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Lark


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While I agree w/you both with respect to some of the seemingly sillier items, I'm a little confused by the use of the phrase "trumped up." Are you implying that these folks are intentionally gunning for places like Lark but leaving other places alone? Many restaurants have much lower scores than Lark did on that inspection.

And while the inspection system isn't perfect, food borne illnesses and diseases are a real concern for the entire public. Drinking ice isn't made from an approved source? Well, it could be "trumped up," but I certainly would have asked someone there about it before drinking the water had I known it at the time. Seriously, I never use a wiping cloth on both food prep and other surfaces (though the statement is vague enough that it could have been another reason).

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I'm a little confused by the use of the phrase "trumped up."  Are you implying that these folks are intentionally gunning for places like Lark but leaving other places alone?

No, just implying that the red violations for common things like touching food seem a bit overblown. If it was really that dangerous hospitals would be filled with ill diners.

I don't mean to imply that restaurants shouldn't be inspected, merely that the focus should be on the areas that really do lead to serious problems.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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You've actually managed to hit the two main violations that actually lead to people getting sick: not cooling hot food properly and bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food (after forgetting to wash your hands). If they're going to come down hard on any two violations, these are the ones.

Obviously I break these rules at home all the time, but I'd like to see restaurants held to much higher standards than my kitchen. The idea of cooks at a high-end kitchen like Lark wearing gloves does seem a little weird, though, I admit.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Dinner last night at Lark with some fellow eG'ers. Another great meal, I love that everytime we go there are a few standards but always new and interesting things on the menu.
Next time a group of eGers make a pilgrimage to Lark pls. invite me. MY wife I would like to go & have never been.
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I agree too about food borne illness and pathogens being a problem, especially for kids, older folks and anyone immune compromised. (Not that food poisoning is good for healthy people either... one of the worst times I'd ever felt was 3 days during high school when 800 of us came down with food poisoning from school lunch, ugh.)

I don't agree about the best ways of preventing it. I'm not referring to a deliberate gunning of Lark or anything like that. Rather, I think some of the regulations are a ham-handed attempt to fix a problem with roots elsewhere, and furthermore, the fix can be worse than the problem itself.

Restaurants and cooks get hit with this because it's easiest to go after us rather than the health insurance industry or agribusiness. Do folks here eat cantaloupe? It's been implicated in food poisoning via fecal contamination on its rough skin because migrant laborers have no time to run 45 minutes across the field to a portapotty, especially as they get paid crap by the bushel harvested.

Another local regulation on the books as of January 2005 is not to allow the raw egg to touch the outside of the shell from whence it was cracked, in order to prevent salmonella.

Leaving aside the sheer sleight of hand needed for the egg trick, how do the regulations in place keep that fecal or salmonella contamination from getting to whoever eats it?

For cantaloupe, the official line is dunk it in weak sanitizer solution and scrub it before cutting it open. Ok, no more pathogens I guess, but does that sound good to you?

For eggs, the guaranteed safety there is pasteurized eggs. Is that acceptable?

I agree we should be working as cleanly as possible, washing our hands, keep work surfaces clean, and store food properly. In school it's very easy to do that because we have all the supplies we need and we don't experience long shifts of crotch-crushing service.

But in reality, I think if I followed all of those regulations to the letter each and every time in an actual restaurant, customers would be hollering bloody murder at either 1) the glacial service or 2) the price, if the restaurant tried to charge accordingly for the extra labor. Assuming the chef didn't fire me in the first place for being so slow.

Where the majority of contamination is spread is via hands. Gloves don't matter, and in fact make it worse because it's easy to forget that they're on. I've eaten at restaurants where I saw cooks go into the bathroom with gloves on, and leave with the same gloves still on.

Also, we're constantly sweating in them. They are a breeding ground for pathogens, and workers with cuts on their hands can develop more serious infections when the bacteria get to reproduce in this enclosed moist environment. Leaving aside worker health, that's not going to make the food any safer either.

