Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The London Plane

Lately I’ve been getting fed up with the bullshit we are expected to eat. Unless it’s sushi, or Mexican food, menus are plagued with the kind of shit that simpletons eat, like hamburgers or macaroni and cheese with bacon in it, and the fucking menu guffaws breathlessly about the shitty glob of melted cheese that they want you to buy as if they themselves, in that very instant, just invented melted cheese right then and there.

The menu at The London Plane looked refreshingly adult, however, and so we gleefully attended lunch there with the anticipation of getting to pick items from a menu that seemed to come from an alternate universe in which truffle oil never existed.

We started with a paprika, caraway, sunflower seed and chevre spread ($7.50). The spread came to the table as a quenelle of chevre, studded with the aforementioned spices. I wish the seeds and paprika had been rolled around on the outside of the chevre like a holiday cheese ball, but alas: they didn’t do it that way. In general I thought that this spread was a bit heavy, a bit chevre-y, like Chevre-y Chase, and just as cheesy.

The beet hummus with harissa oil ($5) was visibly off-putting at first, but once you got past the puree’s shocking magenta color, the hummus was actually quite tasty: it was delicate and sweet and smoother than I expected blended beets to be, since I think they actually included some chick peas to give it a cohesive texture. The harissa oil had been applied with a gentle hand, offering an almost intangible heat, unlike when white people typically try to use harissa in recipes and they inevitably add too much and it ends up tasting like a burning doorknob in your mouth.

Anyway: if the Kool-Aid Man poured a bunch of vodka in the top of his pitcher, the beet hummus is what his puke would look and taste like. If you’re grossed out by that description, don’t worry: the Kool-Aid Man is fake! So you’ll never have to actually see or eat his puke. But if you get the beet hummus, that’s what it would totally be like.

Walnut, red pepper, and pomegranate molasses spread ($7) was a tasty iteration of the classic Turkish dip also known as muhammara. It was savory and sweet, with a rough grind of the walnuts to offer a little texture. You could spread this onto anything. Muhammara is sometimes used as a sort of barbecue sauce for meat, and I honestly wish there was a kebab or something on London Plane’s menu which was basted in this stuff. Since there isn’t, I’m perfectly content to lick if off of Mike Tyson’s nutsack.

Shredded carrots, currant, pine nut, and chili spread ($6.50) seemed more like a slaw to me than a spread or dip, but who’d quibbling? This isn’t, after all, the Oxford Motherfucking English Dictionary, and besides this was my favorite of all the spreads: sweet and crunchy strands of shredded carrots mingled like dickheads at a cocktail party with pine nuts, some dill, and a few black currants here and there. It was light and fresh and perfectly balanced.

An assortment of all four spreads with bread is $13, and WHY THE FUCKING FUCK WOULDN’T YOU DO THIS. Even the bread is superlative. They bake it on site and you get two kinds: a very sour sourdough which is so sour, it’s almost as sour as your mom’s demeanor, with a standoffish crust that conceals a crumb so open, you could confess any of your evil secrets to it. The other bread is some sort of herb cracker which is good, but not as good as that sour sourdough which seems forbidding and disgruntled on the outside but is really kind and understanding on the inside.

Moving on to the vegetable course: a plate of roasted baby carrots and red torpedo onions with pistachio and mint ($9) was a bit of a letdown: when I read “roasted carrots” on a menu I want those carrots completely caramelized to the point where the edges of the carrots are black and charred. If the carrot doesn’t look like it barely survived an extended hike through Death Valley, with a crusty and sticky outer skin and a soft fudgy interior, I don’t want it. Which is why I was saddened by the carrots we got: stewed in way too much liquid for my taste, with slices of sautéed onion and, you know, herbs and stuff, they seemed more like braised carrots, swimming around in a puddle with the onions and shit.

Braised pole beans with charred cherry tomatoes and dill ($10) were better, though. Like the “roasted” carrots, the beans were definitely braised. The beans were flavorful, with lots of dill flavor and bright and smoky highlights courtesy of the tomato.

Chickpeas with stewed gypsy peppers, feta and cilantro ($11) were very tasty, creamy, and salty, and sweet. I could eat an entire bowl of this. It hit every single possible flavor note. If they served this over pasta it would be like an insane epic poet’s opium dream of the most delicious possible pasta dish.

You can pick an assortment of three small ($12.50) or large ($16.50) vegetable dishes, and as with the dips, why wouldn’t you? Variety is, after all, the spice of life, you bunch of dickfaces.

A curried chicken salad ($19) featured a fairly standard pile of shredded chicken with a neon yellow curry sauce, atop a novel bale of roasted romanesco and an incongruous roasted piece of baby bok choy which hovered hesitantly around on the side like an awkward boyfriend at a funeral. The chicken was very succulent, and the curry flavor wasn’t too overpowering. The romanesco was roasted the way I wish the carrots had been roasted, i.e. caramelized as shit, with the curious fractal edges of the cauliflower scorched and the cut edges a deep golden brown. A couple sultanas here and there sweetened it up a bit, but then sprinkled over the top of everything was a drift of crumbled up seeds of various kinds, and sadly this resembled a bunch of birdseed. But it tasted good at least.

Finally, these spiced lamb meatballs ($14) were the goddamned piece de resistance: six perfect meatballs, so moist and yielding that they seemed more like small spherical terrines than like something you’d pile on top of spaghetti, doused in tomato sauce. The sauce was a satiny brick red, rich with hints of warm spice. I’ve never eaten such delicate meatballs. To serve these with pasta would have been a crime. Luckily they didn’t.

There’s a dessert menu, but fuck that: the meatballs were my dessert.

The London Plane is fucking awesome: sophisticated and light, with complex flavors and a deft hand with the spices and an unapologetic middle-eastern thrust, kind of like what I did to your mom last night. Nothing is too bold and all the flavors were in careful balance. It's the Alexander Calder of restaurants. The only thing that they go overboard with at The London Plane is restraint.

Unlike your mom.

Rating: 8.5 restraints out of 10

The London Plane is located at 300 Occidental Ave S

For reservations (parties of 8 or more) call 206-624-1374

Their hours are very weird so look it up before trying to eat dinner there and seeing that they’re closed and then getting mad at me.

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