Jacksonville restaurateur Michael Thomas, of Sterling’s and 24 Miramar, opened Terra in late February. Touted as “a deceptively simple, innovative dining experience,” Terra’s menu is intentionally limited out of the gate. Dishes are created with an emphasis on local, sustainable ingredients, resulting in frequent menu changes to feature the freshest of ingredients. Terra will soon add an organic vegetable and herb garden near its outdoor patio space.
While relatively small, the seating area is spacious with plenty of windows and a soon-to-be-completed patio area, just in time for spring. Formerly the Patio at Pastiche, Terra received a minor facelift — including an awning and new interior paint in an earthy terracotta color. The bar area seats about 15, where a few local brews are featured on draft.
We arrived in time for happy hour (3-6 p.m. weeknights) and scored half-priced glasses of wine. Our table of four started with three small plates: French fries with freshly grated parmesan, truffle oil and creamy garlicky aioli, a cheese plate and charcuterie. The fries were delightfully crisp — not one was burned or soggy. The hint of truffle oil was detectable, the parmesan and aioli finished the savory treat.
Our charcuterie (a plate with small mounds of prepared meats) featured toasted crostini, perfect for piling the thin slices of dry-cured Serrano ham, soppressata and Genoa salami. Tangy homemade pickled green beans and onions, along with a spicy French Maille whole grain mustard, rounded out the dish. Our cheese plate included an extremely pungent (but surprisingly delicious) bleu cheese, a slightly smoky, spicy chipotle cheddar and a spreadable brie. Colorful strawberries, thinly sliced apples, crisp crostini, sweet honey, pecans, figs and a fig jam share the plate — begging to be paired with the cheeses.
One star of the evening arrived next: the wilted frisée salad. Tossed with shallots, cubes of salty bacon (more reminiscent of pork belly than crispy bacon), tomatoes and a perfectly poached, warm Black Hog Farm egg (from Palatka) perched on top, complete with runny yolk — the narrow curly pieces of frisée become lightly wilted by the oil in the warm bacon vinaigrette. I may or may not have licked the plate after this salad.
Amid forkfuls of the local Black Hog Farm roasted free-range half-chicken (served with risotto and mushroom marmalade), another standout was the beef filet, cooked perfectly and topped with a rich, flavorful bordelaise demi-glaçe. It was served with bleu cheese fingerling potatoes, crisp on the outside, and fresh asparagus spears. The grilled pork chop with red pepper jelly glaze and smoky mac ‘n’ cheese was good, but it didn’t steal my heart.
Speaking of stealing, I wanted to steal everyone’s spoons when dessert arrived. We shared the bread pudding, with buttery caramel sauce, and a slice of goat-cheese-and-crème-fraîche (yes, you read that correctly) cheesecake with crumbled crisp hazelnut brittle on top. Believe me when I say we contemplated a second slice of the cheesecake — it was so creamy and light, yet full of flavor. Now, please hand me those spoons.