If I don't have gloves on, I know when my hands are dirty because I can feel the residue. It's why I'm washing my hands constantly before going onto any new task. Plenty of chefs have mentioned how a clean cutting board = clean mind. I think it is the same with hands. With gloves, it's a lot harder.

And to touch on what vengroff mentioned, good cooks rely on touch to tell them things about the food. Not just doneness, but whether or not something's good, or if there's anything wrong. Put a barrier there, and it's harder to tell. From my perspective, physical barriers can create mental ones. How do you bring the same level of care to something you can't feel? Especially when many people get into cooking because of being sensates by nature?

For the record, I want to make it clear that it is most definitely my responsibility to keep myself and everything I touch as safe and clean as possible. And yes, I think there are some seriously gross kitchens out there. But, I think people also need to recognize where the limits and realities really are with that kind of thing. It would be nice if folks got up in arms over healthcare, agribusiness and disintermediaries keeping us all a few degrees removed from the source of things as much as they did over inspection reports.

So there. My long-winded explanation of "trumped up". :wink:

Pat

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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You've actually managed to hit the two main violations that actually lead to people getting sick: not cooling hot food properly and bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food (after forgetting to wash your hands). If they're going to come down hard on any two violations, these are the ones.

Obviously I break these rules at home all the time, but I'd like to see restaurants held to much higher standards than my kitchen. The idea of cooks at a high-end kitchen like Lark wearing gloves does seem a little weird, though, I admit.

I hate to hijack Lark's thread like this. Maybe some kind moderator can move some of the posts to a new thread.

I thought the main causes of serious foodborne illness were bacteria like salmonella and campylobacter that are commonly present in chicken and eggs long before they arrive in the restaurant kitchen. Whether cooks are wearing gloves or not, if they handle raw chicken and then cooked food they risk spreading the bacteria. It's whether they wash your hands or change gloves in between that matters. Is one really that much better than the other?

On the cooling, I misunderstood the nature of the violation and withdraw my claim that it is comparable to the glove issue.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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  • 1 month later...

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.

Those taters are glutinous because the otherwise extremely talented chef at Lark is using the wrong damn potatoes to make Robuchon's signature dish. He's using Yukon golds. Should be using a good baking potato, a russett.

I've got to eat some crow. I was wrong about this. Robuchon, according to Jeffrey Steingarten at least, does use waxy potatoes like the Yukon Gold. Sundstrom is right on track.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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  • 2 months later...

Absolutely must give Lark my highest recommendation. Here's the brief review I also posted in a more general Seattle thread...

GO go go go to Lark. It was wonderful. The atmosphere is very simple and open, and there was not a bite I took that I didn't love. (Okay, I burned my mouth on the first bite of rhubarb crisp, but that's not their fault.) Two glasses of wine, three kinds of cheese with olives, almonds, and quince jelly, four small plates, and two desserts only set us back around $100. And we were very full. The waiter joked that it was like we were having a very fancy picnic -- after the cheese (marinated chevre, Chimay-washed, and Sally Jackson) and accompaniments, we had baby artichokes, beef sausage with mustards, and smoked proscuitto with onions. The only hot dish was pork belly with grits and spinach. Finished up with really wonderful desserts, both waitstaff recommendations: lemon parfait and rhubarb crisp with buttermilk ice cream. There was no wait when we arrived Sunday night at 5:45, and by the time we left after 7pm there were still empty tables.

Edited by jm chen (log)

Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Wow, what a neat little place Lark is! Dinner last night was terrific: the rare meal at which all four members of Team Fenton walked away happy. Rösti potatoes (did they have the ümlaüt? Well, they sure as hell should have) were great: like grandma's latkes if bubbe had had the good sense to cook with duck fat. And the duck leg added to the sheer ducky goodness. The foie gras terrine? Another waterfowl-based standout. And the snap & snow pea tag-team with mint was a nice simple summer dish. Hanger steak was a little disappointing, and at $16 for a pretty small portion, not really worth ordering; and I agree with others that they oughta beef up their selection of wines by the glass. But those were small exceptions to what was otherwise a lovely dinner. Good stuff, and I'll be back.

