Saturday, December 27, 2008


806 E Roy

Everybody knows that Spain is super funky! From their whimsical buildings like the Guggenheim Bilbao, to Cervante's bizarre satire, to Picasso's quirky bullshit, Spain is the funkiest place in the goddamned, motherfucking universe! If you were to rate a nation's funkiness by comparing it to a band, Spain would be George Clinton. France would be Cradle of Filth. Britain, of course, would be Coldplay. Burn! You suck, Britain!

Another funky Spanish innovation is the “small plates” trend, about which I've previously complained. You can ultimately thank chef Jose Andres, Spain's unofficial Minister of Funk and Patron Saint of combovers, for bringing small plates to the USA. Olivar is yet another Spanish restaurant that serves small plates, but with a twist: their plates are not only small, they're all really fucked up shapes.

We started with the apple salad ($7), which was a neat pile of julienned apple tossed with shredded manchego cheese and finely diced chives. The apple was very crisp and snow white, and the sweetness was contrapuntally balanced by the tang of the manchego. The serving dish was just a plain white rectangle, but the curvy saucers provided to each place setting really BROUGHT THE FUNK!

The pumpkin soup ($7) was very smooth, pleasant and mild mannered. Floating like an island in the center of the bowl was a tiny garlic flan. While the flan itself was creamy and proficiently prepared, the garlic flavor was mute. I found this to be a lame gimmick. Added as an afterthought was one of those very long, skinny, gnarled, crispy breadsticks that I'm constantly comparing to a wizard's wand. What the fuck are you supposed to do with these things? They're too hard to sop up any remaining soup, and while they could be possibly used as a swizzle stick, the soup was pretty homogeneous and didn't need stirring. And they're clearly not useful as spellcasting equipment, so why bother? Really, this forgettable dish was created solely as a vehicle to showcase Olivar's FUNKIEST BOWL. The bowl the pumpkin soup came in was RIDICULOUS: it was about 12 inches in diameter, but the well in the center that actually held the soup couldn't have been more than 4 inches across. Which means the rim was TWICE AS WIDE as the bowl itself! This of course instantly begs the question: why stop there? How about a bowl whose rim covers the entire table? You could provide the customer with an extra long spoon to scoop the soup out of the center, and you could serve all the other diners directly onto the rim, thus dirtying less dishes. Or a gargantuan bowl with a rim the size of an Olympic race track. Racers line up on the huge rim, run the race and the the winner, instead of being awarded the gold medal, gets to eat the soup in the center of the track.

But enough about the pumpkin soup and its handicapped bowl. The Serrano salad ($9), while tasty, should probably be renamed on the menu as “Big Ass Pile of Serrano Ham.” Don't get me wrong; I love Serrano ham and in fact I think it's the best air cured ham, even better than the legendary Prosciutto di Parma. But I wouldn't consider a plate entirely full of luscious coils of thinly sliced ham to be a salad. It did come with a small mound of pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley, but if that tiny amount of plant tissue qualifies this dish as a salad, then a 42 ounce porterhouse steak topped with sauteed onions is also a fucking salad. Still, 9 bucks is a great price for that much Jamon Serrano. The only thing funky here was Olivar's idea of what constitutes a salad.

The patatas a lo pobre ($10) were sauteed with onions and bell peppers into a brown, fluffy, and crisp heap. Sunburn pink slices of chorizo spiralled up this hill, and the whole thing was topped with a perfectly fried egg, sunny side up. The yolk was still runny, so when you cut the egg it ran down into the potatoes. A bit of egg and potato, when eaten with a slice of tangy chorizo, was a match made in the funkiest corner of Funk Heaven, which is where James Brown, Rick James, and Curtis Mayfield all went when they died. But not Issac Hayes: when he died his Thetan flew away to Jupiter to live with 95 virgins, or whatever the fuck it is that Scientologists believe.

The Grilled pork Belly Grenobloise ($7) wasn't very funky. The pork belly itself was salty, peppery, chewy, crispy, and all of those other great qualities a properly cooked belly should have. However, the crumbled boiled egg, diced onion, and capers which came with it were all lined up in neat rows, as if the chef who prepared it suffered from OCD, or else had recently done lots of coke, and everyone knows that straight lines are never funky.

