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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola

I had wanted to try Lola for some time now. Several people had either mentioned it by name in casual conversation or straight-up recommended it as the hot and happening place to be. I had even driven by it several times, and thought to myself, “oh yeah, that’s Lola.”

While Lola serves lunch and dinner, boasting a Greek-inspired menu consisting of delectable-sounding items such as dolmades with lemony rice and cumin-spiced leg of lamb (and some not-so-delectable-sounding items such as lamb tongue kabobs and braised octopus and pork belly – not my cup ‘o tea), they also cater to the morning crowd with breakfast during the week and brunch on weekends. We went the Sunday brunch route this time ‘round.

Lola’s dining room is filled with tall booths, making for an intimate dining experience, especially during the evenings, I would imagine. On Sunday morning, it was nice to have our own little nook in which to ruminate over the Lola menu and warm, fall décor. I started with a latte; Roth ordered coffee (they serve Starbucks). Several minutes went by, and finally our waiter returned, apologizing for the wait. Apparently, they had to search high and low for espresso beans for my latte. Interesting, seeing as they list lattes and cappuccinos on the menu – am I the only one who has actually ordered espresso in weeks, or something?
Lola brew
We moved on to the food selection part of the dining process. As usual, I played it safe, and opted for the “Lola breakfast,” or eggs served any style, choice of pork-maple sausage or smoked bacon, smashed garlic fried potatoes and toast. My preferences: scrambled and bacon. Roth ordered the “Greek scramble,” or eggs scrambled with tomatoes, feta, garlic, and oregano and bacon, potatoes and toast (a la my dish). Other choices that piqued our interest were the made-to-order doughnuts and jam with vanilla marscapone and the chocolate pecan streusel coffeecake – we seriously considered ordering one of them, just for the sake of the review, but changed our minds, just for the sake of our waistlines.

Both of our entrees were served atop clean, white plates emblazoned with the simple Lola logo on the edge. The only garnish was a small, halved strawberry fig, something I had never seen before. The food was tasty, especially the smoked bacon, which was cooked to perfection – not crunchy, yet still chewy. The smashed garlic fried potatoes were also yummy, though a tad bit greasy for my taste. The Greek scramble’s generous amount of feta cheese and fresh oregano nicely complemented the dish.
Lola bfast Lola greek
When all was said and done, we both agreed that Lola puts on a nice brunch menu – plenty of diverse and eclectic offerings for just about anyone. However, as far as brunches go, it wasn’t spectacular. The service was fine, the ambiance was nice and the food tasted good. But it just lacked that certain something to keep us coming back for more. And brunch wasn't cheap - with tip, we plopped down $40! I would almost bet money, though, that dining at Lola for lunch or dinner would make for an entirely different experience altogether. Perhaps scrambled eggs and toast just doesn’t make for an exotic restaurant review.

With Twenty-Five for $25 Dine Around Seattle picking back up again in November, we will definitely be partaking in some of the participants’ prix-fixe dinners for the sake of keeping the blog content fresh and interesting (and to further expand our culinary horizons as well). More to come in November!

Lola close
2000 4th Avenue
Seattle, WA

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Post much?

Gah. We're never gonna get this blog up and running if we don't actually post anything! But with mom in town last weekend (most of our meals consisted of Roth's home cooking because my mom has missed it so much) and being really busy at work, we just haven't had time to make it to any new and exciting restaurants. I suppose we could've written about that awesome bacon burger from Rusty's we had in Cashmere, but then I forgot to take pictures. Urgh.

But with no concrete plans for this weekend, we will definitely try to hit up one of the places that have so kindly been suggested to us in the comments section.

Please stay tuned!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

To put it gingerly, it was my birthday

It’s probably totally subjective of us to keep choosing familiar and safe restaurants in which to review. Places we know we’ll like. But, it was my birthday weekend, and I wanted Wild Ginger again (this was another one of the restaurants we ate at when we first visited here in 2003).

Wild Ginger is touted as an “Asian restaurant and satay bar.” Basically, it’s a trendy bistro with an upstairs lounge, downstairs bar, and intimate tables where one can dine on Asian-infused appetizers and entrees. They also boast a large wine menu, with prices ranging from $30 and onwards for a bottle. Much of the menu features Thai-influenced favors, which Roth and I particularly love. So, we decided to splurge again, seeing as it was my birthday and all.