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Just wrote a post at my food blog about our first visit to Lark. I know, you're asking incredulously: "what took you so long." Well, how's about 8 mo. old twins & a 4 yr. old? Pretty good excuse, no.

Anyway, it was a lovely dining experience. Here's an excerpt from the post:

...I read on a food website that a Lark customer said you must order the pork rilletes: “I dream about them.” Well, that was enough for me. We had to have that as one of our courses. Turns out I wouldn’t dream about them but they were quite good. The pork was strong, almost gamy while the texture was almost caramel soft. Yummy.

The waitress suggested that I order a glass of Cote du Rhone with my meal and neither she not it diappointed. It was powerful without being overwhelming and also smooth, lacking the tannic quotient of some red wines.

I read another online comment saying the striped bass was a disappointment–not to me! The dish, called bass tagine, came with coucous and succulent baby carrots. It was infused with cilantro and cumin which gave it a delightful herbal complexity. The fish had a delightful soft texture.

We ordered the rosti potatoes with klabber cream which comes out of the kitchen in its own mini castiron skillet. It looks like a little cake with a swirly top. But there the resemblance ends as the swirly top is actually a toasty brown crisp crust. Inside the potatores are meltingly creamy. It was delicious.

We ordered a cheese plate and though it was good, I wouldn’t say any of the cheeses bowled me over.

Though my wife and I normally share a dessert at restaurants, we knew this was the kind of place where we’d each order one. This is also the kind of restaurant where one dessert sounds better than the rest. I always peruse a dessert menu to pick out the ones I can eliminate as too boring or common. Not at Lark. We knew we had to turn to the waitress and again she pointed us in the right direction. My wife had the lemon parfait. It’s served like flan in a short round presentation doused with sauce. The texture was heavenly-soft. It felt like you were eating clouds–that’s how delicate it was. I ordered black fig tart tatin topped by a small mound of chilled mild goat cheese. It too was extraordinary.

You can’t begin to exhaust the wonders of Lark’s menu in one sitting. So we’ll have to return the next time we can find a babysitter to take care of three young ones (maybe another year from now?!).

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  • 3 weeks later...

dinner for 3 at lark last night. we got there around 8:45 and were advised that we'd be waiting "less than 30 minutes" but quickly brought us wine & a cocktail to the seating area in front. 2 sips in and we were shown to our table! a nice surprise. i started with a NZ sav. blanc and rob had a glass of cesari something (i used to be obsessed with their amarone, so i always remember them, just not the wine. it was a ripasso. very nice)

we shared - salumi (finnochiono) with grape mostarda, wild smoked salmon with egg salad, tomato and strawberry gazpacho topped with goat yogurt, quail with wax beans and summer chanterelles, rosti potatoes and hangar steak with tomato & chimichurri.

everything was good (tho the salmon was very mild) but the steak, gazpacho & quail were extraordinary. thin rare rounds of steak drizzled with garlicky chimichurri and served on achingly ripe beeksteak tomatoes - divine. the gazpacho was more an essence than a soup - very thin but packed with flavor. i'm still thinking about the garlic + strawberry flavors. really good, but my favorite was the quail. a whole boned (minus the legs) quail with dynamite mushrooms and a grainy mustard sauce. the quail was just pink and very juciy and tender.

we shared the lemon parfait for dessert as our friend is allergic to nuts - but the raspberry and nectarine crisp sounded great. the lemon parfait was a perfect end. creamy and tart in a pool of lemony soup with tiny slivers of sweetened lemons. my mouth is watering!

5 hmm, or 6? glasses of wine, 1 cocktail & 7 plates came to just under $160 including service. a total steal. service was gracious - they brought us new plates and silver at some point, and different bread - we had sourdough first and then they brought rye & wheat - not sure if they were matching or what. actually, the rye would have been fantastic with the egg salad & salmon, but they brought it later.

lark rocks.

