Tuesday, June 19, 2007

High and Lola

Restaurant Lola, Belltown

Typically, if there is one food phenomenon I positively DESPISE, it is consistent textures. This started as a child when I would literally fling spoonfulls of pureed squash, carrots, and, the ULTIMATE offender, applesauce onward and upward and away from my salivating smackers. Applesauce...fruit AND smooth! BLECH! This replusion has carried over into my adult years where I typically swear off anything smooth, creamy, and consistent: yogurts, soups, ice creams, you name it. If its predictable and uniform, it may as well be broken glass 'cause homie dont play dat.

However, as is often the case in life, there are always expections to the rule. Enter Lola, a Belltown mediterranean fusion house with, unfortunately, a totally stock modern aesthetic (read: cold sharp lines, steel, scandinavianesque light fixtures, heavy hanging entrance curtain, minimalist neon signage,hardwood...you know the drill) that's thankfully cut through by top shelf cookery that garnered the first impressive dining experience Ive had in my new town to date. I was thankful to say the least.

The shared plates shine (i found the right side of the menu to be entirely unambitious especially considering the price point of $25-32 for mostly whole roasted fish with the cursory fennel lemon stuffing, lamb burgers with mint rub, etc....again, the word "stock" came to mind) and we dove head first into them.

The spread sampler $17 (I cringed at the unfortunate word choice of "spread" both for its slightly down-market connotations and my previously mentioned repulsion, but took the leap of faith nonetheless) was simply divine: A sampling of all six spreads that tenderly walked the tightrope between pretentious ambition and monotonous predictability and safety arrived in thick green glass terrines atop a rustic wooden plank that stretched perfectly across our table. We lunged forward, with crisp glasses of a rather nice Sauv Blanc to clean and sweeten the palate, into red roasted red pepper and siracha chutney, cave aged minted feta, chopped kalamata olives with fig, cows milk tzasiki, cauilflower and anchovy puree so perfectly subtle on the overwhelming forwardness often associated with that dear ill-fated fish that I was ready to hang up my chef's knife forever, and lastly in the spirit of the aforementioned subtlty a simple roasted garlic spread salted to absolute perfection to curb out the prevailing sweetness of those dear dear bulbs. To sop up all this goodness a rather generous portion of damn-near flawless quartered miniature whole wheat pitas arrived, and to ensure that they didnt feel left out and taken for granted, we found them lovingly dressed with a drizzle of nice extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of crunchy coarse sea salt. Long pauses to "mmmm" and "ahhhh" and insert venerting editorial where tough to insert but we managed. . .this food demanded commentary, and lots and lots of wine.

Equally impressive were their grill chops (pardon the pun. . .chops as in skills not chops as in the cut of meat). We elected to go with the curry muscat glazed prawns that were served hot on a plancha tableside atop grilled sweet onions that i SWARE were carmelized fennel and paper thin meyer wedges all deglazed live with a little thimble of Ouzo. The shrimp, grilled just to the point wherein their opaqueness breaks but not a moment longer were tender and springy to the bite with not a HINT of stringy toughness....a RARE sight indeed. The sweet "onions" ( i stand by my fennel theory despite being told that I was most indefinately wrong) and the tart sweet balance of the meyer lemon married with and tempered the curry to produce a salmon pink blend of what can only be called shrimpy goodness. At $13 for three jumbo prawns I found this dish a bit on the spendy side but then again one cant put a pricetag on a combination like muscat and curry so i resigned my fate to my debit card because, hell, you only live once, and I for one choose to live the high life at Lola.

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