -- and then drizzled with a red pepper sauce and finished with a hint of pesto. A bit more intriguing for those adventurous of palate is the baby octopus a la parrilla (grilled). The marginally chewy morsels are glazed with quince and dressed with extra virgin olive oil and a light lemon sauce ($8.95). The calamari ($8.95), a daily special, receives similar embellishment.

There are several salads offered here, and two deserve particular mention. The first is the ensalada Mediterranea ($7.95), baby field greens adorned with artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, kalamata olives, and shavings of Manchego cheese; the second is the ensalada de espinacas ($7.95), baby spinach leaves tossed with spiced almonds, morsels of pear & Cabrales blue cheese and crowned with a grilled pear half fanned out in delicate slices. Both might be merely mundane, yet they are propelled out of the realm of the ordinary, not simply by the quality of their ingredients but also through the marvelous ministrations of a lively sherry vinaigrette.

Like their predecessors, entrées exhibit a homey and robust rusticity. The paella a la Valenciana ($18.95) combines rice cooked with chicken, chorizo sausage, shrimp, clams, mussels, calamari, and vegetables in a chicken and saffron stock. Paella de mariscos ($22.95) -- an admixture of fresh seafood -- and paella vegetariana ($15.95) -- assorted garden vegetables -- provide interesting variations on the theme. While these traditional rice dishes from Spain's eastern coast are more than ample and quite satisfying, I would not consider them exceptional.

The restaurant's strong suit, I would submit, lies elsewhere. The pastas, for example, are quite excellent. The fettuccine al salmon ($18.95) combines morsels of perfectly prepared salmon with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and al dente homemade fettuccine tossed with a subtle but thoroughly invigorating pesto sauce. The farfalle rustica ($15.95) is also an outstanding choice. Portobello mushrooms, arugula, and fresh plum tomatoes are sautéed in a zesty white wine sauce and tossed with bowtie pasta.

Since the Spanish are avid seafood lovers, it is not at all surprising that matters piscatorial are also outstanding options here. The red snapper ($21.95) is particularly noteworthy. The filet is pan-seared and served with a provocative romesco sauce (a finely ground mixture of tomatoes, red bell peppers, onion, garlic, almonds and olive oil), a specialty of the region of Catalonia. The presentation is then finished with an array of sautéed vegetables and a mouthwatering mound of mashed potatoes. The special grilled swordfish is another delicious option ($24.95). The fish itself is both redolent of flavor and meaty of texture and is perfectly complemented by a salad of fresh chopped tomatoes and black olives. Tender sautéed broccoli rape and diced potatoes sparked with tiny bits of piquillo pepper add an appropriately spirited note to the festivities.

Those of a carnivorous nature may savor such selections as solomillo austuriano ($24.95), pan seared filet mignon with a heady Cabrales sabayon; ternera vasca ($18.95), veal scallops sautéed with fresh spinach in a delicate tomato broth; and a moist and tender grilled pork tenderloin ($18.95) replete with touches of quince and sherry vinegar, embellished with a zesty Spanish mustard sauce.

Desserts -- all homemade -- are certainly worth the additional calories. The flan al caramelo ($5.50), individual custard with caramelized sugar, is one of the best representatives of this toothsome classic that I have encountered anywhere. Also recommended is a dense and delectable chocolate torte ($6.00) garnished with crème anglaise and sporting just a hint of sherry. The restaurant also offers a very nice fruit and cheese plate ($7.50) -- most suitable for sharing -- as a most pleasant conclusion to your evening at table.

La Terraza isn't about to bowl you over with its innovative culinary offerings... But, then again, you don't expect it to. On the other hand, come anticipating good, solid Spanish/Mediterranean fare divvied up in healthful and healthy portions... and you will not be disappointed.

Cuisine: Spanish/Mediterranean
Hours: Lunch: Tues - Fri, 11:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.; Dinner: Tues - Thurs, 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Sun, 3:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; CLOSED MONDAY
Credit Cards: AX, MC, V
Attire: Casual
Smoking: Smoking is not permitted in the restaurant.
Reservations: Recommended on weekends
Parking: Onsite
Alcohol: BYOB
Price: Moderate
Handicapped Accessible: Yes

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