Edited by reesek (log)

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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dinner for 3 at lark last night. we got there around 8:45 and were advised that we'd be waiting "less than 30 minutes" but quickly brought us wine & a cocktail to the seating area in front. 2 sips in and we were shown to our table! a nice surprise. i started with a NZ sav. blanc and rob had a glass of cesari something (i used to be obsessed with their amarone, so i always remember them, just not the wine. it was a ripasso. very nice)

we shared - salumi (finnochiono) with grape mostarda, wild smoked salmon with egg salad, tomato and strawberry gazpacho topped with goat yogurt, quail with wax beans and summer chanterelles, rosti potatoes and hangar steak with tomato & chimichurri.

everything was good (tho the salmon was very mild) but the steak, gazpacho & quail were extraordinary. thin rare rounds of steak drizzled with garlicky chimichurri and served on achingly ripe beeksteak tomatoes - divine. the gazpacho was more an essence than a soup - very thin but packed with flavor. i'm still thinking about the garlic + strawberry flavors. really good, but my favorite was the quail. a whole boned (minus the legs) quail with dynamite mushrooms and a grainy mustard sauce. the quail was just pink and very juciy and tender.

we shared the lemon parfait for dessert as our friend is allergic to nuts - but the raspberry and nectarine crisp sounded great. the lemon parfait was a perfect end. creamy and tart in a pool of lemony soup with tiny slivers of sweetened lemons. my mouth is watering!

5 hmm, or 6? glasses of wine, 1 cocktail & 7 plates came to just under $160 including service. a total steal. service was gracious - they brought us new plates and silver at some point, and different bread - we had sourdough first and then they brought rye & wheat - not sure if they were matching or what. actually, the rye would have been fantastic with the egg salad & salmon, but they brought it later.

lark rocks.

Finally made it to Lark last night. Two of us shared 6 plates and a dessert, which was way more than enough food. Amazingly enough, we ordered only 1 of the dishes listed above---which goes to show that Lark has a really impressively long menu.

Let's see if I can remember: beets with some sort of marinated cheese (it was excellent but I can't remember the name, should have taken a menu); chicken liver parfait with pickled huckleberries; roasted eel with new potato salad; poulet nouveau with squash; lamb leg with a grain whose name escapes me but was described to us as a larger version of couscous; and the rosti potatoes. I love salt on potatoes, but even so I found the rosti potatoes oversalted, so it was not my favorite dish. The lamb/grain mixture was incredible, the lamb very rare and flavorful, the grains strangely reminiscent of both lentils and fresh corn. Also wonderful were the beets, both in the perfection of their cooking and in the pairing with the marinated cheese. The liver parfait had a great presentation, in a kind of large shotglass with a cap of gelatinized stuff so that it looked like some kind of weird espresso, and the mild pickling of the huckleberries did an amazing job of bringing out their flavor. The eel tasted great but was mildly disappointing: two small pieces that didn't taste all that different from some prepackaged stuff I once brought home and munched on from Uwajimaya (and which didn't cost much for a large quantity). It wasn't bad, it just didn't seem that creative and was a bit too stingy with the eel. The potatoes that went with it were very nice. The chicken dish was great too, but for me the lamb and beet dishes were the real standouts. Enjoyed a bottle of the Cotes du Rhones (around $30) and also the wonderful nectarine crisp, final pre-tip bill about $111. We could have filled up on much less, but I'm glad we tried so many things. We'll definitely be back.

Also, there was no wait most of the night.

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  • 4 months later...

SeaGal, Rockdoggydog and I (and our significant others) went last Friday. It had been a while since I had been and I am happy to report they are still fabulous. It felt like we ordered nearly the entire menu and most everything was way above average. With six people sharing we really got a good sampling of things too. Much easier than with a larger group. My favorites were the pork belly and the chicken liver mousse. I'm looking forward to going again soon.

