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Lark


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Since I found myself on 12th Avenue last night, I decided to see where exactly “Lark” is located. A warm lantern of light shone into the wet and dark night sky on a lonely stretch of road, further distressed by road construction metal plates and construction barriers. The small freestanding structure that has been transformed into a destination restaurant encloses a simple space open from the aged floors to the wooden rafters. Wisps of curtains on curvy rails define the center of the space, as do the tall tubes of the lights. Walls and booths, basic white, complement the dark wood tables and chairs. A few richly colored pieces of art and a small bar finish out the space, along with the experienced service you'd expect from the familiar faces gracing the front of house.

First night of service! They are open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner only. Full liquor license, limited stock. A short, but good wine list includes a few options for dessert. The menu consists of small plates ranging in price from $2 (a single oyster) to $18. A page of cheese options, soup, salads, cured meats, fish, and meat, and desserts. Easily three dozen options, each featuring a different main ingredient. Products are sourced from carefully cultivated purveyors. High quality place settings and an array of serving pieces grace the presentation of each jewel ordered.

Scallop tartar with Oregon white truffle and chive was served in a shallow black bowl. Having recently discovered the difference between the watery, chemical tasting “fresh” scallops typically served (that led me to believe I don’t like scallops), and the good ones, this was a real treat.

Monkfish served atop trumpet mushrooms and baby turnips carried a hint of smoke, perhaps native to the mushrooms.

Lamb with apricot couscous was tender, spicy, rich, and though I was satisfied with the small portion, my taste buds wanted more.

Finished with hand cranked malt ice cream with an almond Florentine. Like a bookend for the scallops, same colors and serving plate.

Two or three plates make a decent sized meal, similar to Harvest Vine in portion size. The quality ingredients are enhanced by the combinations with small grains, vegetables, and sauces, as well as the overall flavor profiles created. The parts are excellent, the sums are better. This was a meal I enjoyed prior to ordering, while eating it, and long into the night. Visions of clams, tureens of mussels, plates of venison and rotisseried chicken danced in my head. Yes, there is foie gras, and there is squab, pork bellies, and Humbolt Fog. Saba and loveage, eel and salami, I shutter to think of keeping it all straight, happy to eat, whatever Jon chooses to make.

Edited by tsquare (log)
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After leaving a holiday party hungry this weekend (obviously not the eG get-together), scrat and I stopped into Lark for a bite. I would echo tsquare’s sentiments that this place is serving fantastic food and is a great addition to the Seattle restaurant scene. The particulars of our meal:

Roasted beets in a tangerine oil - if one likes beets to begin with, which I do, the essences of the flavor was nicely accented by the oil and what I believe were bits of tangerine zest.

Mussels with bacon, shallots and apple - the best thing we had, one of the best mussel dishes I’ve ever had for that matter. My problem with most mussel dishes in restaurants, is that there’s simply not enough ‘stuff’ to really affect the flavor of the dish. Not so here, plenty of bacon, etc. to have some with every bite. The mussels were served in this ingenious pot made by Staub that is made to facilitate dipping and given how good the sauce/broth was, not sopping it up with the bread would have been criminal. One note, part of Lark’s theme, if you will, is that nearly everything is served in/on a Staub cast iron pot, dish, etc.

Pommes de terre Robuchon - a reincarnation of Joel Robuchon’s famous mashed potatos. Being the unabashed name-dropper that I am, I mentioned to the server that we had been to Robuchon’s restaurant in September. The chef actually brought the potatoes out to us and we talked Robuchon and Paris briefly. Alas, I have to say these didn’t measure up to the original. Robuchon manages to remove any trace of glueyness from his potatoes and Lark’s don’t quite manage it. Good, but not exceptional.

Braised shortribs with chanterelles- shortribs seem to be the new ‘seared ahi’ on restaurant menus, I’ve seen them at just about every nicer place I’ve been in the last 6 months. Lark’s have the meltingly tender and richly flavored quality that I crave but rarely find. Using the drippings on the potatoes took the whole thing to the next level.

Foie gras terrine with fig preserves - this was unnecessary given how full I felt, but it was foie gras after all. The flavor was very good, but the texture didn’t have that homogenous buttery smoothness that I like. Perhaps this was intentional and ultimately it wasn’t a big issue. The preserves were outstanding, strips of fig that were more intensely ‘figgy’ rather than sweet.

The service was excellent, relaxed, but still efficient and attentive.

My critiques would be that the wines by the glass list is fairly weak and I hope they will build it up to at least offer one option of each of the major varietals. There were only three red options, a Cab, a Zin and a blend. I had the blend, which was OK. The music choices were a little odd, often too raucous for what is otherwise a serene environment. Maybe I’m just getting old. When we left the restaurant, it was about ¼ full and already getting somewhat loud. None of these would make me hesitate, even slightly, to go back.

