Sunday, May 18, 2008

How to Cook a Wolf

How to Cook a Wolf
2208 Queen Anne Ave N

One of the occupational hazards of reviewing restaurants is having to wait in line with lots of old people. This is especially true when the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, which unfortunately is the case with How to Cook a Wolf. The inevitable queue usually congeals around the place’s door about a half hour before it opens. Whenever I find out that a restaurant I’d like to patronize doesn’t take reservations, I typically skip lunch because I know it’s going to be an Early Bird Special. So there I was, dutifully lined up at the top of Queen Anne Hill at FOUR THIRTY IN THE AFTERNOON on a Saturday to await How to Cook a Wolf’s opening. Luckily it was sunny. Sadly, we were the SECOND party in line, behind some overachieving geezers. More dessicated pensioners showed up after us.

The door finally opened, but not before an employee of How to Cook a Wolf felt the need to take a picture of the line. I waved. I think he deleted that picture from his phone and took another. I didn’t wave this time, and so he saved the picture. We went in and sat down. You should know that the inside of How to Cook a Wolf looks like a basketball court designed by M.C. Escher. I don’t usually care about ambiance: I’ve had some of the best meals of my life in places that look (and smell) like the emergency room in a charity hospital. But the décor inside How to Cook a Wolf is really unique.

We started with the Hamachi Crudo ($16). Six thin slices of raw sashimi grade yellowtail were drizzled with olive oil and lime juice, and peppered with finely diced jalapeno. It was very refreshing, mildly spicy, and perhaps BEST of all they resisted the clichéd urge to ruin this dish with cilantro. The olive oil was SUPERB, the jalapeno was piquant without overpowering, and the lime juice was a bright top note. It felt like a shorthand version of something vaguely Iberian, maybe Mexican, possibly Sicilian, but probably all three.

Next came the polenta ($13). Two hockey puck- sized discs of polenta, crispy on top but creamy beneath, were served in a shallow dish of a silky béchamel sauce which was so grandma fuckingly good I sopped the rest of it up with bread. After polenta the spaghetti arrived. For $15 you get a bowl of spaghetti anointed with plenty of the same bright green extra virgin olive oil they put on the hamachi, plus garlic, anchovy paste, and red pepper flakes.

In rapid fire succession came the Bucatini ($15). Bucatini is one of the few pasta shapes I hadn’t tried: it’s like really long macaroni, or maybe like thick spaghetti with a pinhole through its center. Either way, it’s awesome. The bucatini was dressed in a light tomato sauce with oregano and guanciale. Guanciale is an air dried pig jowl. Yes, jowls, just like Queen Elizabeth has. The guanciale was diced and seared crisp, and dotted the sauce like little salty porky flavor mines.

Following the bucatini was the Duck Salad ($16). Yes, the salad came out last. One quirk of How to Cook a Wolf is that the dishes seem to come out at random, so you pretty much HAVE to share with whomever you’re dining with, or else your bucatini may come out early while your companion waits for her duck salad. But anyway, I should point out here that How to Cook a Wolf’s duck salad is the first dish I have ever had that really didn’t need the duck, and it’s my opinion that EVERY dish needs some duck in it because I love duck. I’d eat duck ICE CREAM if it existed (which it probably does, thanks to all the Ferran Adria imitators who think they’re “molecular gastronomists,” when they’re ACTUALLY in fact turd burglars). But I don’t need to prove my duck loving cred to you losers. The duck salad was a mix of beets, orange wedges, and thinly sliced rings of red onion, and really didn’t need the roast duck breast which topped it. Don’t get me wrong, the duck was delicious: seared rare, it was juicy and expertly cooked. Still, the salad’s flavors were balanced enough without it. But fuck it, I’ll never turn my nose up at duck because, as the saying goes, if it walks like a duck and fucks like a duck it’s a duck, and that means it’s damn tasty.

By this point we were stuffed like motherfucks, so we wrapped it up with the cheese plate ($8) and the sorbetto (also $8). The cheese plate was a thick triangle of La Tur, which is a mildly pungent Italian soft cheese. A dollop of tomato jam accompanied the cheese, which was a great match because the tomato jam wasn’t cloyingly sweet, and was tart enough to cut through the creaminess. The sorbetto was of three scoops of mango, and was easily as creamy as the cheese, and also not too sweet. Altogether it was a fine ending to a delightful meal.

Unfortunately I have a complaint: the name “How to Cook a Wolf” is dumb because it takes too long to type. It references the title of some 1950’s book where the author talks about, among other things, how to create the cheapest possible nutritious meal, which I guess is some kind of hamburger gruel. This is ironic because my other complaint is that the food is expensive. Fifteen bucks is a lot for a bowl of pasta, especially since the waiter admitted that the pasta wasn’t made in house. That having been said, the dishes were masterful and the uncluttered palette of flavors seemed almost architecturally designed, as mod and crisp as How to Cook a Wolf’s interior. If only they could reduce the prices just a little and change the name to something cool like “Lucifer’s Dining Room,” which is the literary equivalent of a tattoo of a skeleton riding a dragon, I’d have nothing to complain about. And THAT, gentle fuckfaces, would be a FIRST.

Rating: 8 geezers (except Geezer Butler) out of 10

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Anonymous said...

Surly, you make my rolley eye muscles tired, but I continue to read anyway. Your quote: "Fifteen bucks is a lot for a bowl of pasta, especially since the waiter admitted that the pasta wasn’t made in house." Uh, actually the pasta comes from Ethan Stowell's *other* restaurant, Tavolata. So, while not technically made 'in house' it is made by the same restaurant owner/group. Masturbate on!

Surly Gourmand said...

What's with calling me a masturbator? Masturbate? moi? I haven't had to do that since I hooked up with your mom. Except for that one time I masturbated while watching your mom and your aunt make out.

Anyway, point taken about the pasta, but I didn't know that because I don't usually do any research into the owners or anything about the restaurant other than where it is and what time it's open. That way I can experience the food itself without being bowled over by the legendary sexiness and star power of awesomely outrageous dudes like Ethan Stowell.

Nonetheless, I'll give you partial credit because although you're technically right, I don't actually care. Besides, I gave How to Cook a Wolf a high enough score, so pipe down, peanut gallery.