Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ama- Ama

4752 California Ave SW

Heath Ledger is dead. Who will play the Joker now? More importantly, whom will I dream about? In consolation we went to Ama- Ama, a self described “oyster bar” in West Seattle. I was surprised by the d├ęcor: with all the starburst clocks and wood paneling, Ama- Ama would be an exact facsimile of my great aunt’s house, if only they had more doilies, a Sacred Heart, and a velvet painting of JFK. It’s a perfect tableau of 1963, frozen in amber. I don’t know what the fuck they were thinking. Perhaps they were trying to bring back some kind of mythical past that never existed in which Elvis movies DIDN’T suck ass and people DIDN’T eat recipes that somehow contained corn flakes AND canned tuna fish AND gelatin.

We started with the Mojo Shrimp Salad ($11), which was fucking tasty. Three large prawns skewered and grilled with some kind of sweet spice rub, served over a bed of frisee, watercress, and avocado, although the avocado was a little too firm for my taste. I prefer avocado to melt in your mouth the way my heart melted for Hollywood heartthrob Heath Ledger.

Next came baked oysters. For $9 you get a half dozen oysters, baked in the half shell in a Pernod cream sauce and dotted with bacon bits. This was pretty good, though I personally couldn’t taste any Pernod. The fried oysters (also $9) were breaded in Japanese panko crumbs and served with a fucking BRILLIANTLY AWESOME slaw of cabbage, red onions, and red bell peppers in a citrus- tasting vinaigrette. I should point out here that the oysters were REALLY FRESH. They tasted as though they had died as recently as Heath Ledger.

The lamb sliders ($9) were awesome. A globe of ground lamb the size of a tennis ball came served draped in melted gouda and doused with chipotle sauce on a brioche bun. When you bit into the slider the lamb gushed forth a lurid torrent of juices down your chin onto your hands and down your forearms. How’d they make the lamb so juicy? ice chips? pork fat? stem cells? I don’t know, but the BRIOCHE BUN was somehow the best part. What’s brioche, you ask? Answer: a French dinner roll. They’re light, eggy, as soft as a comforter made of vaginas, and utterly superior in every way to the shitty 3 X 4 grids of dinner rolls we get here in the USA for Thanksgiving. How awesome is brioche? Allow me to frame the answer in this convenient S.A.T. style analogy: dry shitty pre packaged American dinner rolls are to brioche as Monica Lewinsky is to Nicolas Sarkozy’s SMOULDERING HOT mistress. In other words, the French do everything better. Yet even the mighty French cannot bring my beloved Heath Ledger back from Death’s cold embrace. Sigh.

One pound of steamed Penn Cove mussels cost $15. The mussels came in a big bowl, steamed in a sauce that the menu claims is “tomatillo” but which looked and tasted like plain old Hunt’s tomato paste, which would be fine with me because the tomato sauce flavor was a good complement to the mussels, except they had to put on airs and claim that a common ingredient was fancier than it actually was. After all, if you’re willing to fake tomatillo paste with tomato paste, why not go all out? Serve chicken liver and call it foie gras. Claim beef brisket is “Unicorn Roast.” A side dish of crack rocks could be billed on the menu as “Professor Cornelius Fantabularius’s Magic Pebbles.” Still, I must point out that like the aforementioned oysters, the mussels were fresh and very tender. Almost as tender as the tender love I once shared with dearly departed hunk Heath Ledger.

The New York strip steak was a mistake. At $24, it’s the most expensive thing on Ama- Ama’s menu. It was a calculated risk, but I have a test: at steak houses I always get seafood, and at seafood restaurants I try the steak. If they can get it right they pass because it’s supposed to be extra difficult because everyone knows a cow is the opposite of a fish. After all, the Metropolitan Grill’s crab cakes are awesome. When I order a rare steak I expect it to come out a dark crusty brown outside and bright red inside. But Ama- Ama’s New York strip wasn’t that great: it was barely seasoned, and grilled to a watery blonde color, as though the grill wasn’t hot enough. It was just sad: as sad as the untimely demise of promising young actor Heath Ledger.

The meal limped to a close with dessert: the Praline Dream ($8) was some sort of chocolate mousse thing which resembled a real praline only in its sugar content. The lemon tart (also $8) was okay, but the most depressing thing about these desserts was that the menu ADMITTED they came from Bakery Nouveau, the Parisian style patisserie across the street, as if that were a selling point. I’m not saying Bakery Nouveau isn’t good; quite the contrary. What I’m saying is this: when you run a restaurant, you can’t buy stuff made by someone else. After all, if you can do that, then I too can own a fucking restaurant! Please bear with me, faithful patron, because it’ll take a while to fulfill your order, since when you choose a steak from the menu I’ll have to drive to the Metropolitan Grill, order the steak, wait for it to come out, get it to go, then drive back to West Seattle to serve it up to you.

Ama- Ama is an easygoing neighborhood joint. The seafood is really fresh and the lamb slider is superb, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there, mostly because the name is too dumb. And now it seems I’m out of clever asides about Heath Ledger so…. Heath Ledger Heath Ledger Heath Ledger. There. Satisfied?

Rating: 5 Heath Ledgers out of 10

Ama Ama Oyster Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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