As an aside, Roth called to make a reservation earlier in the afternoon, and experienced the following conversation:

Roth: Yeah, hi, can I make a reservation for tonight?
Wild Ginger: For what time?
Roth: How about 7?
WG: We have tables available before 5 or after 10.
Roth: Hmm. OK. I think we’ll just come in and wait.

I guess if we wanted breakfast or a midnight snack, we could get a reservation at Wild Ginger. And why didn’t the person on the other end of the phone just tell Roth straight away that there were not any reservations available between 5 and 10 and save Roth the embarrassment? Curious.

At any rate, we headed downtown around 6, figuring we’d end up waiting about an hour anyway. We put in our name and made our way to the bar, which was already packed. Luckily we snagged a small table just as another couple was leaving and settled in for the long haul.

We each ordered a glass of wine – riesling for me and merlot for Roth – and two different appetizers – chicken pot stickers with soy dipping sauce and fresh vegetable spring rolls with pineapple dipping sauce.
wild ginger red wine wild ginger white winewild ginger potstickers
We ripped through the tasty appetizers in a matter of minutes, all the while watching other groups of people clamoring for tables or space at the bar. As we waited for our table, we experimented with the low lighting in the bar, which produced some interesting photographic effects.
wild ginger trippy jen
Finally, our table for two was ready, and it took about an hour on the dot. We were positioned right in the corner of the main dining room, which overlooked the bustling corner of Third and Union.
wild ginger roth wild ginger jen
Even though we had decided before coming to the restaurant that we wouldn’t order a bottle of wine (to save a few bucks), we ended up with a bottle of pinot noir anyway (that’s what having one glass of wine at the bar will do to a girl!). In an attempt to broaden our horizons a bit, we usually opt for a non-California wine. This time we went with, appropriately, Broadley Vineyards, located in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The pinot noir was quite delightfully mild, and ended up nicely complimenting our food choices.
wild ginger wine
I decided upon the Panang Beef Curry, or tender strips of steak with a spicy and basil-infused green curry sauce. Roth ordered the Sambal Prawns, or spicy lemongrass-coconut shrimp. After having seen several other parties with a plate of green beans, we also decided to order a side of the Mongolian Green Beans, which are served al dente with diced pork and soy.
wild ginger beef curry
The entrees are served up family style, with a large bowl of white and/or brown rice, and can be halved for a smaller (and cheaper) meal. We ordered the full entrees and shared with each other, ending up with plenty of food. This was fine, because we loved everything about the meal, especially the crispy green beans and beef curry. The prawns were good, too, but the beef was extremely tender and the green beans were perfectly spicy and al dente.

It’s easy to see why Wild Ginger is so popular. It’s definitely worth the wait, and worth the splurge, especially for a special occasion. Like my birthday.

Did I mention it was my birthday?

wild ginger signage
Wild Ginger
1401 Third Avenue
Seattle, WA

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Jamaican me pay for the monorail

In lieu of a weekend restaurant review because we just had to shell out $170 to register my car with Washington plates – $79 of which goes to the monorail tax, which how cool would it be if there was actually a Disneyland-esque monorail in the works, but really, it all seems like a fantastical pipe dream at this point and I could really use that cash to, say, go out to eat somewhere really cool and actually have something to write about here – we’re giving you a recipe review.

I happened upon this concoction a couple years ago in search for the ultimate chili recipe. I grew up eating my dad’s super yummy and spicy chili, and sometimes, I just crave a steaming bowl of meat and beans with a side of fluffy corn bread. An initial search on allrecipes.com turned up hundreds of recipes claiming to be the best. But one stood out from them all.

It’s called Jamaican Me Crazy Chili, and let me tell you, it sure is fun to make, with all the chopping and sauteeing and simmering. We found ourselves singing and dancing around the kitchen. It was c-ra-zee! OK, maybe it wasn't that fun. But Roth and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of making the chili on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Roth is always in charge of finely dicing the onion for just about any dish we’re preparing. His knife skills are far superior to mine. Plus, the santoku-style knife is kind of intimidating.
Chili onions
The recipe calls for yellow bell peppers only. To add some additional color, I usually throw in a red bell and for some heat, one jalapeno.
Chili peppers
Once all the ingredients were prepared, also known as mis en place, thus began my favorite part of the process -- the sauteeing and the simmering!
Chili saute 1 chili saute 2chili saute 3
In addition to the homemade chili, we decided to properly test our KitchenAid mixer, one of the cooler gifts we got for our wedding, by making some wheat bread rolls to accompany the chili.
Chili bread
At long last, dinner was served – the chili atop jasmine rice with a sprinkling of freshly copped cilantro and a healthy dollop of sour cream. What makes this chili unique from any other chili I’ve had are the spices – hot paprika, cumin, chili poweder, ground cloves – and a hint of sweetness, from the mild bell peppers and a dash of white sugar.
Chili bowl

