I had a friend from my teaching days who just raved about the Chef in the Hat. She loves him, you could see it on her face, and I love that kind of passion about food. So, I tried Luc, and it was cozy, then life got in the way, and it took so very long to finally make it to Chef in the Hat's latest endeavor, Loulay. I totally missed the boat on Rover.
Looks like my school friend isn't the only one who thinks the Chef in the Hat is pretty great: Seattle Met named it the Best Restaurant of 2014, Thrillist lists it in the Top 21 restaurants nationwide and included the Loulay burger in their in the Top 10 in 2014, and as if that wasn't enough, Zagat has Loulay as one of the 25 Most Important Restaurants of 2013. Impressive, for sure.
So, Friend Elaine and I set out on a sunny Seattle day for a lunch date to Loulay. Loulay is located in the Sheraton Hotel near the convention center in downtown Seattle. There is easy valet parking, though no self-park is available on site.
The host was a nice, chatty fellow. We probably didn't need to know the tidbits he shared as he brought us to our table, but alas, he was friendly, and we like friendly. Our server, however, was too-cool-for-school. Her words were nice enough, but her demeanor was a bit aloof and not super helpful. I guess for a restaurant with such great press, we expected more.
Since it's lunch, and we have to pick up our kids from school afterward, we went for their non-alcoholic beverage menu. I get my zen on with the Lotus Flower. It's made with basil, lime, mint, sage, cucumber, and soda served in a martini glass. Friend Elaine chose the Citrus-Rise. This drink combines fresh citrus, cranberry, a splash of tonic, then served up with a sugar-rimmed glass. Both drinks were lovely, though not inexpensive for the serving size - both $7 each. The value was further diminished when the server knocked my glass so hard that at least a quarter of the drink spilled over the table and on my clothes. Remember how cool she is? She's so cool she barely said she was sorry, and a replacement drink was not offered. Um, not cool.
Our first course comes out, and the food looks delish. The French Onion Soup, a must-try item in a French restaurant, was bursting with the veal broth flavor and topped with a hat of comté and baguette. It was good, but Friend Elaine didn't finish her bowl; she thought the cheese was too chewy. I probably would've finished it for her if I wasn't completely mesmerized by the scallops.
The scallops came in a deep bowl. They sat on a shallow pool of thin cream sauce and served with black garlic, beets, arugula, and pickled red onion. A thing of beauty. They were prepared perfectly medium with a nice sear on the outside. The combination of flavors and textured shined. I would've licked the bowl if that weren't frowned upon in public.
For our second course, Friend Elaine and I split the Bacon Sandwich and the Pastrami Sandwich. They split this up for us and served a simple salad of greens and carrot. The table was not quite big enough to accommodate both plates. Maybe these plates should be rethought; good thing we were only a party of two.
The Bacon Sandwich was my pick of the two. I have a hard time saying no to bacon under any circumstance. In fact, Friend Sophia says that like death and taxes, she can depend on bacon being a part of any dinner menu when she comes over. Maybe it's my Arkansas roots, but I do so love bacon. This bacon was fancy and treś thick. I prefer crispy bacon, and unfortunately, this bacon was too thick to be crisp, and whole pieces of meat wanted to slide out with every bite. I could barely taste the harissa jam and arugula. The combination sounds good in theory, but tasted more like toast with salty, cured pork.
Friend Elaine chose the Pastrami Sandwich. While there was more complex flavor in this sandwich, with smoked beef, green cabbage, leek and horseradish aioli, there just wasn't much to it. Maybe this is how the French stay thin? Take a look at this sandwich. Where is the middle? I ate the middle and left the crust. I try to use my carbs wisely, and this was just not worth it. Guess we should've taken the advice of the Thrillist and ordered the burger.
Both sandwiches were anti-climatic, yet we took he dessert menu. Boy, am I glad we did! The desserts made me forget the less than impressive sandwiches.
We couldn't pick just one, so we went with the Portuguese Beignets and Ice Cream Sandwich. Friend Elaine also added the Chef's Hot Chocolate.
The Ice Cream Sandwiches were the big winner for Friend Elaine. Frozen Valrhona milk chocolate parfait with cripy malt wafers and a passion fruit coulis. There were two, which was perfect for sharing. It was delicious, truly delicious, but not quite as good as the beignets.
Seriously, eating these yummy pillows of goodness remind about how grand life can be. It's perspective, ya'll. The roasted rhubarb was tangy and sweet, like the inside of the pie, and the chilled cylinder of mascarpone mousse provided a clean and buttery finish that completed this dish. These components worked marvelously together. Amour!
Friend Elaine enjoyed the Chef's Hot Chocolate, but we didn't read the menu carefully, so she was not expecting the toasted brioche and the smear of salted butter. You know when you're expecting one thing, but the taste isn't anything close to it? That's what happened. I suggested she try dipping it in the hot chocolate, but that didn't work either. This dessert was actually created based on the chef's childhood memories, but alas, we had reached our bread quota earlier in the lunch.
We are totally leaving on a high note. The dessert was absolutely phenomenal. The overall space had good energy, and I felt good dining there. It's a shame that the sandwiches didn't hit the mark, but it's hard to be good at everything. Plus, I find it's always true that sharing food with close friends is one of life's greatest pleasures. Thanks Friend Elaine for this wonderful belated birthday lunch! Muah!