From time to time, we’ve discussed/debated here why/if Seattle falls short of other cities in terms of the quality of restaurants at the top end. So here the question I’ve been pondering since going to Lark, “is the revolution upon us?” With Union and Lark opening at the same time, and both being so much better than most places in town (IMO at least), is this the leap forward that some of us have been hoping/waiting for?

Edited by tighe (log)

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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Robuchon manages to remove any trace of glueyness from his potatoes and Lark’s don’t quite manage it. Good, but not exceptional.

My mom is convinced that the weather in Washington is too wet and mild to grow good potatoes. She always complains that they are too gluey. I don't know if there is any validity to this but I thought it was interesting that you used the same word as a description.

Practice Random Acts of Toasting

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Maybe it's opening jitters... while I liked a lot of the ideas for the restaurant and the room the food left something to be desired, most notable warmth. Nothing was hot, even after asking for a course that was hot! It was a cold night, and while I didn't have the soup none of the meats were hot by the time I got them in my mouth. The scallops were great, but only one tiny slice of Oregon truffle, some generosity would have been nice. The wine list was odd, not a half bottle on the list, and while I like short lists, I like ones that are a little more diverse than this one. And the potatoes, Robuchon's potatoes poor off the spoon, these weren't as good as the potatoes I just had for Thanksgiving.

I'll try the restaurant again at some point because I like the idea, but there are some things to be worked on there.

cloying

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Long life to the revolution!

I visited Lark and was presently surprised. Properly seasoned homey food, good flavors and a lovely little room all add up to a very pleasant meal. I had the potato puree to see what everyone was going on about. Good flavor if a little dense as has been said, although I'm not sure I'd describe the stuff as gluey. Loved the cranberry beans and Virginia ham accompanying the halibut cheeks. A flatiron steak was a bit cool in temperature, but beautifully rested.

Overall quite a good value. We just got 4 dishes between the two of us and were quite satisfied. Not too expensive. I'm with you, Tighe, Lark and Union are serious, yet approachable new restaurants that (together with Harvest Vine) have greatly expanded my dining world in this city. I especially enjoy the push to design the menu with the intention of crafting a meal the way that the diner likes to eat . . . quite an exciting addition to the Capitol Hill hood (finally!).

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Joe and I went to Lark yesterday. I also liked the tableware (now I want to get a Staub soup bowl to keep my oatmeal warm in the morning...). We started with a very nice cauliflower soup, then had a roasted eel on potato salad. It looked like an oversized unari nigiri; a rectangular slice of roasted eel on top of a stack of tiny cubes of potato. It was good, but I didn't really think it was spectacular. Next, we got the brown butter sunchokes with apples. The contrasting textures and flavors of the sunchokes and apples went well together. My favorite dish was the monkfish with black trumpet mushrooms and baby turnips. The tender monkfish was seared to just golden brown and crisp around the edges, and set on a pile of mushrooms and pleasantly bitter turnip greens in a creamy, intensly mushroomy sauce, surrounded by tiny baby turnips.

Finally, we had a nice little wedge of Corsu Vecciu (even though Joe claimed he was all cheesed out because he ate probably a quarter pound of Humboldt Fog at work).

Overall, excellent!

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> even though Joe claimed he was all cheesed out

Note to self: don't put out a half pound of Humboldt Fog goat cheese and crackers at work "to share" within arms reach of your own desk at work...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Wow what a meal.. six of us hit Lark last night for almost 3 hours. I don't know if I can recommend splitting each dish six ways like we did (probably better to order some dupes and/or sit out a few if you can stand it) but on the other hand we did get to try 20+ dishes.

One of the group wrote up the list of dishes we tried on some other site.

Every dish was excellent, though a few really stood out: the squab was perfectly rare, delicious. I loved the seared (but otherwise raw) albacore tuna with preserved lemon. The mussels were fabulous as promised here and indeed we liked them so much I copied the dish today for lunch (turned out very nicely, thank you, even when served in a normal bowl). I'll definitely be back for the short ribs. The cheeses were excellent: a perfectly ripe french blue, garottxa from catalonia, and a corsican sheeps-milk cheese (not labeled as corsu vecchiu on the menu but it could have been).

Picking wines was a bit difficult given how many flavors we were going through. We ended up starting with individual glasses, then moving to bottles of Oregon Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir and finishing with glasses of tawny port. It might be nice to see a more flexible offering with carafes or half bottles.

