Friday, July 18, 2008

lovely lola

d once accused me of being a yuppie – I don’t think she was merely referring to the fact that I was an urban professional between the ages of 25 and 35 – it was more in the context her sisterly duty sister to give me grief about what can only be crassly described as my sometimes surfacing need for pseudo-trendiness.

I suppose tonight was one of those nights where I just wanted to go somewhere modern, sleek and possibly painfully trendy – somewhere where their interiors had sleek, clean lines, where the menu wasn’t overly fussy, where the wait staff was gorgeous and where they hopefully had tall cylindrical glass vases with lengthy statement making orchids.

I was assured by timeout and google that
Lola was going to be one of these places. Lola even had the tall cylindrical glass vases with lengthy statement making orchids that screamed this place über-trendy and is going to charge you lots for chichi looking food that might not taste very good.

the orchids were wrong – because the food wasn’t chichi looking. and it certainly tasted very good. I started with a crab stack with avocado, black sesame biscuit and wasabi mayonnaise. it was a very generous helping of crab – a tian of large, meaty chunks of fresh crab (none of that tinned stuff here) with creamy avocado through which a touch of citrus sharpness was detected. it was topped with a thin galette type pastry with an obligatory scattering of black sesame seeds which I suppose qualified it as the “black sesame biscuit”. there was a thin swipe of raspberry coulis and another of honey – both of which added a refreshing sweetness against the savouriness of the crab and the acidic creaminess of the avocado. I couldn’t really detect any heat of the wasabi, but it was overall a thoroughly enjoyable experience eating it all.

I had for my main the seabass risotto with thyme and provence vegetables – two fillets of seabass poached in fish stock, with a cake of creamy risotto and what looked like a rather elegant line of ratoutuille. the seabass was well, seabassy. it tasted exactly how seabass should taste and I was glad that they did not finish off in a pan or try to do anything fancy with the sauce – all it had was a drizzle of fish stock for moistness. together with the extremely creamy risotto through which some sort of soft cheese (like boursin, but it probably wasn’t just boursin) had been stirred through and it gave the mild looking risotto a powerful punch, which was a very welcome dimension against the mild sweetness of the seabass and the wholesomeness of the ratoutuille.

there was a black strip of unknown origin nestling on my risotto. it looked like kombu, but it didn’t’ taste like kombu. I was perplexed. the waitress didn’t know what it was called in English. I tried to mime seaweed with my hands, but she said it wasn’t that. it was hilarious. maybe she thought I was miming eels. anyway, I digress. my kombu conundrum led me to meet a pair of finns who were sitting at the next table who decided to rescue me from miming misery by informing me that what I thought was kombu was in fact, the grilled peel of an aubergine. ah. very clever. both the charming finns who explained that aubergine peel business to me, and the chef who decided to use it – it was a visual joke, linking the aubergine used in the ratoutuille to the marine theme of the seabass. and that’s all that trendy rubbish going to my head as I probably have read too much into what was probably just a garnish and a clever way to use up every component of the aubergine.

the finns, e and c, were very nice. they love lola – to the point they come almost every month and have the same dish (in its various forms and permutations that the chef tweaks for the seasons) of cod, mash and herby vegetables. they thumbed through the restaurant section of my timeout guide which I had gone through with a yellow highlighter, and put little stars next to the ones I should definitely try, and crosses against the ones which were utter rubbish and gave me a list and running commentary of their favourite restaurants. I hope I see them again – we’ve exchanged emails – so maybe I’ll get taken to one of their fav spots.


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