Monday, May 24, 2010

Rumblings #1: Avila

Avila is recent addition to the Wallingford neighborhood, tucked in amongst the other quaint storefronts of 45th St. The restaurant itself is sectioned oddly. As you enter, the bar is immediately to your left, followed by an open swath of tables. You then ascend a short staircase onto the kitchen level, which itself divides two other seating areas. It also features a small patio separated by a bay of tall glass, that might have been very appealing in warmer weather. The kitchen is small and very open, with all stations visible to patrons walking past. Chef Alex Pitts leads a quiet, focused, ragtag-looking crew, who kept their heads down and their knives moving as we passed. The sectioning of the restaurant gave the impression of intimacy, but Avila is bigger than it appears. 

Our service at Avila was some of the worst we encountered during Seattle Restaurant Week (SRW from here on). Our server seemed out of it. We asked for water, and were brought silverware. We stared longingly at bread plates on other tables, but never received our own and thought that perhaps the bread was part of a cheese plate that we hadn't ordered. She had little to no feedback on the menu or the wine list. Our appetizers came agonizingly slow. Nothing gets off on the wrong foot like a delayed appetizer. And with that, let's get to the food:

Mussels in vermouth w/ grilled bread (her)
Grilled prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears (him)

Ann enjoyed her mussels, citing the broth as one of the more flavorful she had encountered.  However, they provided a giant piece of (slightly burnt) grilled bread to mop up the broth with but there disappointingly wasn't enough broth in the bowl.  My asparagus was average & uninspired. Apps don't have to be "inspired" but they do set a tone for the rest of the meal. They say "expect more of this." And with SRW in full swing, your opportunity to delight and surprise diners as well as establish new repeat customers is at an all time high. This was an opportunity lost.

Halibut (her)
Roasted Lamb (him)

The halibut, pictured right, was not cooked evenly. Overcooking any fish is a crime, but the sear job on this fillet left areas of the halibut translucent and some areas overdone. To be *somewhat* fair, the night before Ann had probably the best piece of halibut ever at Rover's. It was like going on Ed Sullivan after the Beatles. My lamb was slightly lukewarm, probably left to rest 3-4 minutes too long, or waiting on sides. It was decent though, and the conical tower of pureed and baked parsnip was really tasty.

Rhubarb champagne soup (her)
Chocolate souffle (him)

Ann's take: "Unexpected, flavorful, set the tone of rhubarb dessert week but a) presentation wasn't appetizing and made it hard to eat b) bowl was too shallow c) soup was good but would have made a better cocktail sans cream and biscuit.  If I were to present it, I would have put the soup in a square bowl on another plate and added the cream and biscuit separately on the base plate so people could have bites dipped in the soup or spooned/sipped the soup and the other elements to their liking and so the shortcake doesn't get too soggy.

As for my chocolate souffle, it was dry and one-note. Like burnt chocolate bread. Easily the most unsatisfying dessert we had all week.

Last Rumble: Avila is new. It showed it's youth with an underwhelming and inconsistent service.There's potential there, but like a teenage whose feet have grown too fast, Avila has stumbled awkwardly onto the Seattle restaurant scene.

But don't take our word for it. Here's Unsatisfied Tony Bourdain to expound further:

"This meal was the sticky, backseat fumblings of my youth. Writhing in front of me was the pink cotton panties of promise. But like every post-pubescent sexual encounter, the climax was quickly ushered away by shame and quiet acceptance of my, um, shortcomings."

Unsatisfied Tony needs you to not tell anyone in class about this.


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