Overall I really liked the experience -- good, informal service and great food.

alex

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Wow what a meal.. six of us hit Lark last night for almost 3 hours.  I don't know if I can recommend splitting each dish six ways like we did (probably better to order some dupes and/or sit out a few if you can stand it) but on the other hand we did get to try 20+ dishes.

One of the group wrote up the list of dishes we tried on some other site.

I am the other person in Alex's party who wrote up the list of dishes we tried. I would add to Alex's post that I really appreciated the attention to detail in the dishes we tried. The accompaniments were well matched to the centerpieces of the plates (eel served with perfect new potato salad, rich stoneground grits with the halibut cheeks, etc).

I'd definitely recommend.

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Wow what a meal.. six of us hit Lark last night for almost 3 hours.  I don't know if I can recommend splitting each dish six ways like we did (probably better to order some dupes and/or sit out a few if you can stand it) but on the other hand we did get to try 20+ dishes.

One of the group wrote up the list of dishes we tried on some other site.

I am the other person in Alex's party who wrote up the list of dishes we tried. I would add to Alex's post that I really appreciated the attention to detail in the dishes we tried. The accompaniments were well matched to the centerpieces of the plates (eel served with perfect new potato salad, rich stoneground grits with the halibut cheeks, etc).

I'd definitely recommend.

Kieran:

Welcome to eGullet and I hope that Steven, Alex and you post reguarly.

Your postings convinced me enough that i'll also be going for a "Lark" soon.

Irwin :biggrin:

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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we went friday night - what a wonderful addition to seattle dining scene! we arrived at around 7:30, and our 45 minute wait at the cute bar passed very quickly.

2 of us had

beet salad with tangerine oil

razor clam chowder with truffle, thyme & turnip

sunchokes & apple

halibut cheeks with grits and virginia ham

albacore with lentils & preserved lemon

buttermilk panna cotta with quince preserves

aside from not liking the sauce with the tuna - it tasted very lime popsickle to me, the meal was outstanding. i agree whole-heartedly that the accompaniments made the dishes even more special.

the halibut was far and away our favorite...not to be missed!

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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I went with three others on Sat.

We waited a while for a table, but the hostess was very kind and apologetic about the wait.

Dishes Ordered:

French Blue

Cauliflower Soup

Apples and Sunchokes

Tuna w/ Sea Urchin

Italian Wedding Soup

Albacore w/ preserved lemons, lentils, and olives

Pork Belly

Potatoes x2

Lemon Tart

Apple Crisp w/ dried cherries

Malt Ice Cream

We had a fantastic time and I will be sure to go back. The menu has so many interesting dishes available. I loved pretty much everything. I have a few small suggestions though: Albacore should be seasoned better on the outside before searing; Wedding soup could have used a shade more of the pasta.

I agree with you Tighe about the potatoes. They were very nice, but could be much better with more attention to detail. Lark should give Mistral a call. :smile:

Ben

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Anita and I and a couple of friends tried to "Lark" on Sunday night. I called on Saturday to try and get a table, but they only take reservations for parties of six or more. We arrived at ~8p at the suggestion of the phone host, hoping to avoid the bulk of the rush...only to be told that we'd have a 45 minute wait. :huh: We passed.

eGulleters so far have seemed okay with the wait, but I gotta say that I was pretty peeved. It's one thing to maintain a majority of your tables for walk-ins, but expecting that a significant percentage of your customers are going wait 30-45 minutes for a table seems to me the height of hubris -- or at least not very hospitable.

Maybe I'd feel differently if I hadn't been able to call Zoe and have a table for four waiting for us minutes after we left Lark. I also expect that things will get easier once the novelty fades. At the very least, knowing what to expect will help.

Anyway, three cheers for new, good, Seattle food and bully for Lark for having the hot hand. But, c'mon guys -- would it kill ya to have a little book by the phone?

cameron

i play the rock. you shake the booty.
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Cameron is understating our experience: The host was downright curt with us. We arrived around 8pm (as Cameron says, at the suggestion of the person who answered the phone when we called on Saturday afternoon) and she looked at us like we had three heads. Then she said "I just seated all my four-tops; you can't have a table for at least 45 minutes or an hour" -- no offer to relax in the waiting area (or the bar) with a cocktail or a glass of wine; no standard host apologies.

When I asked her (admittedly a leading question, since I knew the answer) "Do you -ever- take reservations?" she flatly replied "No." No softening apology, no smiling mention of "Just for parties of 6, so next time bring two more friends" or "No, because we want to keep it neighborly," or whatever their reason is.

I definitely see the wisdom of a no-reservations policy at places like, say, Harvest Vine, where the prime seating is basically limited to 8 or 10 seats, or at patently down-home/neighborhood places that are trying to avoid setting unrealistically high expectations. But Lark is decidedly not in either of these categories.

