“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
– Romeo and Juliet
(Act II, scene ii, lines 1-2)
Opening a successful restaurant is a difficult endeavor. In addition to the perfect menu, the perfect chef and the perfect location, you also need … the perfect name. Some names are obvious; some are obscure. Whatever their story, we devote this column to names.
Always a favorite among the many Tom Douglas offerings, at Lola (2000 Fourth Ave.; 441-1430; www.tomdouglas.
com/?page=lola), we started with the lamb kebab with caramelized garlic and red wine glaze. It tastes as good as it sounds, and paired perfectly with the “Saganaki Meze” — a cheese dish chock full of cooked cherries that had us wishing for seconds.
The cocktail aficionados among us enjoyed a Greek martini and an urban mai tai (lighter than its tropical cousin), and for non-drinkers the ginger mint spritzer (heavy on the ginger) was a sinus-clearing hit. The soups currently rotate every week or two, but if you are lucky enough to be there when Lola features the avgolemono soup (chicken orzo soup with lemon and egg), it is very worth trying.
For main courses, we chose a grilled hanger steak with red chermoula spring onion and morel mushrooms. The steak comes with some of the excellent spicy corn on the cob, but we could not resist ordering extra. We tried two specials — an ivory king salmon with deep-fried navy beans, which was flavorful and was more than enough for four of us to share, and a crowd-pleasing mousaka. For dessert, we went with the trusted white chocolate, coconut pie, and one was enough for four of us.
On this occasion, as on many others, Lola lived up to her name and pleased everyone at the table.
Tallulah is a Choctaw name. It is also the name of Tallulah Falls in Georgia, which is how it found its way to southerner Tallulah Bankhead, a Hollywood actress of the ’30s and ’40s known for her husky voice, outrageous personality and devastating wit.
In Seattle, Tallulah’s (550 19th Ave. E.; 860-0077; www.aneighborhood
cafe.com) is a sizable presence on the corner of 19th and East Mercer in Capitol Hill. The spacious outdoor seating runs seamlessly into the restaurant through huge sliding doors and big open windows. This is the most devastatingly pleasing feature of this restaurant. It just feels great to sit there and enjoy good weather.
The drinks menu is nice, with wine, beer, cocktails and homemade sodas. Nothing on the “Snacks” menu announced itself as a must-have appetizer, so we went right to the main course. A party of six, we spread ourselves around the menu.
We got large plates, such as roasted chicken and ricotta gnudi (described as dumplings) and small plates — flatbread with ham and peaches, grilled-chicken skewers with thin-sliced zucchini. and a red pesto chermoula and three-beet salad on arugula. The teenagers in our group found the menu limited.
In contrast to previous visits — when the food has been excellent — on this particular evening nothing really stood out. Shortly after our visit, we read that Tallulah’s recently brought in a new head chef. Given our long history of happy dining at this lovely location, we are excited to see what lies in store once the transition is complete!
In Portland for an overnight trip, we made our way to the Sunnyside neighborhood, where we found an intimate-looking, but very busy Italian-style trattoria, with a relevant name. Welcome to Ava Gene’s (3377 SE Division St.; 971-229-0571; www.avagenes.com).
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