Practice Random Acts of Toasting

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SeaGal, Rockdoggydog and I (and our significant others) went last Friday. It had been a while since I had been and I am happy to report they are still fabulous. It felt like we ordered nearly the entire menu and most everything was way above average.  With six people sharing we really got a good sampling of things too. Much easier than with a larger group. My favorites were the pork belly and the chicken liver mousse. I'm looking forward to going again soon.

Have been in a couple times in last 6 weeks, both fabulous. In addition to their standards, some new standouts, including a cauliflower soup that is to cauliflower what the Robuchon spuds are to spuds and a guinea hen lasagne "bolognese" that was perfect. Also: cheese selection remains a stand-out, is served right, and if you ask can include things not on the menu.

Only minor quibble: went on a weeknight a couple weeks ago and, while this meant there was no wait, it also appeared to be "train/test some green waitstaff night." Things went ok, but we missed the seasoned pros who are such a huge part of the Lark experience.

Richard W. Mockler

Seattle

I will, in fact, eat anything once.

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a guinea hen lasagne "bolognese" that was perfect. Also: cheese selection remains a stand-out, is served right, and if you ask can include things not on the menu. 

yes. soooo good. the rillettes are also insane. i've only had rillettes twice in my life. what is wrong with me? how much time do i have left? must find more rillettes. (other sampling was at le pichet. <insert drooling homer.>

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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a guinea hen lasagne "bolognese" that was perfect. Also: cheese selection remains a stand-out, is served right, and if you ask can include things not on the menu. 

yes. soooo good. the rillettes are also insane. i've only had rillettes twice in my life. what is wrong with me? how much time do i have left? must find more rillettes. (other sampling was at le pichet. <insert drooling homer.>

the rilettes are great, but the parfait is out of this world...

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yes. soooo good. the rillettes are also insane. i've only had rillettes twice in my life. what is wrong with me? how much time do i have left? must find more rillettes.

They had rillettes at Whole Foods over the holidays. Hmm wonder if they still do. I saw them (and bought them) at the Bellevue WF before xmas.

Born Free, Now Expensive

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a guinea hen lasagne "bolognese" that was perfect. Also: cheese selection remains a stand-out, is served right, and if you ask can include things not on the menu. 

yes. soooo good. the rillettes are also insane. i've only had rillettes twice in my life. what is wrong with me? how much time do i have left? must find more rillettes. (other sampling was at le pichet. <insert drooling homer.>

the rilettes are great, but the parfait is out of this world...

the lemon parfait? agreed. ethereal.

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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a guinea hen lasagne "bolognese" that was perfect. Also: cheese selection remains a stand-out, is served right, and if you ask can include things not on the menu. 

yes. soooo good. the rillettes are also insane. i've only had rillettes twice in my life. what is wrong with me? how much time do i have left? must find more rillettes. (other sampling was at le pichet. <insert drooling homer.>

the rilettes are great, but the parfait is out of this world...

the lemon parfait? agreed. ethereal.

no, the chicken liver parfait

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  • 3 months later...

We took some out of town friends to Lark last night and as always the food was fantastic. We tasted many things but the winners included the tuna carpacio, sauteed mushrooms, rillettes, pork belly, braised shortribs, lasagne and chocolate madelines.

They said the bar should be open late this month......

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David and I went to Lark for the first time this weekend to celebrate our friend Rupa's birthday.

David and I had been hesitant to try Lark for a while because we'd had downright awful food at Earth & Ocean back when Sundstrom was there. But the years of people raving about Lark finally wore us down, and now I'm sorry we didn't go sooner.

The rillettes, the cauliflower soup (just a silky essence of cauliflower), and the pork belly were amazing. I can't wait to go back.

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the rilettes are great, but the parfait is out of this world...

the lemon parfait? agreed. ethereal.

no, the chicken liver parfait

Well, that lemon parfait is downright amazing. The two other people I was with were literally unable to speak after tasting it.

A few days ago the scallops turned out to be great, too. Damn I love Lark.

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