I'm genuinely pleased that there's a new place that's generating so much good buzz from people whose opinions I respect, especially as it's in my general neck of the woods. But when there are so many untried places on my ever-growing list, you can bet it will be a long time coming before I give Lark another shot. I refuse to reward bad behavior.

~Anita

[edited for.. you guessed it... a typo]

Edited by ScorchedPalate (log)

Anita Crotty travel writer & mexican-food addictwww.marriedwithdinner.com

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It's too bad you had such a negative experience. When I originally called to make the reservation for our party, the woman on the phone told me they only took reservations for parties of 6+, and only for two seatings an evening (6pm and 8:30pm). Since I was calling for a party of 4, she advised me to show up by 6:30 to minimize the chances of waiting for a table. I elected to make a reservation for 6 and find two friends to join us. Good thing, too, because people showing up at 6:30 were waiting longer than I would have anticipated (we had the 6pm reservation, since the 8:30 was already taken).

Not that this helps you now. Kind of a downer.

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I skipped on in recently and had a nice meal. There were only two of us, which unfortunately limited the total number of dishes we were able to sample. I really liked the place, especially because it reminded me of one of Blue Ribbon Bakery, which was always one of my favorite haunts in New York. They aren't exactly the same--I think Lark aims a little higher with their menu, whereas Blue Ribbon has a more extensive wine program. That being said, both are places where I feel like I can walk in and pick and choose small plates to compose any of several completely different meals. Should I end up living in the vicinity, which I hope to do, Lark will be a regular spot for me.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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  • 2 weeks later...

laura cassidy put in this review in the weekly - not wildly favorable.

lark review

she said 3 people had 7 dishes and she was not satisfied - i think i would agree that they didn't order enough. she complained about the portion size to price ratio and hated the tuna (which i didn't like either - though i love st. jude albacore).

lark isn't cheap - but i don't think it claims to be...she said she would have liked some guidance...why didn't she ask? we did.

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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The first three things I heard about Lark, ...were (a) “They’re doing organic Northwest tapas!”; (b) “Ohmigod, we have to go!”; and c) “It’s in this totally cool, out-of-the-way neighborhood!”

Funny, but I've talked to a lot of people about Lark, and I've never heard anyone say either a) or c). I guess I just don't hang with the kind of food cognescenti that Laura does.

Edited by tighe (log)

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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Like Ms. Cassidy, I was disappointed with the cheese. But for me it was the quality, not the quality. I had a very dissappointing underripe epoisse, as compared to the outstanding one I had at Union just a few days later.

The rest of the meal at Lark I quite enjoyed. But I've never been one to complain about serving sizes. I always prefer quality to quantity.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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  • 2 weeks later...

My Dinner at Lark on Thursday night:

Inspired by what I've read on this site, my friend and I had dinner at Lark on Thursday night.

The overall experience was very good. Between the two of us, we had:

- Three cheeses (A blue, a cheddar, and a sheep cheese)

Each of the cheeses was very good. The blue was sour and tasty, the cheddar was sharp and delicious, and the sheep's cheese reminded me of a parmesan and was quite good.

- Hedgehog Mushrooms

I thought these were great - garlicy and salty, my friend thought they were too salty, but I like salty.

- Rillettes of Pork served with Cherry Pumperknickel bread

This was surprisingly tasty. Served with sweet and sour Cherries, they made an excellent taste complement to the pork.

- Dungeness Crab with Green Mayonaise

Oh this was good too. The green mayonaise was made with some kind of green herbs, and was made with lots of fresh crab. Yum.

- Mussels with Shallots, Bacon, and Apples

Served in a mussel shaped dish, these were really tasty. I had something similar at Andaluca recently, and while these were different, they were certainly as good.

- Lobster Orrechiette

My friend liked this more than I did. I thought the lobster was a little chewy.

- Lamb Tangine with Spicy Olives

Ooh this was good. I'd never had food prepared in a dish like this before, it was really good. The lamb was really tender, and the olives were surprisingly spicy. This dish was delivered by the chef, which impressed the heck out of me.

- Elk with Chestnuts

This was served somewhere between rare and medium rare, and was quite good. This was served with roasted chestnuts, little potoato things, and an amazing sauce that I think was a demi-glace

We also had a couple of glasses each of Syrah. I'm not much of a wine drinker, so I didn't notice the winery or vintage, but it was also, quite good.

I thought it was interesting that on the menu list of cheeses, they had tasting notes for each cheese. I thought this was a good idea, but I wonder how many people order the cheese described as grassy and barnyard.

We ended up eating a lot of food, and neither of us had room for dessert. The space itself was smallish, but I think that just added to a nice intimate atmosphere. I'll definitely be eating at Lark again.

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