Lola
2000 Fourth Ave, 441-1430
Mon-Thurs 6 am-10 pm; Fri 6 am-11 pm; Sat 7 am- 11 pm, Sun 7 am-10 pm.

Just when you think that it's hard to get your bearings, that we are living in an age of crushing uncertainty, Tom Douglas goes and opens another restaurant, and suddenly things seem normal again. After spawning Dahlia Lounge, Etta's, Palace Kitchen, and Dahlia Bakery (not to mention a line of bottled sauces and spice rubs), Douglas has now created Lola. As much as I normally cringe when restaurateurs seem to have this sense of manifest destiny, I like to eat at Douglas' restaurants. We'll have to see over time, but I might like Lola most of all.

The other night, Andrew and I tried Lola with an old college friend, the food-loving Andy, and his lovely, rather food-cautious fiancée, Tisha (who grew up in Hawaii, and doesn't eat fish!). Lola is Greek in conceit, although there is plenty of room on the menu for North African flavors and some very un-Mediterranean Alaskan king salmon. The novel-length menu, listing mostly don't-call-them-tapas small plates, is exhausting. You can, if you want, just order the Lola big dinner for $42 a person and have the kitchen curate a meal for you.

We were not so easily flummoxed and ordered on our own, starting with dips ($14 for 6) to spackle our stomachs while we waited. The silky eggplant spread was stellar--both simpler and more vibrant than everyday baba ghanoush. By contrast, Lola's tzatziki was pleasantly crunchy, with chunklets of cucumber floating in very creamy dill-scented yogurt. Some of the other dips--a garlic-shy skordalia, an indifferent carrot dip--weren't quite as lush. On the other hand, we were all happy that Lola makes its own pita bread--sure, the first batch was underdone, but we carb addicts kept ordering more ($3 a batch), and toward the end of the meal, it was right on: warm and puffy with a little whole-wheat chew to make things interesting.

The Greek salad was summery good, if a little gentrified ($9): no green peppers, light on the onions and the olive oil, with classy, sweet heirloom tomatoes instead of tarter varieties. It was capped with a slab of good feta for Tisha to eat as she avoided the tomatoes below. Button-sized zucchini cakes ($6) were lovable--creamy-smooth inside a crisp crust--and a potato, tomato, and cod baked casserole ($8) could have been terrific if the cod had spent a little more time soaking out its copious salt.

Kebabs, which came to the table on a hot cast-iron plate, were then doused with a shot of ouzo, for extra sizzle and a whiff of licorice. The squid kebabs ($9), marinated in ginger/garlic/ cilantro charmoula sauce, were lively right to their tiny tentacles, and I loved the tender chunks of skewered, peach-glazed lamb's tongue ($10). My tablemates pronounced the tongue not so foul as anticipated (even our waitress admitted it was the only thing on the menu she wouldn't try), but in the end they let me finish it by myself.

One reason I like my husband is that he makes a point of ordering goat whenever it's available (obsession is cute!). Lola's goat stew ($21)--made sweet, but not too sweet, with dates--was so dreamy that even Tisha got into the act, helping us polish it off. Goat meat, when it comes from tiny kids, is tender, rather lean, and not particularly gamy--somewhere between very young lamb and very young veal. New potatoes ($6), cooked, steamrolled flat, and then fried to garlicky goodness, were ridiculously tasty beside it.

I was less crazy about the short ribs ($21), shaved thin across the bone and grilled--they had good cumin-chili flavor but the meat seemed dry. I like gelatinous short-rib meat better when it is slowly braised in liquid. Andy had no such problem with them, though. As we sat paralyzed with food, we started talking about Japanese power-eating champion Takeru Kobayashi and some imaginary gauntlet was thrown in Andy's head. With ferocious intensity, he polished off the last of the short ribs and one final piece of pita.

I was afraid to let Andy eat anymore, so we left before dessert, although I'm still speculating just how good the goat-cheese fritters with honey might be. That and 30-odd other dishes that we didn't have room to try.

Support The Stranger