When the Union Bay Cafe shut its doors this summer, Laurelhurst lost a gem of a neighborhood restaurant. Having grown up in the neighborhood, I have celebrated many a birthday there, and was bummed to see it go. It was replaced by Enotria, an Italian restaurant run by a man named David Hahne, a recent import from Minneapolis. Lucky for Laurelhurst residents, he can keep the tradition of celebrating here alive–the table next to us was celebrating a 16th birthday of a son. Does it make me jaded that my thought was ‘crap! another teenage boy can legally get on the roads?’
Luckily my mind was quickly re-occupied by food (it rarely drifts for long). Because it was a sunday evening and a casual meal that we were in search of, I stuck with two items on the “small bites” section, one from todays special, and one from the back side of the menu (it took me a minute to find), on the everyday menu. The Tuscan style bread came out–Tuscan style means no salt, our waitress explained. So you’d think they’d at least have salt and pepper on the table, but no, I had to ask for it, feeling rather sheepish after the “Tuscan style” explanation. I am a self-proclaimed salt lover, and the bread was certainly quite tasty without it, though I felt a little like eating matzah–its not that it was bad, I just felt like something was missing. This also could have been fixed up with a better olive oil-blasamic ratio. A dipping plate comes with the bread, and our first was all balsamic, no oil, the second was the reverse.
My first small plate was veal sweetbreads topped with cheese and cremini mushrooms. You would be hard pressed to find someone who did not like this dish. Though, if they are squemish, don’t tell them they are eating the gland of a baby cow. But do tell them the price–these beautiful rounds of soft deliciousness were a mere $8. “Damn $8 for sweetbreads?” asked my high ranking chef friend. Oh yeah.
I followed this up with a plate of chard-wrapped truffled pecorino cheese. Chard=my favorite vegetable. Cheese=heaven. Trufflesmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Need I say more? As the waitress put them down she said “let me bring you some bread to mop up the sauce with. You’ll want it” And want it I did. And yes, this rich little treat was also just $8. A pretty cheap meal if you ask me. B went with a main dish, ordering some sort of pig stuffed with pig (wild boar tenderloin stuffed with sausage? Maybe? My memory is failing me). I can’t remember exactly, but I think it involved wild boar, because he said he later had a dream that the wild boar was chasing him. The tenderloin was perfectly done, no dryness at all, and the best part was the fall vegetable medley under it, all pork drippings flavored and filled with kale and zucchini. I believe this dish was cheap as well, under $20, if I recall correctly.
Where lies the problem? Well, the restaurant is a very dark color scheme, and the waitresses (who all appeared a little on the manly side of female anyways) were dressed in drab, oversized off-white colored coats, such that I mistook one for a chef at first. I do not understand why you would want to put your waitstaff in such an unpleasently ugly outfit. The service itself left a little too be desired. I never got a bread plate, resulting in a crumb-y table, and the previously mentioned olive oil inconsistency, but they got the necessaries done and were quite pleasant about it. Even more pleasant when I called in to ask if B’s credit card was still there (it was).
A terrific overall experience, that could be even more improved with a little more color in the room, a new outfit for the waitstaff and a little training on consistency. As long as they keep serving up the kind of food I ate at the prices I paid, I hope that they will be able to last as long as Union Bay Cafe did in that space. They’ve been open for two months now, so look for the reviews coming out in the papers soon.