Next week, we promise to venture out for an actual restaurant review, as Thursday is my birthday, and most likely, we will hit up somewhere special for the occasion. Taking suggestions for hip and happening places now …

Sunday, October 02, 2005

It's gonna take more than one mojito

A couple weeks ago, when we first decided to bring the idea of a Seattle food/restaurant review blog to life, we ventured out to Mojito Café. Several people along the way told us that it was an authentic Cuban-style restaurant, complete with ambiance, salsa dancing, and of course, mojitos.

Somewhat rhythmically challenged, the two of us are, we decided to try Mojito more for the food this time round. Maybe try the dancing another night? Or maybe after a few mojitos, who knew?

Upon entering the neon-lit café, we were greeted with blaring fast-paced Latin music. After walking down a long corridor, we discovered a seat-yourself-situation with no desirable tables in sight. The only available tables were right next to the kitchen with a view into the dingy dish station. Roth rolled his eyes at my outward distaste in the seating arrangement, but agreed to move to another table, also next to the kitchen, sans the dirty dish view.

After what seemed like an eternity, we were finally greeted by the waitress who took our drink order. I opted for the mojito – when in Rome, er, Cuba, eh? One would expect that a restaurant named after the mojito drink would serve a kick-ass mojito. And to be fair, I’ve only had one other mojito in my life with which to compare. However, their version seemed watered down, bland, lifeless. The mint was bruised and wilted, and it kept sneaking up through my straw, which was annoying, getting a mouthful of bitter mint with each sip. Roth played it safe with a Corona.
Mojito drinks Mojito Corona
For dinner, I ordered their “top seller signature item” – Parrilla Mojito, or juicy citrus marinated tri tip steak with white rice, black beans, fried yucca, tostones (crispy fried green plantains) and guasacaca (sort of like avocado chutney). Roth went with, surprise, yet another of their signature items – Pollo a la Parrilla, or a juicy half chicken served with the exact same accouterment as my steak dish.

After a rather plain iceberg lettuce salad, we sat and waited. And waited. And waited some more. All the while, anxiously tapping our toes and fingers to the loud music and watching the three young waitresses manically flit about the small dining room. It was a Saturday night, and while the restaurant seemed full, it was hardly overflowing. Why was our food, and signature items at that, taking so dang long, we wondered.

And then the manager came over. This can’t be good. Apparently, the kitchen had run out of half chickens, and would it be OK if they prepared the same entrée with a boneless chicken breast, would we like some appetizers or more drinks, your waitress was scared to tell you, the chicken dinner will be on the house – all of this was relayed in one long sentence by the nervous manager, who if he only knew that we were reviewing his place, he’d probably comp the entire meal. But more drink? Sure, Roth’ll have another Corona! Free appetizer? Sure, bring on the tostones!

Finally, our entrees arrived. And we quickly dug in, barely remembering to capture their essence on camera for this here blog. The tri tip steak was truly juicy and succulent while the guasacaca served as a refreshing dipping sauce. I properly mixed the black beans and white rice together. And surprisingly I enjoyed the starchy sweetness of the fried yucca as well. Roth, who was looking forward to a half chicken because he claims I never let him eat meat with bones which is so not true, still managed to enjoy the boneless version of the dish with all of the appropriate accompaniments.
Mojito steak
When all was said and done, Roth’s entrée, second beer and the tostone appetizer was left off of the bill. The manager apologized profusely for the wait several times, as if somehow he knew that we were taking the entire experience at his restaurant into account. We left the place feeling fairly satisfied with our meals and only slightly disappointed in the service and wait time. All in all, the Mojito Café meant well, but fell just a little short.

Mojito Cafe
181 Western Avenue W
Seattle, WA