I first read about Lark in a Pacific NW food thread at eGullet.com. It sounded like a gem. Everyone raved. But I couldn’t go. My wife was pregnant with our twins and was feeling so lowdown that she couldn’t possibly enjoy it. And I wasn’t about to have a gustatory experience so delightful when my wife was so miserable. In fact, I don’t think my wife and I have had a night out in well over a year (we also have a 4 year old at home).
So imagine my pleasure when friends from New York who planned to visit us said they’d take care of the kids for a night so we could enjoy ourselves. It had the added benefit of being the night before my wife’s birthday (Saturday, July 16th). The evening got off to a hairy start when I realized at 6:30 PM that my friends planned to eat out at a local restaurant BEFORE they began babysitting for us. I could see restaurant tables and chairs filling with customers who weren’t us as I figured we couldn’t get anyplace until 8 PM or even later. I could see a joyful evening turning sour.
But eventually, the friends returned with their food. Miraculously, Lark had no wait (this was almost 8 PM). I was amazed. I hustled my wife into a car and we got there in no time (I had no idea that Lark was less than 10 minutes from our home). The eGullet.com forum thread about Lark said it was in Capitol Hill which is a little like saying that the 520 bridge is in Madison Park. I don’t know what I’d call the neighborhood where Lark is located but it’s pretty far from what I consider the heart of Capitol Hill. Hearing about that Capitol Hill location, I originally imagined Lark in some tiny storefront near Harvard and Broadway. But Lark is far afield from there. The restaurant is located in one of the least likely locations a restaurant could find in Seattle just across from the Seattle University campus on 12th Avenue and Marion. The businesses on the block look pretty disheveled and even seedy except for Lark.
After reading Nancy Leeson’s review in the Seattle Times saying that parking was horrible as was the noise level, I half expected the worst. Don’t listen to Leeson about parking. People get freaked out in Seattle when they have to park on side streets in neighborhoods they don’t know or don’t trust (this being one I guess). There’s no specific restaurant parking, but who needs it when you have side streets?
Despite the neighborhood, once you enter, the room is delightful. I call it an “exposed beam-curtain motif.” The noise is caused by a high beam ceiling (love those exposed beams). But it wasn’t overpowering when we were there yesterday night. There are enormous dangling light fixtures hanging from the ceiling and sliding curtains, making it appear as if you could divide the restaurant into large shower stalls.
While intially slow, the service turned out to be perfection itself. This is a restaurant where the woman pouring your water will actually be your waitress. Think of it. And she was immensely helpful, answering every question we had and even answering a few we didn’t have (but which we were glad she did). The menu is both lengthy and adventuresome. To make the most of Lark, you should be a bold and willing eater. If you have lots of don’ts and won’ts in your culinary list, then you’ll still do fine here but probably not make the most of a wonderfully inventive and wide-ranging menu. While there are everyday restaurant items like chicken, beef, etc. you will find such an unusual item as lamb sweetbreads. My wife has a lot of don’ts and won’ts and since optimally you want to share dishes here, I toned down my ordering (after all it was almost her birthday) so that we could share.
I read on a food website that a Lark customer said you must order the pork rilletes: “I dream about them.” Well, that was enough for me. We had to have that as one of our courses. Turns out I wouldn’t dream about them but they were quite good. The pork was strong, almost gamy while the texture was almost caramel soft. Yummy.
The waitress suggested that I order a glass of Cote du Rhone with my meal and neither she not it diappointed. It was powerful without being overwhelming and also smooth, lacking the tannic quotient of some red wines.
I read another online comment saying the striped bass was a disappointment–not to me! The dish, called bass tagine, came with coucous and succulent baby carrots. It was infused with cilantro and cumin which gave it a delightful herbal complexity. The fish had a delightful soft texture.
We ordered the rosti potatoes with klabber cream which comes out of the kitchen in its own mini castiron skillet. It looks like a little cake with a swirly top. But there the resemblance ends as the swirly top is actually a toasty brown crisp crust. Inside the potatores are meltingly creamy. It was delicious.
We ordered a cheese plate and though it was good, I wouldn’t say any of the cheeses bowled me over.
Though my wife and I normally share a dessert at restaurants, we knew this was the kind of place where we’d each order one. This is also the kind of restaurant where one dessert sounds better than the rest. I always peruse a dessert menu to pick out the ones I can eliminate as too boring or common. Not at Lark. We knew we had to turn to the waitress and again she pointed us in the right direction. My wife had the lemon parfait. It’s served like flan in a short round presentation doused with sauce. The texture was heavenly-soft. It felt like you were eating clouds–that’s how delicate it was. I ordered black fig tart tatin topped by a small mound of chilled mild goat cheese. It too was extraordinary.
You can’t begin to exhaust the wonders of Lark’s menu in one sitting. So we’ll have to return the next time we can find a babysitter to take care of three young ones (maybe another year from now?!).
See the Seattle Weekly review.
926 12th Ave.
hours: 5–10:30 p.m. Tues.–Sun. (closed Mon.)
I do have one minor quibble with Lark. In this day and age, and especially in Seattle how can you get away with not having a website? I can’t fathom that. It would’ve been so much easier to write this post if I’d had access to a menu (just for an example).
Of course, when we returned home from our delectable meal, our babies punished us severely. That’s what happens when you essentially never go out for an evening (mostly because we can’t find a babysitter to handle putting to sleep 8 month old twins AND a 4 year old practically simultaneously) in the first 8 months of your twins’ lives. Our twin boy woke up two or three times that night. In the morning, Jonah and I gave Janis the beautiful necklace we’d picked out from the Frye Museum gift shop. But what mom can appreciate anything on four hours sleep?
Both twins refused to take regular naps today. It was hellish. We felt punished. My wife and I blamed each other (and ourselves). And this was her birthday!