926 12th Ave.
There are places you go out to eat, and places you go to have a dining experience. One is not necessarily better than the other, but it’s always a pleasant surprise when you go out to eat, and you have an experience. That’s exactly what had happened to me when I was out and about, looking for a new place to review.
Lark is quite the surprise, tucked away off the side of Seattle University on 12th Avenue. I am quite sure that it’s this nearness to the University, not to mention its proximity to the eclectic Capital Hill area, that colors the aura of this eatery. It’s decor gives the appearance of a provencal diner, but the menu is far more fusion than a specific cuisine. French, Spanish, and even some English flavors are all touched upon using ingredients local to the Pacific Northwest.
The menu itself is a bit of a departure from the typical appetizer/entree/dessert linear format you seenearly everywhere else. Instead, Lark allows you pick a meal combination of your own, not unlike the tapas joints that are that are becoming ubiquitous in most major cities. Cheeses open the menu, but from there, courses of vegetables, meats and seafoods allow the savvy eater to create a meal of their desire, or share with any or all of their dining partners.
There were many pleasant surprises, such as the Tarangine Polenta, full of a hearty pork that was so sweet and moist that one would think that Chef Jonathan Sundstrom had somehow cheated in creating this dish. Topping it with parmesan was a nice surprise, coloring the polenta with its unique flavor and texture. Adding the morel mushrooms on the side, with its nutty taste permeating every bite and its saltiness ending it all in a final decrescendo, helped teh polenta as well.
I can still remember the scallops in hamhocks and how the transcended the eating experience. It’s one of those dishes that can define a place or even a chef. The saltiness of the hamhock complimented the carmelized sugar of the pan fired scallop that made me go “This.. this is how it should be made!”
And teh tilefish was sweet and peppery. Not subtle, but certainly not overt either. It’s this balance of tastes that elevates anyones cooking from pedestrian to the sublime.
This is not to say that there aren’t mistakes. The desserts at Lark are demonstrably not given the same level of attention as the main courses. And the chorizo is a mass of sliced wax with a hint of chorizo taste that made both myself and my dinner partner quickly dismiss it.
But overall, this is a place that must be sought out and experienced.If you want fine dining but don’t want the pompousness of some of the four or five star places in town, this is the place to go.