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Restaurant Roundup

In blogging so little of late, I have failed to comment on three local restaurants we have enjoyed eating at recently. I’ll fill that gap here. First, some background.

I have written frequently about our meals at Rover’s, the well-known restaurant in the Madison Valley neighborhood of Seattle, just blocks away from our home. In addition to nightly dinners, it serves lunch on Friday, and I have described several of these lunches. Last summer, during one of these lunches, chef-owner Thierry Rautureau explained to us his plan to take over the then-empty former shipping store on the corner and turn it into a more casual French-style restaurant, to be named Luc, after his father. As a means of raising funds, Thierry would sell founding gift certificates — invest $1000, then get three annual $435 credits to be used at Luc or Rover’s. A few months later, when the deal was formally offered, we accepted.

Luc had its formal opening on the evenings of May 3 and 4, with free food for members only. Those just happened to be our last night in DC and the night we flew home from DC. We were unable to attend.

Finally, three weeks ago, we (Gail, Joel, and I) dropped by at Luc for an early dinner before heading downtown to see Fiddler on the Roof. Not early enough. It was packed. In desperation, we crossed the street and stopped by at La Côte Creperie. Gail had eaten there before, but I hadn’t. Let’s go in and learn more.

1. La Côte Crêperie. It’s a small place, but since we were early, it was mostly empty. We got a table by the window. In addition to our menus, there was a long chalkboard with specials. One could well imagine one was in a traditional French crêperie. Indeed, the menu was very much like the one the three of us studied last October, Halloween Eve, on our last evening with Joel in Grenoble before departing early the next morning for Venice.

I rarely drink cider. In August 1999, we visited my sister and her family in La Baule, on the Brittany coast, to celebrate a major birthday for her. At the time, they went to La Baule every August, and knew the region well. One morning, we went over to the nearby walled town of Guérande — well worth a visit if you’re in the area. Within its lies what by my sister’s testimony — and I believe her — one of the great crêperies in France. It was a family favorite, and we were in for a treat. I can’t remember what I ordered, but I remember that as a matter of course, bottles of cider were put out for us all. I don’t think I did much more than taste it. I learned, though, that when in a crêperie, drink cider. And thanks to my pal Russ, I have learned to enjoy cider more. So, of course, I started the meal with a glass of cider.

For the meal, I ordered a salad to start, and then, despite the long list of enticing crepes, I went off the crepe menu to order a croque-madame. But I returned to the crepe menu for dessert, selecting the very same crepe I ordered last fall in Grenoble, the poire belle Hélène: a crepe filled with pears, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup.

Everything was delightful. I’m eager to return.

2. Lola. Two weeks ago last night, local painter (and old friend) Kate Altus had a new show open at the Lisa Harris Gallery down by Pike Place Market. We own two of her paintings and were hoping to attend, but couldn’t because of a conflict. Instead, we went down to have a look that Saturday afternoon. (The show runs through June 28. By all means have a look yourself if you’re downtown.) As we walked up the hill, we decided to have an early dinner. Tom Douglas beckoned. Which of his restaurants? We chose Lola, where we last ate two years ago for breakfast, when we stayed at the hotel that sits above it for our anniversary, having dined across the street at Douglas’s Dahlia Lounge the night before.

Our only dinner at Lola was four years ago, when our friend Marion was in from Boston, staying at our house, and took us there. I can’t believe we waited so long to return, given how much we enjoyed our meals there, and how much we enjoy all things Tom Douglas. Lola is his Middle Eastern or Mediterranean place. We decided to order five small dishes to share: the hummus with smoky paprika; the salad with shaved asparagus, fennel, radish, and preserved lemon; the lamb meatballs with green garlic relish and mint; and two of the kebabs: Washington chicken with yogurt and dill and Washington king salmon with tarragon and capers.

What can I say? Everything was great. Perhaps my favorite, only because I had no great expectations and it was perfect, was the salad. I could eat that salad every night.

For dessert, Gail wanted the famous Tom Douglas doughnuts, the only problem being that they aren’t on Lola’s menu. They used to be, or at least we think so. And they’re on the Dahlia Lounge menu. Anyway, our waitress wasn’t fazed. She knew what Gail wanted and was happy to oblige, after pointing out that we might just want to try instead the doughnuts that are on the menu: loukoumathes with cinnamon and honey walnuts. Ultimately we took her advice and ordered both, so we could compare. They’re different, but equally wonderful. The loukoumathes are bigger, maybe a little heavier. The doughnuts, as always, come in a bag that one shakes to get them properly coated in sugar, with fresh jam and mascarpone as accompaniments.

I don’t think we’ll wait four years to go back.

3. Luc. We finally made it in, this past Monday night. This time we made a reservation, though we hardly needed it. We arrived at 5:00 and were met by the hostess we know well from Rover’s. She sat us in the front corner nook, just around the bend from the door — her favorite location, she said. In attendance were Gail, Joel, me. Joel had a beer and Gail a glass of wine, but I decided to go for one of the alcohol-free mixed drinks, an orange presse. It was described as having orange juice, club soda, orange soda, and basil. The basil added a delightful touch.

The menu had so many attractive options. We will need to return often. I eventually chose, as Gail did, to start with the arugula salad with caramelized shallots, fleur de sel, and olive oil. For the entree, Gail chose the boeuf bourguignon stew with mushroom, carrots, and potato, while Joel had the grilled beef onglet steak with peppercorn sauce and fries. I was tempted to get the sandwich special, which was a halibut sandwich that night, partly so I could try the accompanying fries, but Joel let me have a few of his fries and I chose instead the pasta of the day, which was noodles in a cream sauce with salmon and bacon.

Yet another perfect meal. Those fries were so good. Next time I might just go with the burger (beef burger, caramelized onions, tomato jam, arugula, Luc’s aioli, fries).

Dessert: I had the butterscotch crème brulée and Joel the chocolate & caramel cake with whipped cream. Plus, we all shared an order of 3 fruit jellies, which were apricot. More perfection.

That’s it from the restaurant front.

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