For dessert we got the Albondingas de Crodero ($9). Yeah, I know that lamb meatballs are not a dessert, but fuck it. Three large meatballs, crusted with savory brown fond on the exterior but still juicy and pink inside, were served atop a pool of green tomato puree. Roasted hazelnuts scattered across the plate gave a crunchy contrast. These meatballs were FUCKING TASTY, but unfortunately we had to wait for gratification because the plate was too hot. The funkiest thing about this dish, and by “funky” here I mean “dumb,” was the temperature of that plate: the waiter warned us that it was a hot plate but DAMN! We couldn't even touch it for 15 minutes. They had somehow heated that plate to the temperature of the sun. It must have been made from some space age ceramic compound, like the kind of porcelain that they use to make metal- detector proof guns. That plate was so hot it gave my face a tan just sitting there on the table. I understand that you don't want the food to get cold but hot food is overrated. Why can't it just be WARM, so that it doesn't puddle the roof of my mouth in blisters the moment I take a bite? Is not getting seriously injured while dining too much to ask?

I don't like funk, especially the funk that wafts from your mom's crotch. Yes, everyone tells me that funk is “fun,” and that you can't spell “funk” without “fun,” but as you've probably surmised by now, I hate fun. That having been said, I really enjoyed my meal at Olivar. While the presentation sometimes annoyed me, every dish was perfectly prepared, and the prices are reasonable. But don't take my word for it, you funky assholes: put on your pimp suit and gangsta- lean over to Olivar, post haste. Did I just type the word “gangsta?” Oh Heavens!

Rating: 8 aspects of black culture that white people have unsuccessfully tried to co- opt out of 10

Olivar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


2319 E Madison St

It's appropriate to compare dining to a military campaign. Many dishes are named after military or political figures: Beef Wellington, the Napoleon pastry, and Oysters Bienville are only a few. The food service industry is, after all, a fierce battle, since competition is stiff, profit margins are razor thin, and success or failure is often left up to the fickle whim of a restaurant- going public filled with dickheads.

So which restaurant would win if all of the restaurants in Seattle got into a fight? Crush is a contender for sure. Crush is so goddamned awesome, it's like they created some kind of evil dictator restaurant the way they created the genetically- engineered warlord Serpentor on the GI Joe cartoon: evil culinary scientists mixed up the DNA of great leaders like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Ivan the Terrible, Ghengis Khan, and General Tso. The resulting uber restaurant was then named Crush by a secret committee of elders, because it can CRUSH your hunger with an iron fist.

I met Crush on the field of battle fully prepared, my stomach completely emptied by all the puking from the previous night's drinking. I dared my adversary to conquer my appetite. Who would win this battle of wills? Read more, and find out!

Crush's first salvo was a diversionary tactic: too many choices. There were maybe only 15 things on the menu, but I wanted each and every one of them. The wine list is like 50 pages long (the most expensive bottle is $3200! HOLY FUCK). There's a 9 course tasting menu ($135), which tempts with the delights of the chef's unleashed creativity, but which from a practical standpoint is more difficult to review because you can't crib the descriptions of the dishes from a convenient online menu. Then to add another layer of choices, November was the “Dine Around Seattle” bullshit where you get 3 courses for $30.

We decided to eschew the allures of both the chef's tasting menu AND the Dine Around Seattle, and just picked a bunch of stuff off the regular menu. To reward us for NOT choosing the Dine Around Seattle stuff, the kitchen sent us a FREE AMUSE BOUCHE. Unfortunately, it wasn't that great, which I guess is why they gave it away: a cauliflower- flavored flan was topped with tiny cubes of raw scallop, crème fraiche, and diced chives. If what I just described to you had been on the menu I would have laughed those motherfuckers out of town, but unfortunately it wasn't listed. The flan was warm, which in turn warmed the scallop until it was humid and balmy, the two adjectives you do NOT want to use to describe raw seafood. The cauliflower flavor was muted, and the flan by itself would have been pretty good, but hot raw scallops just don't do it for me.

