Sunday, April 25, 2010

Whatever Lola Wants: Succulent Quail and Earl Grey Flan

2000 4th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121 (At the corner of 4th and Virginia           
(206) 441-1430    

Lola is sexier than all the other Tom Douglas restaurants. The menu is a little bit raw, a little bit rugged, a little bit dangerous. I'm completely seduced by the menu's intriguing and unusual offerings: slow roasted suckling pig with nettles, young goat with rosemary, and spiced quail with preserved lemons. And the desserts, well, I think dessert is what Tom does consistently well.  At Lola, the sweet and sour of dessert are juxtaposed in exciting and complex ways.  Take, for example: saffron custard with pistachios and rose or goat cheese turnovers, with pistachio, mint, and honey. Above is an image of the fig and apricot tart from last spring. After polishing off the first one, I ordered another. It was that good. 

I lunched recently with friends at Lola. More of the same complex but complimentary flavors permeate the Lola's Mediterranean inspired menu. With the except for the condescending and sour (perhaps just bored or tired?) front person, our lunch experience was almost perfect.
The lamb kebabs with caramelized garlic and red wine glaze were tender and flavorful. Here they are (above) with the Greek salad, and in the foreground we have the luscious Greek Martini with barrel aged feta stuffed olives.
Every weekday Lola features a different lunch special. Thursdays is harissa spiced quail, and so I ordered it (above). Succulent, tender, juicy, and a little spicy, the elegant fowl was a delight. I picked up the delicate leg bones with my fingers, and sucked off every last bit of meat. I was a bit reluctant to try the "couscous." Having lived in Morocco for several  years, I have been spoiled by the traditional fluffing and steaming of the real deal, and have even experienced the hand made, hand rolled and hand cut variety.  I'm fairly certain that most any Moroccan expecting home-cooked couscous would be horrified to see chopped onion, red pepper and preserved lemon in the mix. Usually, meat and vegetables are painstakingly arranged atop beautifully fluffed couscous, which is flavored only by the vapors of  meat or chicken broth.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by this hybrid couscous experience. Although far from traditional, the couscous was actually delicious, not too soggy, and punctuated with just the right amount of preserved lemon to keep me interested. As a complement to the quail, it worked well. 
Then there was dessert. The flavor of the goat cheese turnovers with mint was lovely, but the dough was too greasy. Maybe they had been deep fried too long, or perhaps over-fried. Regardless, we complained to our server that these little goat cheese critters were too oily.

To our shock and amazement, our server only recommended that we try the Earl Grey Flan next time we came in (we had been trying to decide between the turnovers and the flan initially)! As you can see, my dining companion was frustrated.
So was I. We explained, on a comment card that came with the bill, that it was odd that our server declined to offer us a different dessert. She must have read the card immediately, because within a moment, she brought out the Earl Grey Flan.Wheee!
We were thrilled to have sassed our way into new dessert territory. I am and was moved by the fig and apricot flavors mingling (you can even see how they create a little crossroads above). The bergamot flavor was rather muted but we detected tannins from the tea which left my tongue slightly prickled.  I like the idea of the tea flavored custard, but we both agreed that we would have liked a stronger Earl Grey flavor.  But the smooth flan was a nice vehicle for the fig and apricot. Here we are, happy again.
I take this opportunity to draw your attention back to my last Lola fig and apricot experience in the tart that I still yearn for. Tom, if you can hear me, my birthday is coming up. Please bring back the tart.

The Queen of Tarts
Lola on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Hutch said...

Sassying via comment card. Interesting twist...