Next up was octopus ($12), which was slowly braised in pork stock until it was soft and creamy, then flashed in a pan to crisp the skin. What we got was a delightful pile of tentacles on top of white beans that had been cooked with the octopus in the stock. The beans were just as tender as the octopus. This dish was really good. I haven't been so impressed by tentacles since I read “The Call of Cthulu” in 8th grade.

Hamachi Crudo ($24) was so motherfucking delicious I can't believe that it isn't banned by the Olympics as a performance enhancing drug. Creamy celeriac sauce was pooled beneath slices of rare seared albacore which were so goddamned tasty I've run out of adjectives to describe it. And as if it wasn't good enough already, they put BLACK TRUFFLES on it. And not just a few microscopic black flecks, like some places do when they brag about having black truffles as an ingredient: no, a ruthless gastronomic police state like Crush can only properly intimidate your stomach with GIANT TRUFFLE SLICES. We had at least four whole truffle cross sections on top of the albacore. I've had this flavor combination before, and it impressed me no less this time. The earthiness of the celeriac is always a great complement to the visceral diesel perfume of the black truffle. They could have given me just a pool of that sauce with truffle chips floating in it, and I would have been happy enough. The albacore was ultimately so decadently unnecessary, it was as if you could somehow combine pussy, race cars, cotton candy, the PS3, and guns into some fast sexy tasty killing machine that lets you play Castlevania. The previous sentence is an illustration both of how awesome that albacore was, and of how juvenile I am.

The gastronomic assault continued unabated with the foie gras ($24). Again, it was so tasty that words fail me. A hunk of foie gras the size of a baseball was seared to a rich mahogany. An appealing criss- cross was scored into the skin. Accompanying the liver were sweet cubes of quince, toasted cinnamon brioche slices, and some julienned white crispy things that were maybe apples, or celery, or something. Forgive me for not paying full attention, because I was distracted by the foie. It was so good, it's unfair that my taste buds had to go back to tasting the Lucky Charms I had for breakfast the next morning.

By this point I was beginning to feel weary, but we soldiered on. A rabbit loin ($24) was shrouded in rabbit forcemeat and wrapped in a chard leaf. The meat was so juicy and delicate, it had to have been poached in a stock, the way you'd cook a galantine. The rabbit galantine was served with sauteed chard and chanterelles in some kind of rich syrupy demi- glace or reduction, and was accompanied by a tiny chip of smoky, salty, crispy meat the menu described as “rabbit belly bacon.” This was so fucking crazy, and so fucking classically French, it was like something Auguste Escoffier might have dreamt up while on an acid trip.

At $42, the lobster and coral sauce is one of the most expensive menu items I've ever ordered, but it was well worth the price. Clearly Crush was pulling out the heavy artillery for a last desperate push. Succulent chunks of lobster tail peeked out from a nest of thick cut pasta in a white truffle and coral sauce. The pasta upon closer inspection revealed whole chervil leaves PRESSED INTO THE DOUGH, giving it a mottled green floral design like Rococo wallpaper.

When it became clear that my stomach wouldn't be conquered, they resorted to chemical warfare: a $12 Valrhona hot chocolate was complex: bitter, spicy, and creamy all at once. A scoop of chocolate ice cream on the side rode a cushion of house made marshmallow, and a stream of salty caramel meandered through this sugary landscape.

Finally, the demoralized partisans of Crush fired a few parting shots in the form of CANDY that arrived with the bill: cocoa dusted marcona almonds, a strawberry peppercorn marshmallow, and a lemon poppy Madeleine.

Because I managed to eat it all, I emerged the winner in this gastric Battle of Verdun. Yet like that famous engagement, it was a pyrrhic victory. After all, we couldn't ignore the fact that we still had to pay for all this shit, much like the Iraq War. Other than the shitty scallops and flan amuse, which was obviously Crush's Abu Ghraib, everything was well worth it. And like the mercenary group Blackwater USA, Crush is extremely good at what they do, but they're really fucking expensive. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the taxpayers foot this bill. War, dear readers, really IS Hell.

Rating: 9.5 legendary warriors out of 10

Crush on Urbanspoon